I decided to make a list of fifty of my favorite Latin songs and research the stories behind them. I'm off to a slow start; it's amazing how hard it is to find information about some of these songs. One could probably write a book about the El Cantante soap opera, and there's no shortage of information about The Girl from Ipanema. But I'm amazed that a song as distinctive as Mandinga is so hard to figure out. It was apparently named by a Cuban named Guillermo Rodriguez Fiffe; in fact, I believe he performs it in the movie Buena Vista Social Club (though I haven't seen the movie). I understand there's also a band named BVSC, so I could be confusing the movie with the band. The song apparently goes by three different names - Mandinga, Bilongo and La Negra Tomasa. I have a live version of Mandinga recorded by the Buena Vista Social Club (5:30), a live version of Bilongo recorded by Bebo Valdés & Javier Colina (5:50) and a jazzy version of Mandinga recorded by a local band, Mambo Cadillac (11:19). They're all very nice. However, I haven't found many details about the song's origin or meaning. I read somewhere that a Bilongo is a "Spell put by a sorcerer... and also the name of a well-known song, in which Spanish language is mixed with Bantú language (Kiriribú Mandinga, kiriribú Mandiga...)." According to Wikipedia, "Senegambian people (Senegal, Gambia), but including many brought from Sudan by the Arab slavers, were known by a catch-all word: Mandinga. The famous musical phrase Kikiribu Mandinga! refers to them." But what does the phrase mean? I think I remember reading that it refers to a hopeless situation, or something like that. The first verse is easy to translate: I'm so in love With La Negra Tomasa That when she leaves home I get so sad But what does this verse say? Esa Negra linda, camara Que me echo bilongo Esa Negra linda, camara Que me echo bilongo An online translator gave me a garbled translation of this verse, too: Na mas que me gusta la comida Que me cocina Na mas que me gusta la cafe Que ella me cuela Na than I like food Me kitchen Na than I like the cafe I strained it This verse is also confusing: Esa Negrita Tomaso Como menea esa rumba Kikiribu Mandinga Kikiribu Mandinga I suspect it means "When this beautiful woman dances (moves her body), I know it's hopeless (i.e. she'll never love me). * * * * * Can anyone fill in any of the blanks and help put this song in perspective? Also, do you know when it was written or first recorded? Thanks.