This song originated in Veracruz, Mexico. It's believed to date back to the end of the 1600's.

The name of the dance is probably connected to the Spanish verb 'bambolear', meaning 'to sway or swing'.

La bamba - Mexican Children's Songs - Mexico - Mama Lisa's World: Children's Songs and Rhymes from Around the World  - Intro Image

Notes

This is a "son jarocho" song (literally, Veracruz sound) that accompanies the dance with the same name. The song and dance was traditionally performed at weddings and in general it's thought to be a "love" dance. The bride and groom (or couple dancing it) perform intricate steps. The line "arriba" (up) is most likely referring to the steps in which the knee is slightly lifted. "Arriba" also means "come on", "cheer up" or any expression to cheer up people. Towards the end of the song they dance back and forth over a long red ribbon called a listón. At the very end, they tie the long ribbon into a love knot (a bow) using only their feet. Then they hold up their perfect bow to show everyone. It's a really beautiful dance.

Many versions exist, the most famous version worldwide is the one sung by the Mexican American singer, Ritchie Valens in 1958. According to Wikipedia, "Valens obtained the lyrics from his aunt Ernestine Reyes and learned the Spanish lyrics phonetically, as he had been raised from birth speaking English."

Here are the lyrics as Ritchie Valens sang them. They're almost the same as the lyrics above.

Para bailar la bamba
Para bailar la bamba
Se necesita una poca de gracia
Una poca de gracia pa' mí pa' ti.

Arriba y arriba
Y arriba y arriba, por ti seré
Por ti seré
Por ti seré

Yo no soy marinero
Yo no soy marinero, soy capitán
Soy capitán
Soy capitán

Ba-ba-bamba
Ba-ba-bamba
Ba-ba-bamba

English Translation:

To dance la Bamba
To dance la Bamba
It takes a little bit of grace
A little bit of grace for me, for you.

Come on and come on
And come on and come on, I am for you
I am for you
I am for you.

I'm not a sailor
I'm not a sailor, I'm a captain
I'm a captain
I'm a captain.

Ba-ba-bamba
Ba-ba-bamba
Ba-ba-bamba

La bamba - Mexican Children's Songs - Mexico - Mama Lisa's World: Children's Songs and Rhymes from Around the World  - Comment After Song Image

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You can read more about its history here.

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Thanks and Acknowledgements

Translations by Monique and Lisa.

Image: Folkloric Dance from the State of Veracruz, ProtoplasmaKid, cc.

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