La Paloma : history and mystery of world's most popular song

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  • In Zanzibar they play it at the end of weddings, in Romania at the end of funerals, in Mexico as a protest song, and in Germany as a sailor's lament. Written a century and a half ago by Sebastian Iradier and first performed in Cuba, "La Paloma"-the most frequently played song in the world-has circled the globe like a dove to touch listeners' hearts with longing. Drawing upon insightful expert commentary, moving personal anecdotes, and snippets from dozens of versions of "La Paloma," this program follows the song's trail in an effort to understand its power to enchant so very many people. A mix of music history and ethnomusicology.


  • Encoded with permission for digital streaming by Films Media Group on June 03, 2009.
  • Films on Demand is distributed by Films Media Group for Films for the Humanities & Sciences, Cambridge Educational, Meridian Education, and Shopware.
  • Mode of access: Internet.
  • System requirements: FOD playback platform.
  • Closed-captioned.
  • Portions are in other languages with English subtitles.


  • First Recording of "La Paloma" (4:31) -- Music Style: Habanera (5:43) -- History of "La Paloma" (6:13) -- "La Paloma" Hawaiian Style (5:19) -- International Appeal of "La Paloma" (5:24) -- Georges Bizet Adapts "La Paloma" Composer's Music (3:33) -- "La Paloma" in Romania (3:54) -- Story of a Musician's Life (2:59) -- Music in the Concentration Camp (3:33) -- Wedding Music in Africa (4:06) -- Song of Many Meanings (5:52)
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