[en/es] Systema Solar “Sin Oficio” & Benny Moré “Obsesión”

Systema Solar samples Obsesión by Benny Moré in Sin Oficio.

Systema Solar incluye Obsesión de Benny Moré en Sin Oficio.

I always wonder how modern are some songs from the last decades. The typical case is A little less Conversation: my generation listened to the techno version in 2002 and no one complained about it being old fashioned. Then some of us searched for the original track from 1968 and discovered that it was almost the same. So I said to myself, the composers back in the 60’s were really ahead their time.

With some samples it happens sometimes the same. It is astonishing how some bits of music sound as well in their original packing from their old good days as in the new songs they reappear in. Daft Punk’s Discovery has tons of them.

But my focus is Latin American Music, so my aim here is to propose a new example of sampling across decades from newer Latin American acts. Last time I presented a beautiful salsa sample which travelled from 1974 to 2003.

This is the 2010 track, Sin Oficio, by Systema Solar.

Now guess how much of it is a sample and how old it could be, and then listen to the source.

This song does not hide its age; you may have guessed it right, it is a track from the 50’s.

In fact, Benny Moré recorded Obsesión – a wonderful Bolero by Puerto Rican composer Pedro Florez – on the 6th April 1954 in La Habana with his Banda Gigante and duetting with Pedro Vargas, a known Mexican singer and actor fascinated by Cuba.

Learning that the sample was 56 years old and still fresh was surprising; discovering it in a recording from Benny Moré strengthened my already huge admiration for him. After all, he lead the orchestra that produced this never ageing bit of music. Not without reason he is considered to be the greatest Cuban singer all times.

Once again, there is no relationship between the lyrics of the two songs. Obsesión describes the strength of the love felt by the singer. Sin Oficio translates to “without occupation” meaning here unemployed. Systema Solar is a Colombian band which elaborates music tradition into modern acts – in this song they are not using local material, but Cuban, paying tribute to the importance of external influences for Colombian music culture. The first part of this track is a list of professions or rather activities one can do trying to make ends meet. Some of them are common low skilled positions, other are caricatured subsistence jobs, references to Colombian idiosyncrasy being everywhere. The rest of the song is about unemployment in an urban context, the main conclusion being that the final goal is the pursuit of happiness.

This tracks sound better on CD. Systema Solar’s self-titled album containing Sin Oficio can easily be bought here, even in lossless format (beware, there are different versions of Sin Oficio). Obsesión is included in the highly recommendable compilation Grabaciones Completas 1953-1960, covering most of Benny’s production.


Una cosa que no deja de impresionarme es como ciertas canciones de la epoca de nuestros padres o abuelos puedan ser tan modernas aún escuchadas hoy en día. Mi ejemplo preferido es A little less Conversation: nosotros los jovenes escuchamos la version techno en 2002 y no nos pareció anticuado. También hubo quien buscó la versión original de 1968 y vio que es prácticamente lo mismo. Yo me dije que sus compositores en los años 60 se habían adelantado a su época.

A veces pasa lo mismo con trozos de música separados de sus canciones, llamados samples en inglés. Es impresionante como algunos de ellos suenan igual de bien en sus canciones nativas como cuando los reciclan. Daft Punk se dedicó a esto en Discovery.

Pero como mi pasión es la música latinoamericana acá les presento ejemplos que descubro escuchando artistas contemporáneos de nuestros países. La vez pasada vimos como Tego Calderón se sirvió de un sample de Salsa de Ismael Rivera de 1974 para la base de una canción del 2003. Ahora les presento las canciones que están en los vídeos de arriba.

La primera canción es Sin Oficio de los colombianos Systema Solar, de 2010. La base es la introducción de Obsesión, bolero del compositor boricua Pedro Flores, interpretada por Benny Moré y el mexicano Pedro Vargas, grabada en La Habana el 6 de abril de 1964. La orquesta, que produjo el sample, es la Orquesta Gigante dirigida por Benny Moré.

La grandeza de el Benny se confirma una vez más – su sonido sigue actual 56 años más tarde – y entendemos mejor porque hay quienes lo consideran el mejor cantante cubano de todos los tiempos. Es que su música no tiene época.

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