What does “El Condor Pasa” mean in Spanish and Where did the phrase come from?

The title of the 1970 Simon and Garfunkel song “El Condor Pasa” means “the condor passes.”

It refers to the majestic vulture of the Andes. With its ten-foot wingspan and bald red head, the condor is regarded as a good omen by the Aymara, a Native American people of Peru and Bolivia.

Based on an eighteenth-century Peruvian folk melody, the Simon and Garfunkel song showcased Andean Native American music.

This music builds on the Incan pentatonic (five-tone) scale. Plaintive and high-pitched, it is played on panpipes of cane or bone, drums, flutes, and conch shell trumpets.

Since breaking up with Art Garfunkel, American musician Paul Simon has picked up many other ideas from Latin American and African music. In the 1970s, he toured with the Peruvian ensemble Urubamba. His 1986 Graceland album included music by Los Lobos.

His 1998 Broadway musical The Capeman told the story of Sal Agron, a Puerto Rican youth convicted of a double murder in New York City in 1959 who went on to become a prison poet.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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