One of the most moving and touching 'boleros' ever, "Silencio" was composed by Puerto Rico's Rafael Hernandez, a major figure of Latin American music. The rendition features Ibrahim Ferrer and Omara Portuondo in a soulful duet Wim Wenders filmed the recording session in Havana as well as the performance of the song in Amsterdam.
Ibrahim Ferrer & Omara Portuendo sing 'Silencio'
The scene from the film in which the song is performed is particularly poignant because the age of the performers (he was 72 and she almost 70; the oldest bandmember was 91 and several were over 80 years old) is contrasted by the freshness and emotional intensity of the performance, in which she is moved to tears that he tenderly brushes away.
Rafael Hernandez is considered one of the greatest Puerto Rican music composers. He was born in the town of Aguadilla in 1892 and died in San Juan in 1965. Rafael studied music in Puerto Rico and Mexico. He also served in the armed forces during the first world war. In 1926 while residing in New York city he formed the musical trio called "Trío Borinquen". In 1929 he composed the famous "Lamento Borincano". In 1934 he formed the musical group called "Cuarteto Victoria". Rafael traveled much of Latin America with both musical groups. In 1937 he wrote one of his most beautiful songs "Preciosa".
In 1947 Rafael returned to Puerto Rico and he became director of the Puerto Rican Symphonic Orquestra and also advisor to WIPR-Radio . Some of his most famous and beautiful compositions are: Ahora somos Felices, Campanitas de Cristal, Capullito de Alelí, Culpable, El Cumbanchero, Ese soy Yo, Perfume de Gardenias, Tu no Comprendes and, of course Silencio.
Rafael Hernandez composed Christmas music, Zarzuelas, Danzas, Congas, Guarachas, Rumbas, Boleros, Romanzas, Operetas, Plenas, Valses and much more. Much of his music has reached world fame. The music of Rafael Hernandez forms an important part of Puerto Rican Culture. His songs and tunes bring beautiful nostalgic memories to most Puerto Ricans on the island, and those whose reside in the USA and elsewhere.
The alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón is identifiable by his tone, which is floaty and bright and ornate. But he’s also become identifiable by the quality of ideas, his particular kind of intellectual ambition. “Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook” is the third record he’s made that analyzes Puerto Rican music from the ground up and connects it, with great originality, to new jazz practice. He’s onto pop standards from the 1920s to the ’70s: mostly the boleros, ballads and filin-style music that might represent the Puerto Rican equivalent of Gershwin and Kern songs.
Miguel Zenón - Alma Adentro, album
On the Rafael Hernandez composition “Silencio,” the saxophonist starts off with a repeated phrase before turning to an initial melody, itself only an introduction to a roaming and improvisational discussion by Zenon and Perdomo (band pianist) that eventually returns to the repeated hook.
Miguel Zenón: “Rafael Hernández is perhaps the most internationally relevant Puerto Rican in history. His accomplishments are almost too many to mention: he was part of James Reese Europe’s ‘Hell Fighters’, lived in Puerto Rico, Mexico and Cuba, where he’s considered a national treasure. He was an incredibly prolific and versatile composer, who wrote some of the most legendary songs in the history of Latin American music. A musical giant, in every sense of the word.”
Hernandez and His Cuarteto Victoria
Pianist, composer and arranger Edwin Sánchez: “Rafael Hernández compositions, to me, exemplify the spirit of a pure Puerto Rican culture and people proud of their heritage and roots—not only with Puerto Ricans on the island, but Puerto Ricans all over the world as well. It helps us share our common love and nostalgia for our families, the Island and our culture.”
In the Oscar-nominated soundtrack of the 1999 documentary film, as the camera dissolves seamlessly from studio to performance, we see Ibrahim Ferrer wiping a tear off Omara Portuondo's cheek, the most poignant moment of the film, crystallizing the tragic beauty not just of the this bolero but also of the story behind The Buena Vista Social Club.
Omara Portuendo & Ibrahim Ferrer sing 'Silencio'
Silencio, spanish lyrics
Duermen en mi jardin las blancas azucenas, los nardos y las rosas, Mi alma muuuuy triste y pesarosa a las flores quiere ocultar su amargo dolor. Yo no quiero que las flores sepan los tormentos que me da la vida. Si supieran lo que estoy sufriendo por mis penas llorarian tambien. Silencio, que estan durmiendo los nardos y las azucenas. No quiero que sepan mis penas porque si me ven llorando moriran.
Keep quiet, English version
In my garden sleep the white lilies, the nards and the roses. My soul veeeery sad and sorrowful, to the flowers wants to hide its bitter pain. I don't want the flowers to know the torments that life gives me. If they knew how much I'm suffering for my pains they would cry as well. Keep quiet, that the nards and the lilies are sleeping I don't want them to know my pain because if the see me crying, they will die.