El Condor Pasa

condorIn 1970 the pop duo of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel released  El Condor Pasa (Spanish for “The condor passes”).

I loved this song and was captivated by the exotic sounds of  South American instruments including flutes and charango – an Andean string instrument made from the shell of an armadillo.

Paul Simon added lyrics which I have included below.  I discovered that the song is not by Paul Simon but composed by the Peruvian composer Daniel Alomía Robles in 1913 and based on traditional Andean folk tunes.

Here is the Simon and Garfunkel version, then the original song.


I’d rather be a sparrow than a snail.
Yes I would,
If I could,
I surely would.

I’d rather be a hammer than a nail.
Yes I would,
If I only could,
I surely would.

Away, I’d rather sail away
Like a swan that’s here and gone
A man gets tied up to the ground
He gives the world
Its saddest sound,
Its saddest sound.

I’d rather be a forest than a street.
Yes I would.
If I could,
I surely woud.

I’d rather feel the earth beneath my feet,
Yes I would.
If I only could,
I surely would.

Additional recordings

Los Incas played with Paul Simon – here is the authentic music.


El Condor Pasa is a zarzuela which includes the famous eponymous tune based on traditional Andean music of Peru.  Zarzuela is a form of theatrical music or musical genre scenic originally from Spain which expanded in Latin America. The following performance is an arrangement for string ensemble.

Thank you to my friend Naty Heredia in Ecuador for this information and video.

Here is video showing musicians playing Andean flutes and percussion and showing South American scenery

And finally a fingerstyle guitar arrangement:

Sheet Music

Further Information

  • Wikipedia – read about the copyright issue and how Paul Simon compensated the composer.
  • Songfacts 

Author: charuzu

I live in Sydney and interests include music, piano playing, technology, cooking, English language, public speaking, Toastmasters, Asian culture (especially Japan and Korea), cinema, personal development, productivity and making friends with people from around the world.

One thought on “El Condor Pasa”

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