La Gota Fría: vallenato music masterpiece refashioned by Carlos Vives

Revista La Gota Fria
Revista La Gota Fria
La Gota Fría is one of the best-known examples of the vallenato genre that originated in the early 19th century in the vast Colombian valley nestled between the Andes ridges. The lyrics of vallenato songs typically contain informative stories continuing the tradition of the Spanish minstrels by which bards transmitted news between settlements in the times of nonexistent rapid communication.
The highly emotional story of La Gota Fría (literally meaning The Cold Drop) describes the real musical competition between Emiliano Zuleta and Lorenzo Morales—two of the greatest vallenato accordionists of the last century.
The song was written by Zuleta in the 1930s and celebrates his overwhelming victory in that competition by underplaying the musical skill of his rival who breaks into a cold sweat while trying to keep up with Zuleta's complex improvisations. Morales later wrote La Carta, a response song that pokes fun at Zuleta's unattractive and banal high-speed passages which cannot rival Morales' impeccable musical style.
In 1994, La Gota Fría gained international fame after it was covered by the Colombian vallenato performer Carlos Vives. The release pushed his career to a whole new level, and the vallenato style itself attained unprecedented popularity.
Listen to La Gota Fria by Carlos Vives:
Compositionally, La Gota Fría fully complies with the canons of tonal theory, following the Aeolian mode as well as its extension to the harmonic minor scale. In the harmonic analysis of the song chord chains, the scale degrees (denoted with Roman numerals) show the following progressions in the key of B♭ minor:
  • B♭m–F–B♭m or i–V–i for verses and choruses;
  • D♭–A♭–В♭ or III–VII–III for verses.
The choruses and most of the verses are accompanied by the V–i two-chord alternation known as the authentic cadence. Note that the F dominant chord rooted in the fifth scale degree is a major triad and switches the Aeolian mode to the harmonic minor. The D♭–A♭–В♭ progression of major triads produces contrast in the middle of the verses.
Discover more songs composed in Aeolian minor mode and their harmonic analyses in the following articles:
Share this story