Page last updated at 11:23 GMT, Wednesday, 2 July 2008 12:23 UK

US ambassador on song in Paraguay

Ambassador James Cason recording his album (Photo: US embassy website)
Ambassador Cason had never sung professionally before

The US ambassador to Paraguay has become a music sensation in the country after recording an album of folk songs in the indigenous Guarani language.

"What I've been trying to do is show respect for Paraguay and for its culture," James Cason told the BBC.

Proceeds from the album sales are going to fund English-language grants for poor Paraguayan students.

Mr Cason's efforts have been well received, although one politician grumbled about his pronunciation.

"The polls show that Paraguayans thought we didn't respect their culture. I said, that's not true and so that's why before I even came to the country, I learned Guarani and I've been studying since then," Mr Cason said.

"I've never been to a country where I can't speak the language."

Through his lessons, he discovered that Paraguay "has really beautiful music", he said.

'Harder than Chinese'

Mr Cason, who had never been involved in professional music before, was encouraged to sing by Paraguay's most celebrated soprano, Rebecca Arramendi.

This resulted in his appearance at a concert and the recording of his CD of folk songs, including one the ambassador wrote himself, Campo Jurado.

Some reviews have been less than favourable, and one Paraguayan politician said the ambassador "sings horribly and his pronunciation of Guarani words is stammering".

But Mr Cason's songs have been playing on the radio and listeners have been enthusiastic, he says.

"I think they're just amazed and delighted that someone would take the time to learn a language which is probably harder than Chinese," said Mr Cason, who leaves Paraguay, his final posting, on 2 August.

Country profile: Paraguay
22 Apr 08 |  Country profiles

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