May 282024
Diamanda Galás

Who originally wrote “La Llorona?” We’ll likely never know. The information on who the original song was done by is a bit murky, to say the least, with some saying the writer is unknown/anonymous, and others incorrectly crediting the Costa Rican/Mexican singer Chavela Vargas. The tune was said to be popularized in the 1940s by politician and poet Andres Henestrosa.

What we do know is that “La Llorona” (The Weeping Woman) comes from the story of a vengeful ghost from Mexican and Latin American folklore. It is said that she drowned her own children in a gust of rage after finding out that her husband was unfaithful to her.

No matter who penned it, the song is pervasive and eerie, touching on love, loss, and murder. But in Diamanda Galás hands (and voice!), it’s even more stirring. The artist takes us underwater with her rich lows and cries into the piano as her voice soars dramatically.

Galás had performed the cover live in San Francisco in 2017 but didn’t release the live version of the tune until this year. From the murky, bleak, and low piano to the stunning rubato, and deep guttural vocal moments reminiscent of crying or mourning, even if listeners don’t speak Spanish, they’ll certainly be affected.

According to Galás’ Instagram:

Diamanda’s “La Llorona” is the legend of a mestizo woman who has been abandoned by her Spanish lover, who deserted her for a “purebred” woman. Faced with the threat of having her children stolen by their father, she takes the children to the river and kills them to destroy her faithless lover’s bloodline. She lives on, a haunted and disdained outcast who walks each night by the river, gathering weeds and hoping to find her children again.

The influence of the amanes/amanethes can be heard in Galás’ dramatic and stark interpretation of the Mexican folk song “La Llorona”. It is not purely a stylistic choice but also a logical one as the similarly emotive Spanish cante jondo tradition, brought to Spain by Moorish settlers, also evolved from Byzantine roots. “La Llorona” is a tragic tale of abandonment, revenge, murder, humiliation and isolation. – Will Pinfold

The artist’s album is due to be released this upcoming June and is a collection of live recordings from places she performed across the States.

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