When Fats Waller sang “Mr Christopher Columbus/Sailed the sea without a compass” he probably didn’t know that the great admiral had acquired his navigational skills at a driving school in Sants, Barcelona (Colón = Columbus).
Lyricist Andy Razaf may well have despaired of Mr Waller, who seems more or less to have improvised his version of the text as he wibble-wobbled from studio to studio, but his own history is almost as strange as that of the hero of his song. Andream[en] tania Paul Razaf[in]keriefo was a child of emigrants who escaped Madagascar just as its extraordinarily bloody colonisation by the French began. The great nephew of Queen Ranavalona III (whose great grandmother(?) Harry Flashman apparently loved and left), he was born in Washington DC in 1895 and spent much of his life in Manhattan. It is attractive but probably naive to suppose that he was thinking of his own old world roots when he wrote:
Mr Christopher Columbus,
He used rhythm as a compass.
Music ended all the rumpus,
Wise old Christopher Columbus!
One of my favourite non-Waller versions of the song is that by Machito and his Afro-Cubans. This is one of a number of recordings:
- “Sorceress” Raquel Meller, TIME Magazine cover
This delectable flor del mal from Barcelona’s Poble Sec district is a daisychain from A Nun’s link to a review of
- Polish diva: “I know a street in Barcelona”
Uliczka w Barcelonie, by the great Sława Przybylska, who has no English-language Wikipedia entry, and who I first got to know
- Photos and video of snowstorm in Park Güell
Includes video of snow felling a pine tree and a photo of a municipal bus which almost skated its way down-town.
- Effect of rainfall on wood ants and Ukrainians
Wood ants descending rapidly en masse from a Quercus ilex on Montseny at the onset of a sharp shower: Having spent several
- Automated street sweeping demonstration for infant school in Santa Coloma de Gramanet
Whirling brooms sweep bits of newspaper into a vacuum zone under the truck, whence they are pumped to the bin: Driving lesson: