En Español
In English

The Puerto Rican Décima Troubadours

Notes and commentary by José Gumersindo Torres Cruz, David Morales and William Cumpiano

This page presents an homage to the greatest singers of music from the Puerto Rican countryside. Here we attempt to display some of their work in the field of the sung Décima verse form and other traditional songs of the Puerto Rican hills. It is a chronological index that features those decades in our cultural history when the circus, the theatre, the radio, live local presentations, patron saint festivals, and recordings--gave us the opportunity to enjoy the native talents of the authentic Puerto Rican jíbaro troubador over decades of time. In the world of the Puerto Rican Décima we find three kinds of artists: the Interpreter, [intérprete] who can sing with a melodious voice and a fine country twang the décimas written by poets called decimistas who themselves may or may not have the gift of song. Then there is the Improviser [improvisador], with the gift to create instantaneous verses following the complex rules of the décima on any topic given--at the spur of the moment. Over the centuries only a handful of great artists of the century have mastered all three skills: the skills of the interpreter, poet and improviser. They are truly the national treasures of Puerto Rico. To this day, the Isle of Enchantment continues to produce a crop of singers, both youthful and elderly, that cultivate the florid verse which faithfully follows the ancient rules of the Décima.

Joaquín Mouliert "El Pitirre de Fajardo" in his youth.  The Pitirre is native Puerto Rican songbird, known in English as Kingbird

Listen to the Pitirre de Fajardo, accompanied by the great cuatrista Arturito Aviles sing Tradición Boricua (courstesy collección Arturo y David Morales)

The Pioneers (1900-1929)
The Thirties (1930-1939)
The Forties (1940-1949)    
The Fifties (1950-1959)
The Sixties (1960-1969)
The Seventies on  (1970-
Youth of the New Era