Boricua is a sonata for Organ I wrote in spring of 2018. It was commissioned by the American Guild of Organists for their student commissioning project. The name Boricua can be translated as “Puerto Rican”, specifically someone who is a native of the island of Puerto Rico. The older meaning of Boricua is “someone from the Boriken Island” and that means from the island of the brave people. This piece is mostly inspired by the life my father, a native of the island of Puerto Rico with an appetite for hard work and an unshakable positive outlook on life. He is currently 80 years old and according to him “doing better than most people my age, thank god”.

The first theme is taken from a Puerto Rican folk song titled “Despierta Boricua” meaning “wake up Puerto Rican” which is a call to arms recounting Puerto Rico’s rebel uprising in Lares in September of 1868. The song now is used as a symbol for Puerto Rican independence. I first learned about this song from my brother Vicente who sent me the version of it sung by the talented Puerto Rican folk singer Andrés Jiménez from his album “Like the Edge of the Machete: songs of the struggle for Puerto Rican independence”. According to my father, there is a saying in Puerto Rico that the movement for independence must be kept sharp like the edge of a machete (the tool used for cutting down sugar cane, one of Puerto Rico’s main exports), though he also says independence is a dream that will likely never happen.

Almost as important to me as the theme itself was the way it is sung by traditional Puerto Rican folk singers. The rhythm of folk music is flexible and leaves a lot of room for the singer to alter the rhythms of melody for dramatic effect. This gives a very desperate quality to the voice which is distinctly Puerto Rican in sound and much different than what is typically heard in Latin music.

The second theme in Db is taken from a lullaby that I am told my grandmother used to sing to my brothers and I when I was younger. I had my aunt Lillian and family sing the melody and that was the version that I used in this piece. I later discovered that this theme is a popular Hispanic lullaby and that the version of it in my family is slightly different than the tune that most people know. I decided to use the version of it as I know it in my family.

-Joshua Malave

boricua score


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