Christmas songs: Navidad Sin Ti

December 21, 2004 | 5 comments
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In this time of the year, we hear lots of Christmas songs. There’s one song in particular that I’ve come to enjoy hearing around Christmas, though at one time I never thought this would be possible. The song is “Navidad Sin Ti” by the Ranchera music group (essentially country music in Spanish) Los Bukis.

A bit of background first: On my mission, the missionaries (and everyone else) rode everywhere in crowded, smelly, rickety, highly unsafe buses. The buses almost invariably played musica ranchera, at a very high volume, for the entire trip. (Rusty and danithew can back me up on this).

Some of the music (Selena, for example, the singer who was famously killed several years ago) was tolerable or even good. But most of it was monotonous and tedious, or worse. (One popular style was to use a lead singer who sort of screech-howled. The resulting music was characterized by the elders as “he sounds like he has a bad stomachache.”) In addition to its dubious musical quality, much of the ranchera repertory was about getting drunk and/or commiting fornication and/or adultery. Of course, we tended to tolerate such lyrics in music we liked — almost all of the missionaries liked the Mexican rock group Mana — but the questionable lyrics only added to the general animosity that almost all of the gringo elders felt towards the entire rachera genre.

Los Bukis were among the great hitmakers in musica ranchera. Their songs were played endlessly. Often, the bus driver would just pop in a tape, and the tape would play (front side, back side, then front side again) as the bus drove for two or three hours or more. And so, from early in my mission, I came to greatly dislike Los Bukis.

And then Cristmas came. I don’t recall noticing much of the music my first Christmas there (when I was still learning the language). But by my second Christmas, my Spanish was good, I knew what music I liked, and I heard a very popular Christmas song being played everywhere I went. It was called “Navidad Sin Ti” — Christmas Without You. And I liked it. The song’s chorus is a sad, slightly soaring ballad, and the lyrics match the sad tone perfectly:

Llega navidad y yo sin tí
En esta soledad, recuerdo el día que te perdí
No se en donde estes pero en verdad
Por tu felicidad hoy brindo en esta navidad. . .
Feliz navidad.

(Christmas comes, and I’m without you
All alone, I think to the day that I lost you
I don’t know where you are, but it’s true
That this Christmas, I’m toasting to your happiness
Merry Christmas.)

The music was catchy and singable, and I liked the selfless nature of the story — The singer has lost the woman he loves, but he’s still wishing the best for her. The song was a perfect fit for Christmas.

I was, of course, surprised to discover that the song was by the group that I had learned to hate — Los Bukis. I had a brief moment of horror — I had actually enjoyed listening to a song by Los Bukis. But the more I thought about it, the more my reaction changed. I had been awfully prideful, looking down on the group and on the entire musical genre. It was easy for me to judge the music, to think that it was all drivel, that I was cultured enough to realize this and others weren’t. But in the end, one of the songs really seemed to work.

I’ll never be a big fan of the group or the genre. But I can appreciate that a group with limited talent, in a more or less musically barren genre, can still create a beautiful song. And if anyone is looking for a ranchera Christmas ballad that’s surprisingly good, I recommend Navidad Sin Ti. (It’s available in a large number of collections, including their Greatest Hits.)

5 Responses to Christmas songs: Navidad Sin Ti

  1. Mark on December 21, 2004 at 2:24 pm

    Thanks Kaimi:
    This link has the MP3 clips:

    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B000005UFY/002-9422208-5361606?v=glance

    íQué viva la ranchera!

  2. Hans Hansen on December 21, 2004 at 2:38 pm

    Even though my name and family background is Norwegian, I was not all that aware of Norwegian Christmas songs and customs until I served my mission in Norway. One of the Christmas songs that I learned to love was “Jeg er sÃ¥ glad hver julekveld” (“I am so glad each Christmas Eve”). Here are the words with the English translation and you can hear the tune at

    http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/i/m/imsoglad.htm

    Jeg er så glad hver julekveld,
    for da ble Jesus født;
    da lyste stjernen som en sol,
    og engler sang så søtt.

    Det lille barn i Betlehem,
    han var en konge stor
    som kom fra himlens høye slott
    ned til vår arme jord.

    Nå bor han høyt i himmerik,
    han er Guds egen sønn,
    men husker alltid på de små
    og hører deres bønn.

    Jeg er så glad hver julekveld,
    da synger vi hans pris;
    da åpner han for alle små
    sitt søte paradis.

    Da tenner moder alle lys,
    så ingen krok er mørk;
    hun sier stjernen lyste så
    i hele verdens ørk.

    Hun sier at den lyser enn
    og slukkes aldri ut,
    og hvis den skinner på min vei,
    da kommer jeg til Gud.

    Hun sier at de engler små,
    de synger og i dag
    om fred og fryd på jorderik
    og om Guds velbehag.

    Å, gid jeg kunne synge så,
    da ble visst Jesus glad;
    for jeg jo også ble Guds barn
    engang i dåpens bad.

    Jeg holder av vår julekveld
    og av den Herre Krist,
    og at han elsker meg igjen,
    det vet jeg ganske visst.

    English translation:

    I am so glad each Christmas Eve,
    The night of Jesus’ birth!
    Then like the sun the Star shone forth,
    And angels sang on earth.

    The little Child in Bethlehem,
    He was a King indeed!
    For He came down from Heaven above
    To help a world in need.

    He dwells again in heaven’s realm,
    The Son of God today;
    And still He loves His little ones
    And hears them when they pray.

    I am so glad on Christmas Eve!
    His praises then I sing;
    He opens then for every child
    The palace of the King.

    [The remaining stanzas are best suited for home use.]

    When mother trims the Christmas tree
    Which fills the room with light,
    She tells me of the wondrous Star
    That made the dark world bright.

    She says the Star is shining still,
    And never will grow dim;
    And if it shines upon my way,
    It leads me up to Him.

    And so I love each Christmas Eve
    And I love Jesus, too;
    And that He loves me every day
    I know so well is true.

  3. Kaimi on December 21, 2004 at 4:11 pm

    Thanks for the link, Mark, and for the song, Hans!

  4. Rusty on December 21, 2004 at 6:47 pm

    Kaimi, oh man, the memories flood. I HATED Ranchera music. Bronco, Los Tigres Del Norte, Limite… ugh. Those bus trips were nightmarish. I guess they’d probably feel the same about a good Led Zeppelin album though. There were a few singers that poked through (not the exact genre, but close) like Alejandro Fernandez, who I listen to regularly. And nobody can even touch Mana.

  5. sarebear on December 21, 2005 at 5:27 pm

    Beautiful songs! My husband doesn’t remember that one from his mission in Mexico, I just asked him. I’m going to play a clip if I can and see if it jogs his memory. I like to hear about his experiences there.

    And, about these kind of cultural things brought to life in a way that is really expressive of a slice of life in that country.