Sunday, July 15, 2012

Chamorro Public service Post # 21: Gi Kanadan Guinife

When you look at the pantheon of Chamorro legends and epic stories, there is quite a bit of love there. Unfortunately much of the love is of the tragic variety. All of the various versions of I Puntan Dos Amantes or The Two Lovers all end badly with a lovers suicide taking place in Tumon. Guam's own version of Romeo and Juliet that tells us how the Atbot det Fuego got its red leaves. Even the story of the white lady in Ma'ina has versions about true love gone awry.

It makes me wonder sometimes if Ancient Chamorros truly had such a dim and depressing view of love, or if the tragic effects of young love is something that comes after the Spanish and their attacks on Chamorro sexuality and culture? The Spanish accounts talk about the deep love that Chamorros of opposite sexes would have for each other. How they would put that affection into beautiful songs and poems.

Once Catholicism dominates Guam and Chamorro life this changes. The love is still there, but now an incredible amount of everyday barriers are thrown up between young lalahi and famalao'an. They sneak peeks at each other, they imagine whole conversations with each other, they design a cathedral for their shared love high up in the sky without every having a real conversation with each other. You don't get to know someone before you are arranged to marry them, and once you are hitched you are never supposed to be unhitched, no matter how terrible you are together. Chamorros still feel great love, but now it seems mixed with sadness, mixed with a lack of recognition.

JD Crutch is known for embodying this principle very well. Amidst all of his many songs, it seems sometimes that the ratio is 1 happy in love song for every 5 sad in love because I love you so much but you either don't know I exist or just don't love in return and are actually in love with someone else. JD Crutch is well known for his song that are so beautiful and heartfelt, but are for the most part sad and depressing. A girl who you feel so much for won't give you the time of day. A girl whose parents come between you and her. A girl who no longer loves you. A girl who is in love with your friend and not you. Chamorros have made it a habit of seeing enthusiastically along with JD Crtuch's songs, with smiles on their faces, even as the lyrics themselves are so depressing.

One of the most famous older Chamorro love songs today is "I Kapiya"  Pale' Eric Forbes wrote about it recently on his blog. He notes it was originally recorded by the Four Winds in 1971. Johnny Sablan has his own version of it and some other artists also have covers. JD Crutch has his own as well, titled "Madandan i Kampana" which changes the meaning very significantly.

In the original song, the chapel where the singer was married is transported into a magical place, i kanadan guinife, the valley of dreams. He recalls kneeling there before the altar, marrying his love. It is a quaint and simple song, something ideal for wedding or for special "love-inspired" gatherings.

In the JD Crutch version, the ringing of the bells in the chapel isn't something that soothes the soul of the singer, but instead taunts him. The bells aren't ringing for him and the girl he loves, they are ringing for the girl he loves and someone else. It is interesting the way a song that was once a beautiful ode to the birth of a loving and happy relationship, is transformed into a gut-wrench dirge over love walking down the aisle with someone else and not you.

Although I prefer the Johnny Sablan version over the original (although the changes are minor), but I thought I'd post her the lyrics and translation that Pale' Eric provided on his blog:

I kapiya, i kapiya
(the chapel, the chapel)
gi kañådan guinife
(in the valley of dreams)
annai atmonio dumadådandan guihe.
(where the organ plays.)
Guaha un kantora yan si påle'
(There is a singer and the priest)
na sumåsaga guihe
(who stay there)
gi kapiya gi kañådan guinife.
(in the chapel in the valley of dreams.)

Bobongbong i korason-ho
(My heart was beating)
annai ma dådandan i kampåna
(when the bells were ringing)
dumimo yo' gi me'nan i attat
(I knelt before the altar)
annai para ta asagua.
(when we were to be wed.)

Ya iyo-mo yo' ya iyo-ko hao
(And I am yours and you are mine)
sa' man hula' hit guihe
(because we made our vows there)
gi kapiya gi kañådan guinife.
(in the chapel in the valley of dreams.)

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