Category Archives: Ramon Ayala

Accordion Adventures—> Yo con mi acordeón

When my husband randomly purchased me an accordion the other week, he made certain it was of the same style that Flaco Jiménez plays (same style, but beginner price). This is because my love for the accordion began with Tejano and Norteño music. The Tejanos generally either play Hohner or Gabbanelli instruments–the Mexicans seem to prefer Gabbanellis. Flaco happens to prefer a Hohner Corona; in fact, he has a signature model created for him by the Hohner company.

What this means is that I’m learning to play a three-row diatonic. If you look closely at images of Flaco, you’ll see three rows of buttons to his right hand. These are diatonic scales G-C-F. On the left hand are twelve bass note buttons. If that isn’t confusing enough for you, the accordion plays different notes depending on whether you pull out or push in on the bellows.

In the random picture my husband took of me with my Hohner (he’s a random kind of guy–buying me accordions, taking my picture–you know the type), I’m attempting to read the tablature and translate it to the three rows under my fingers. I’ve never been instinctive with music. I’ve never been instinctive, period. Notice how set my jaw is. I have to come at everything with study. For example, in order to write poetry, I have to understand metrical and syllabic conventions. By extension, in order to create music, I must study the instrument and its form. I’m forced to conclude that I’m not much of an artist and never will be (not that I care).

However, I do have a talent for recognizing physical and sonic beauty. Diatonic accordions blend those two qualities together in stunning, yet small boxes. My new accordion makes lovely music. It isn’t the most gorgeous accordion out there–those are out of my price range–but if the bellows weren’t closed in the photograph, you would see they’re red. So it’s still snazzy and sleek, black and red and chrome.

Here’s a list of my favorite accordionistas (or the bands that have them): Ramon Ayala, Flaco Jiménez, Intocable, Los Palominos, and Los Tigres del Norte. And, of course, there are many other historically great accordion players from Texas, aside from Flaco: Valerio Longoria, Juan Lopez, Narciso Martínez, and Tony de la Rosa. I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing both Ramon and Flaco live in concert.

Ramon Ayala is, hands down, my favorite accordion player to date. His is the music de mi alma. My head is spinning, as well. What a tradition to follow. I think I’d better log out now. See you al otro lado del porton.


Life Should Not Be Lived Behind a Computer Screen

Life should be played by accordions, covered in snow, filled with hot toddies, and laughed at by family. Life should be step-danced and free-form clogged. Dean Crouch and Ivan Hajek should fill the world. Ramon Ayala should play and sing my accordion dreams. I have a lot of those–accordion dreams. Life should be spoken in Spanish, in poetry, in flowery prose. Flowery prose should never be condemned.

But I know my rules. Flowery prose is not allowed. Passive voice is not allowed, and yet there it is, disallowed by no one specifically and, therefore, passive.

I want to play my life in accordions, step-dance it, cover it in Spanish, and walk it out in the snow. I will speak it in poetry and never let go of flowery prose, because flowers are God’s own art, and I am in rapture.

I know my rules. I will never sit passively when there is something in this world to do (she ironically wrote as she sat behind her computer screen.)


My Life Plays to the Accordion

Let me tell you a little about myself. I’ve been studying Spanish since I was fourteen, which makes more than twenty years of book study, but I don’t really speak it all that well. I’m comfortable reading Cervantes and Maria de Zayas and, yet, I fall apart in conversation.

Let me tell you what occurred many years ago, now, when I took to listening to the local Mexican radio station in order to learn Spanish better: I fell in love with the accordion. In those beginning days, I heard a song, the words of which were perfectly comprehensible to me, called Un Rinconcito del Cielo. Translated, that means, A Little Corner of the Sky (literally). Figuratively, it translates as A Little Piece of Heaven. All of that is immaterial, because, the first time I heard the song, I was so overcome with emotion that I nearly stopped breathing. My heart pounded in my chest and, as I was driving, I was forced to pull to the side of the road.

You think I’m full of drama. Maybe I am, but I also speak the truth. It was the accordeonista that took my breath away. Later, I discovered he was Ramon Ayala. Years later, I still can’t listen to his songs without the passion welling in my chest and the love filling my heart. I’ve collected his albums and seen him live in concert, and the novelty of my love for his music has never faded.

It’s difficult to explain, but it has something to do with longing. Wistfulness descends at inexplicable moments due to unknown causes. It’s as if the mysteries of the universe are suddenly present in my mind and heart, and they’re felt in the senses: a taste on the tongue, a smell, an image transfixed in the mind. Have you ever seen the leaves of a tree that appear green in one glimpse, and gold with another turn of the wind? That’s what I’m talking about. The gold in turn is an image that catches the mysteries of life, if only for a moment.

It’s as if, at the first sound of the accordion, I realized what I was longing for. Yet, at the same moment, I knew the mysteries of life had just deepened. The accordion is almost my “little piece of heaven”. It’s from God; that’s all I know. And the fact that Señor Ayala, at least on one of his album covers, is playing an accordion with crosses on it, simply proves that he’s attempting what’s most important in life–understanding God, giving him glory–either one or both.

Here’s a song he’s well-known for, and one of my favorites. Yes, you’ll have to go out and find a copy of the song to hear his accordion, but, meanwhile, savor the lyrics of Mi Golondrina (English below)*:

Ya se fue,
lo que anhelaba,
yo en mi corazón.
Mi golondrina
se fue y me dejo,
sin rumbo fijo,

Voló y voló,
sin la esperanza
de que volviera.
Sin la esperanza
de volverla a ver.
Por que se fue
sin decirme adiós

Ay golondrina,
dime que vuelves
junto a mi lado,
tarde o temprano.
Ay golondrina,
dime que vuelves
cuando regrese
de nuevo el verano.

My Swallow (or wanderer)

She went away, already.
What I longed for
In my heart,
My wanderer,
She went away and left me,
Without a fixed course,
and disappeared.

She flew and she flew,
Without hope of return,
Without hope of
Returning to see her,
Because she left
Without saying goodbye.

Ay, wanderer,
Tell me that you’ll return
To my side,
Sooner or later,
Ay, wanderer,
Tell me that you’ll return
When summer
Comes again.

For my part, I think of the swallow as the gift of poetry. I always wonder if that gift will return to me. Certainly, I’m not on a fixed course, nor is my writing life, and only God knows the future.

*I can’t claim that these are the official lyrics. They’re what I hear when I listen to the song. There are too many versions on the internet to come to a consensus. Also, I’ve done my best with a translation; if you know Spanish better than I do, please help me.