In Memoriam: Raphy Leavitt – Puerto Rican composer, founder of “La Selecta”
I first heard “Jibaro Soy” on the “Pa’lante! Siempre Pa’lante” documentary about the Young Lords Party back in the day. As a kid who was strictly a Hip-Hop head I had no idea who was singing on the track. I actually thought it was Celia Cruz due to the singer’s (Sammy Marrero) voice.
The lyrics of the song struck me. The song is declaring himself as a Jibaro (a term of endearment for someone from the countryside in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic). The track changes intensity a number of times while Sammy sings about his pride and commitment to his people. That spoke to me. As a teenager coming to understanding of myself as a Puerto Rican I immediately made this song a personal anthem.
Many years later as an adult, the song remains an anthem. My commitment just as strong although manifested differently than that teenager who was ready to go to war a la Pedro Albizu Campos and the Nationalist Party.
Raphy Leavitt made countless classics still revered to this day. His progressive approach as a bandleader of meshing traditional Puerto Rican rhythms with modern intensities and emotions made him one of the most loved figures of the golden era of salsa. RIP to Raphy Leavitt who passed away yesterday.
Jibaro soy, para siempre.