Listen To Music In Spanish And Learn

Listening to music helps you learn!

If you really want to learn more Spanish, you ought to listen to music in Spanish. Over the years I have enjoyed many songs written in Spanish by Latino or Spaniard singers. When I was a child I was exposed to jazz, Christian, gospel, sometimes symphony and opera, rock, rap, country and r&b.

Want to hear me sing? Here I am singing the song “La Rebelión” by Joe Arroyo, this song is about an African slave who defended his wife against a slaveowner in Cartagena, Colombia.

My singing video with English Introduction and Spanish caption:

My singing video with Spanish introduction and English caption:

(See more about Joe Arroyo’s song after Celia Cruz)

As a teenager when I sought to learn Spanish I began listening to different types of music written in Spanish. Sharing music is something you will see me do continuously on Bilingual Story Time, today I am going to talk about two very touching Latino songs.

Celia Cruz

Click on picture to hear song.

Celia Cruz was a beautiful Cuban singer (passed away in 2003) whose songs really inspire me because of their beautiful, joyful message. Celia’s voice is amazing. One song that I particularly love is La Vida Es Un Carnaval. This is a very beautiful classic latin song in salsa.

I recommend Celia’s music and I also recommend using song lyrics to help you learn more Spanish. (This concept is very similar to Short Movies Spanish English subtitles where I present captioned text. The text also appears in the description box. Reading the lyrics and translation to a song can really boost your Spanish vocabulary and strengthen your understanding of the language just like reading the text to a video.)

Celia’s words are so powerful in each of her songs. I want to share the meaning of the lyrics to this song in English so that you understand:

Todo aquel que piense que la vida es desigual
All those who think life is unfair

Tiene que saber que no es así
Need to know that’s not how it is

Que la vida es una hermosura,
Life is a beautiful thing,

hay que vivirla
One must live it

Todo aquel que piense que está solo y que está mal
All those who think they are alone and that all is bad

Tiene que saber que no es así
Need to know that this is not how it is

Que en la vida no hay nadie solo,
In life there is no one alone,

siempre hay alguien
There is always somebody

Ay, no hay que llorar, que la vida es un carnaval
Oh, you don’t have to cry, life is a carnaval

Es más bello vivir cantando
It is better to live singing

Oh, oh, oh, ay, no hay que llorar
Oh, oh, oh, ay, you don’t have to cry

Que la vida es un carnaval
Life is a carnaval

Y las penas se van cantando
And by singing the problems fade

Todo aquel que piense que la vida siempre es cruel
All those who think that life is always cruel

Tiene que saber que no es así
Need to know that it’s not like this

Que tan solo hay momentos malos, y todo pasa
It’s just sometimes we have bad moments, and all works out

Todo aquel que piense que esto nunca va a cambiar
All those who think that this is never going to change

Tiene que saber que no es así
Need to know that it’s not like this

Al mal tiempo buena cara, y todo pasa
At bad times smile, and all will go away

Ay, no ha que llorar, que la vida es un carnaval
You do not have to cry, life is a carnaval

Es más bello vivir cantando
It is more beautiful to live singing

Oh, oh, oh, Ay, no hay que llorar
You don’t have to cry

Que la vida es un carnaval
Life is a carnaval

Y las penas se van cantando
And the problems fade away by singing

Para aquellos que se quejan tanto
For those who complain too much

Para aquellos que solo critican
For those who just criticize

Para aquellos que usan las armas
For those who use weapons

Para aquellos que nos contaminan
For those who pollute us

Para aquellos que hacen la guerra
For those who make war

Para aquellos que viven pecando
For those who live sinning

Para aquellos nos maltratan
For those who treat us badly

Para aquellos que nos contagian
For those who make us sick

This Song Touches Me

This song really touches me because the fear of being alone in life is something I have struggled with. The song leads me to judgment in every sense of the word but it also really changed my view on how to deal with challenges in life that I have never encountered but fear to encounter.

This is why I stress that it is important to study languages besides your own native language. You come across music that you otherwise would not have heard or paid attention to.
I always learn things by listening to music and poetry and these are things that instill a great deal of thought into me.


Click on picture to hear song.

Español: El Joe Arroyo cantando en un concierto en la década de los 80′
Date 31 January 2012
Source Own work
Author Belouu

My favorite salsa album of all time is Margarita Hot Summer Salsa. This album is full of beautiful salsa music including a very touching song called La Rebelión (No Le Pegue A Mi Negra) by Joe Arroyo, depicting the life of an African slave defending his wife because the slaveowner hit her.

La Rebelión (No Le Pegue A Mi Negra)

When the Africans were in the street the slaveowner hit one of the African wives and you could hear her husband even from the gates protesting and defending his wife.

He insists in the song, “don’t hit my black woman.” This song talks about the reality that blacks who were brought to countries south of the border were also slaves.

Their slaveowners were most often Spaniard and the abuse was just as hideous as that which was suffered here in the United States. In fact, in some latino countries being “black” or native indigenous is not desirable because lighter skin is associated with more wealth. This particular song’s story takes place in Cartagena, Colombia.

According to Ekua from Girl UnStoppable, The Untold Afro-Colombian Stories of Colombia’s Carribbean Coast, the history of African slaves in Colombia is greatly concealed and made to look more like some modern fairy tale.

The fact is, so many West African slaves were brought to Colombia that Colombia not only has one of the largest amounts of African descendants, many African descendants from other Latin American countries descended from these Colombians.

I used to just assume that cumbia originated in Mexico, but cumbia actually came from West African roots starting in Colombia.

Human beings were sold in La Plaza De Los Coches.

Slaves were forced to assimilate when slavery was abolished, any African who wanted to maintain his West African culture was forced to live in remote jungles. This is why the history of Cartagena is not well known. Forcing Africans to assimilate helped to bury the history of how Africans were treated in Cartagena, and how the West African culture contributed a lot to the music and culture in Colombia today.

Note: One side topic that fascinates me are Mexicans with obvious African heritage live separately from the common mestizo and some generations have become more mestizo by previous intermarriage. Intermarriage with mestizos was in a way like trying to exterminate being “black” or of African descent over time.

I have watched documentaries about Mexicans of African descent and I deeply admire the culture. I always wanted to be able to help those who are dying in the street alone due to lack of health care and nutrition.

No Le Pegue A La Negra (La Rebelión)

de la
Historia nuestra, caballero
Our story man

Y dice asi:

And he tells it this, he says,

En los años mil seiscientos, cuando el tirano mandó
In the 1600’s, when the tyrant ruled

Las calles de Cartagena, aquella historia vivio.
The streets of Cartagena, this story lived

Cuando alli llegaban esos negreros, africanos en cadenas
When there arrived those black men
Africans in chains

Besaban mi tierra,
They kissed my land,

esclavitud perpetua
Esclavitud perpetua
Esclavitud perpetua

Perpetual slavery

Un matrimonio africano,
An African marriage

Esclavos de
Un espanol,
Slaves of a Spanish man

el les daba muy mal trato
He treated them very badly
Y a su negra le pego
And he hit his black woman

Y fue alli, se reveló el negro guapo,
And he went there, the handsome black man revealed himself

Tomo venganza por su amor y aun se escucha
En la verja,
He took vengeance for his love and they even could hear him in the gate

no le pegue a mi negra
No le pegue a la negra
No le pegue a la negra

Don’t hit my black woman

Oye man!!
No le pegue a la negra
No le pegue a la negra
No, no, no, no, no, no,
No, no, no, no, no, no
(varias veces)

Oye esa negra se me respeta
Listen this black woman respects me

Ehh, que aun se escucha, se escucha en la verja,
You can even hear him in the gate

No, no, no, no, no
No, no, no, no, no
No, no, no, no, no le pegue a la negra

Negra que me dice..

No le pegue a la negra
No le pegue a la negra
No le pegue a la negra
No le pegue

Y con ustedes… Chelito de casa

Vamos a ver que le pegue a jeva
Porque el alma, que el alma, que el alma
Que el alma, que el alma se me revienta
Don’t hit her, my soul will explode

Ehh, no, no, no, no, no, no le pegue a mi negra
Porque el alma se me agita mi prieta
Because my soul gets agitated, my black woman

El Chombo lo sabe
Y tu tambien
No le pegue a la negra
Chombo knows it, and you too,
Don’t hit my black woman

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2 Comment

  1. Hello

    I find your article interesting, someone can really learn another language by listening to music in that language?

    I have never listened to any music in any language other the English, you have shared some fine choices it appears in your article now I must decide which one to purchase to get started ?

    1. Hello Jeffrey,

      There are lots of great options out there. I love Thalia as well for a romantic singer. Jose Luis Orrozco is great for little children. Older children might like it too when their younger siblings listen to it. I am an adult and I would play his music all day. Jose Arroyo sings the song “La Rebelión” which is a song that reveals the true history of Cartagena, Colombia, it is much the same as the United States, African slavery, and the fact that West Africans make up an extent of the original ethnic or cultural background of Latin America.

      Celia Cruz would be a wonderful option if you are just looking for a great positive, more neutral message. Celia’s lyrics are amazing and incredibly spiritually awakening.

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