Guajira is an ida y vuelta flamenco form brought back to Spain by sailors from the New World—in this case from Cuba. “Guajira” means “girl” in the native Indian language of Cuba.
This arrangement is based on the traditional guajira form and is played in the style of Manolo Sanlucar. It includes two traditional guajira falsetas and a rhythmic rendition of the typical guajira copla (verse). The compas for guajira is the same count/accent structure as for buleria, but the guajira has a brighter, bouncier feel: think “tropical.”
This arrangement starts off with a four compas intro on Am/E7 before moving into the guajira entra-copla rhythm proper (at bars 17-31 in the accompanying tab. This entra-copla phrase is the common thread that ties the guajira together and gives the palo its signature sound. The variations on this theme are endless. I’ve given a few here in the style of Sanlucar, though other possibilities and flavors certainly abound.
In this transcription bars 33-40 operate as a remate and tie off the intro section in order to create a distinct move into the first falseta. This D-A-F-E7-A line occurs again after and before the copla section. In both instances the remate is used to give shape to the arrangement: instead of one continuous progression of falsetas and rhythm, the remates break the arrangement up into discrete units or movements.
First Falseta (0:45)
The first falseta is a Manolo Sanlucar interpretation of a traditional theme. I play the melody tirando and let my thumb rest on the bass strings for stability. For the quicker picado at bar 51 I switch to apoyondo in order to give the run more clarity. If this particular stretch is too fast for you, you can also play it in eighth notes (instead of eighth note triplets) by making the phrase a straight run down the scale, instead of one that moves up and down, as written.
The rhythmic section at bar 65—and other sections like this elsewhere in this arrangement—are prime spots for a dancer to do some fancy footwork. If you’re playing guajira as a solo piece, these passages also help to give an arrangement some shape and texture.
The “copla” section starts at bar 89, as marked in the transcription. If you’re playing for a singer, this is an example of some of the typical chords he or she might move through. The length, arrangement, and variations will depend on the letra he or she sings. As with the alegria, just because you don’t have a singer doesn’t mean you need to abandon the copla altogether. Adding a copla section such as this can be a good way to give shape and texture to your arrangement and can make a good alternative to simply piling on more labor intensive falsetas. A copla section also gives you a chance to introduce some passing chords and chord variations, both of which make for a nice harmonic break from a strict A-E7-D diet.
Second Falseta (2:05)
The second falseta I’ve transcribed here is an extended version of perhaps the most standard classic guajira falseta, again in the style of Manolo Sanlucar. The first few compases don’t need much explanation, but once you get to bar 153, be sure to watch your compas. The three high E pick-up eighth notes can throw you off—and fuera de compas—if you’re not paying attention.
Played at a brisk pace, this arrangement works out to be a little over three minutes long. On different occasions, I have used longer versions of this basic structure both as a dance accompaniment and as a solo guitar piece. There is a lot of falseta material out there, so once you have the basic structure and flow down, it is easy to move the pieces around and make it your own.