Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Momentary Change of Pace -- "Escalona"
"Escalona" is a 1991 Colombian telenovela that I think I first saw maybe in 1993 on Telemundo, and I'm pretty sure it was the first telenovela I followed all the way through from first episode to last. Of course it was performed in idiomatic Colombian Spanish which can be very difficult for someone more used to Mexican Spanish to keep up with -- for one thing, it is spoken very fast and for another lots of word endings are dropped.
The star is Carlos Vives, a Colombian actor and song stylist. His name is generally spoken "Carlo Bibé" in the Colombian dialect. He's from Santa Marta, Magdalena, Colombia, and in the program he plays a highly expressive and heightened version of the life of Rafael Escalona ("Rafa E'calona"), master of the vallenato form. Vallenato refers to a style of music characteristic of Valledupar and the Magdalena Department of Colombia, which Rafa Escalona popularized throughout the region. The musical style hasn't really penetrated much north of the Columbia and Panama, though you do hear it from time to time in the United States -- Gloria Estefan tried to popularize it here. I did see Carlos Vives when he did an American tour soon after the release of his album of classical vallenato music called "Clasicos de la Provincia." It was a huge hit, and his show in San Francisco was a delight -- and very well attended, a full house, but the site wasn't that big.
I've seen quite a bit of Hispanic "magic realism" drama, but nothing quite approaches what was done with "Escalona." Of course in the extended format of a telenovela, wonderful things can take place, and they did throughout the episodes, all of them filled with music and magic.
I'm told that "Escalona" is still one of the most popular telenovelas on DVD, and it is no wonder. It is really that good. And the challenge of keeping up with the dialog -- a challenge I often failed! -- was.... bracing. ☺
Ché says, if you have some down time and think you can handle the Spanish, check out episodes of "Escalona" on YouTube. Some full episodes are posted along with a lot of short clips. You're liable to be transported to another plane of existence. (Where you might just find Amelia Earhart! Heh.)