|Cultural origins||Bantu peoples|
|Typical instruments||Candombe drums|
|UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists|
Candombe is a style of music and dance that originated in Uruguay among the descendants of liberated African slaves. In 2009, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) inscribed candombe in its Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
To a lesser extent, candombe is practiced in Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil. In Argentina, it can be found in Buenos Aires, Santa Fe, Paraná, and Corrientes. In Paraguay, this tradition continues in Camba Cuá and in Fernando de la Mora near Asunción. In Brazil, candombe retains its religious character and can be found in the state of Minas Gerais.
This Uruguayan music style is based on three different drums: chico, repique, and piano drums. It is usually played in February during carnival in Montevideo at dance parades called llamadas and desfile inaugural del carnaval.
According to George Reid Andrews, a historian of black communities in Latin America, after the middle of the 19th century younger blacks began to abandon the candombe in favor of practicing European dances such as the waltz, schottische, and mazurka.Following this new twist, other Uruguayans began to imitate the steps and movements. Calling themselves Los Negros, upper class porteños in the 1860s and 1870s blackened their faces and formed one of the carnival processions each year.
African-Uruguayans organized candombe dances every Sunday and on special holidays such as New Year's Eve, Christmas, Saint Baltasar, Rosary Virgin and Saint Benito. They would set a fire to heat the drums and play candombe music, especially during the night in certain neighborhoods such as Barrio Sur and Palermo in Montevideo.
The typical characters on the parade represent the old white masters during slavery in old Montevideo city. It was a mockery to their lifestyle with a rebel spirit for freedom and a way to remember the African origins.
In 1913, an anonymous dance historian identified only as "Viejo Tanguero" ("Old Tangoer") wrote about the 1877 creation of a dance referred to as a tango but featuring ideas from the candombe. This dance, which later became known as "soft tango," was created by African Argentines.
Writing in 1883, dance scholar and folkorist Ventura Lynch described the influence of Afro-Argentine dancers on the compadritos ("tough guys") who apparently frequented Afro-Argentine dance venues. Lynch wrote, "the milonga is danced only by the compadritos of the city, who have created it as a mockery of the dances the blacks hold in their own places".Lynch's report was interpreted by Robert Farris Thompson in Tango: The Art of Love as meaning that city compadritos danced milonga, not rural gauchos. Thompson notes that the population of city toughs dancing milonga would have included blacks and mulattoes, and that it would not have been danced as a mockery by all the dancers.
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The African influence was not foreign to Argentina, where the candombe also has been developed with specific characteristics. A population of black African slaves had been present in Buenos Aires since around 1580. However their place in Argentine culture nearly died out due to events such as the yellow fever epidemic and the War against Paraguay that decimated the black population in Argentina and nearly wiped out their culture.
While wars and disease decreased black populations particularly, widespread discrimination in the 19th and 20th century, especially after the abolition of slavery in 1853, also took a toll. In addition, afroporteños (black people from Buenos Aires) were outnumbered by the increasing flow of immigration of white Europeans who displaced black workers in the domestic services, crafts and street sales. Still, in Buenos Aires, mainly in southern districts—today called San Telmo and Montserrat—crowds gathered to practice candombe.
The seeds of candombe originated in present-day Angola, where it was taken to South America during the 17th and 18th centuries by people who had been sold as slaves in the kingdom of Kongo, Anziqua, Nyong, Quang and others, mainly by Portuguese slave traders. The same cultural carriers of candombe colonized Brazil (especially in the area of Salvador de Bahia), Cuba, and the Río de la Plata with its capital Buenos Aires and Montevideo. The different histories and experiences in these regions branched out from the common origin, giving rise to different rhythms.
In Buenos Aires, during the two governments of Juan Manuel de Rosas, it was common that “afroporteños” (black people of Buenos Aires) practiced the candombe in public, even encouraged and visited by Rosas and his daughter, Manuela. Rosas defeated in the battle of Caseros in 1852, Buenos Aires began a profound and rapid cultural change which emphasized European culture. In this context, the afroporteños (black people of Buenos Aires) replicated their ancestral cultural patterns increasingly into their private life. For this reason since 1862, the press, intellectuals and politicians began to assert the misconception of Afro-Argentine disappearance that has remained virtually until now in the imagination of ordinary people from Argentina.
Many researchers agree that the Candombe, through the development of the Milonga, is an essential component in the genesis of Argentine tango. This musical rhythm influenced, specially, the "Sureña Milonga". In fact, tango, milonga and candombe form a musical triptych from the same African roots, but with different developments.
Initially, the practice of Candombe was practiced exclusively by blacks, who had designed special places called “Tangós”. This word originated sometime in the 19th century the word "Tango", but at that time not yet with its present meaning.
The word candombe comes from a Kikongo word meaning "pertaining to blacks," and was originally used in Buenos Aires to refer to dancing societies formed by members of the African diaspora and their descendants. It came to refer to the dance style in general, and the term was adopted in Uruguay as well.In Uruguay, candombe fused multiple African dance traditions into a complex choreography. Movements are energetic, and steps are improvised to suit.
Lately, some artists have incorporated this genre to their compositions, and have also created groups and NGOs of Afro-descendants, as the Misibamba Association, Afro-Argentines of Buenos Aires Community. However, it is important to note that the Uruguayan Candombe is the most practiced in Argentina, both due to immigration from Uruguay and to the seductiveness of the rhythm that captivates the Argentines. For this reason they learn the music, dance and characters and recreate something similar. Uruguayan Candombe is played much in the neighborhoods of San Telmo, Montserrat and La Boca.
While the Argentine variety had less local diffusion (compared with the diffusion that occurred in Uruguay), mainly by the decrease of population of black African origin, its mixing with white immigrants and the prohibition of the carnival during the last dictatorship. The Afroargentine Candombe is only played by the Afro-Argentines in the privacy of their homes, mainly located in the outskirts of Buenos Aires.
Recently, due to a change in strategy by the Afro-Argentines to move from concealment to visibility, there are increased efforts to perform it in public places, onstage and in street parades. Among the groups who play Afroargentine Candombe are: “Tambores del Litoral” (union of “Balikumba” from Santa Fe, and “Candombes del Litoral” from Parana, Entre Ríos), “Bakongo” (these, have their own web page), the “Comparsa Negros Argentinos” and "Grupo Bum Ke Bum (both from Asociación Misibamba). The latter two are in Gran Buenos Aires (Buenos Aires City and its surroundings).
In the late 1960s and early 1970s candombe was mixed with elements from 60s pop music and bossa nova to create a new genre called candombe beat. The origin of this genre was largely said to be the work of Eduardo Mateo, a Uruguayan singer, songwriter and musician together with other musicians such as Jorge Galemire.This style was later adopted by Jaime Roos and also heavily influenced Jorge Drexler. Contemporary musicians like Diego Janssen are experimenting with fusing candombe with jazz, blues and milonga.
Inscribed in 2009 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, UNESCO. The candombe is a source of pride and a symbol of the identity of communities of African descent in Montevideo, embraced by younger generations and favouring group cohesion, while expressing the communities’ needs and feelings with regard to their ancestors.
The music of candombe is performed by a group of drummers called a cuerda. The barrel-shaped drums, or tamboriles , have specific names according to their size and function:
An even larger drum, called bajo or bombo (very large, very low timbre, accent on the fourth beat), was once common but is now declining in use. A cuerda at a minimum needs three drummers, one on each part. A full cuerda will have 50–100 drummers, commonly with rows of seven or five drummers, mixing the three types of drums. A typical row of five can be piano-chico-repique-chico-piano, with the row behind having repique-chico-piano-chico-repique and so on to the last row.
Tamboriles are made of wood with animal skins that are rope-tuned or fire-tuned minutes before the performance. They are worn at the waist with the aid of a shoulder strap called a talig or talí and played with one stick and one hand.
A key rhythmic figure in candombe is the clave (in 3–2 form). It is played on the side of the drum, a procedure known as "hacer madera" (literally, "making wood").
Among the most important and traditional Montevidean rhythms are: Cuareim, Ansina and Cordon. There are several master drummers who have kept Candombe alive uninterrupted for two hundred years. Some of highlights are: in Ansina school: Wáshington Ocampo, Héctor Suárez, Pedro "Perico" Gularte, Eduardo "Cacho" Giménez, Julio Giménez, Raúl "Pocho" Magariños, Rubén Quirós, Alfredo Ferreira, "Tito" Gradín, Raúl "Maga" Magariños, Luis "Mocambo" Quirós, Fernando "Hurón" Silva, Eduardo "Malumba" Gimenez, Alvaro Salas, Daniel Gradín, Sergio Ortuño y José Luis Giménez.
The Afro-Argentine Candombe is played with two types of drums, played exclusively by men. Those drums are: “llamador” (also called "base", "tumba", "quinto" or "tumba base"), and "repicador" (also called "contestador", "repiqueteador" or "requinto"). The first is a bass drum, and the second is a sharp drum. There are two models of each of the drums: one made in hollowed trunk, and the other made with staves.
The first type are hung with a strap on the shoulder and are played in a street parade. The latter are higher than those, and played for granted. Both types of drums, are played only with both hands. Sometimes others drums are played: the "macú" and the "sopipa". Both are made from hollowed tree trunk, the first is performed lying on the floor, as it is the largest and deepest drum; and the "Sopipa" which is small and acute, is played hung on the shoulder or held between the knees.
Among the idiophones that always accompany the drums are the "taba" and "mazacalla", being able to add: the "quijada", the "quisanche", and the "chinesco”. The Argentine Candombe is a vocal-instrumental practice, all the same to be played sitting or street parade. There is a large repertoire of songs in African languages archaic, in Spanish or in a combination of both. They are usually structured in the form of dialogue and are interpreted solo, responsorial, antiphonal or in group. Although singing is usually a feminine practice, men may be involved. Where there is more than one voice, they are always in unison.
A full Candombe group, collectively known as a Comparsa Lubola (composed of blackened white people, traditionally with burnt corks) or Candombera (composed of black people), constitutes the cuerda, a group of female dancers known as mulatas, and several stock characters, each with their own specific dances. The stock characters include:
Candombe is performed regularly in the streets of old Montevideo's south neighbourhood in January and February, during Uruguay's Carnival period, and also in the rest of the country. All the comparsas, of which there are 80 or 90 in existence, participate in a massive Carnival parade called Las Llamadas ("calls") and vie with each other in official competitions in the Teatro de Verano theatre. During Las Llamadas, members of the comparsa often wear costumes that reflect the music's historical roots in the slave trade, such as sun hats and black face-paint. The monetary prizes are modest; more important aspects include enjoyment, the fostering of a sense of pride and the winning of respect from peers. Intense performances can cause damage to red blood cells, which manifests as rust-colored urine immediately after drumming.
The most distinctive music of Uruguay is to be found in the tango and candombe; both genres have been recognized by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Uruguayan music includes a number of local musical forms such as murga, a form of musical theatre, and milonga, a folk guitar and song form deriving from Spanish and italian traditions and related to similar forms found in many American countries.
Tango is a partner dance, and social dance that originated in the 1880s along the Río de la Plata, the natural border between Argentina and Uruguay. It was born in the impoverished port areas of these countries, in neighborhoods which had predominantly African descendants. The tango is the result of a combination of Rioplatense Candombe celebrations, Spanish-Cuban Habanera, and Argentinean Milonga. The tango was frequently practiced in the brothels and bars of ports, where business owners employed bands to entertain their patrons with music. The tango then spread to the rest of the world. Many variations of this dance currently exist around the world.
Tango is a style of music in 2
4 or 4
4 time that originated among European immigrant populations of Argentina and Uruguay. It is traditionally played on a solo guitar, guitar duo, or an ensemble, known as the orquesta típica, which includes at least two violins, flute, piano, double bass, and at least two bandoneóns. Sometimes guitars and a clarinet join the ensemble. Tango may be purely instrumental or may include a vocalist. Tango music and dance have become popular throughout the world.
Gerardo Hernán Matos Rodríguez Montevideo, Uruguay, also known as Becho, was a Uruguayan musician, composer and journalist. Becho was not attributed to this Uruguayan musician. The term Becho is given to another Uruguayan violinist. A song is written about him and sung by Alfredo Zitarrosa: Carlos Julio Eizmendi Uruguayan Violinist.
Alberto Castillo was a prominent Argentine tango singer and actor. He was born Alberto Salvador De Lucca in the Mataderos district of Buenos Aires, the son of Italian immigrants Salvatore De Luca and Lucia De Paola. Castillo made his professional debut in the 1930s and began a successful recording career in 1941; his first hit was his cover of the Alfredo Pelala tune “Recuerdo”.
Tango, a distinctive tango dance and the corresponding musical style of tango music, began in the working-class port neighborhoods of Buenos Aires (Argentina) and Montevideo (Uruguay); on both sides of the Rio de la Plata.
Omár Rubén "Negro" Rada Silva is a Uruguayan percussionist, composer, and singer. He is closely associated with candombe, a genre built around a chorus of tamboriles, Uruguayan barrel drums. Rada has recorded more than thirty albums. His music, labelled candombe beat, combines pop, rock, and other styles with Uruguayan sounds, such as candombe drums and murga choruses. Rada has composed some of Uruguay's most cherished songs.
"La cumparsita" is a tango written in 1916 by the Uruguayan musician Gerardo Matos Rodríguez, with lyrics by Pascual Contursi and Enrique Pedro Maroni. It is among the most famous and recognizable tangos of all time. Roberto Firpo, director and pianist of the orchestra that premiered the song, added parts of his tangos "La gaucha Manuela" and "Curda completa" to Matos' carnival march, resulting in "La cumparsita" as it is currently known. "La cumparsita" was first played in public in the old Café La Giralda in Montevideo. The Tango Museum of Montevideo stands currently on that historic spot.
Uruguayan tango is a rhythm that has its roots in the poor areas of Montevideo around 1880. Then it was extended to other areas and countries. As Borges said: "...tango is African-Montevidean [Uruguayan], tango has black curls in its roots..." He quoted Rossi, that sustained that "...tango, that argentine people call argentine tango, is the son of the Montevidean milonga and the grandson of the habanera. It was born in the San Felipe Academy [Montevideo], a Montevidean warehouse used for public dances, among gangsters and black people; then it emigrated to underworld areas of Buenos Aires and fooled around in Palermo's rooms..." This also implies that different forms of dance were originated in the neighborhoods of Montevideo, Uruguay in the last part of the 19th century and in the early 20th century that was particular from that area and different from Buenos Aires. It consists of a variety of styles that developed in different regions of Argentina and Uruguay.
Afro-Argentines are Argentine people of Sub-Saharan African descent. According to the Argentine national census of 2010, the total population of Argentines was 40,117,096, of whom 149,493 (0.37%) identified as Afro-Argentine.
The tambores de candombe or tamboriles are drums used in the playing of Candombe music of Uruguay. They are single skin headed and there are three sizes: piano, repique, and the chico. The drums are made of wood and have a curved barrel shape with its base very narrow.
Juan Carlos Cáceres was an Argentine musician.
Uruguayans are people identified with the country of Uruguay, through citizenship or descent. Uruguay is home to people of different ethnic origins. As a result, many Uruguayans do not equate their nationality with ethnicity, but with citizenship and their allegiance to Uruguay. Colloquially, primarily among other Spanish-speaking Latin American nations, Uruguayans are also referred to as "orientals [as in Easterners]".
Barrio Sur is a barrio of Montevideo, Uruguay.
Milonga dance is dancing to milonga music.
Uruguayan Carnival is a festival that takes place every year in Uruguay from mid January to late February. It is related to candombe, Murga and tablados. It has evolved into a dance parade in which different comparsas play the drums and dance to the music at "Desfile Inaugural del Carnaval" and Llamadas parade. The biggest carnival celebrations are in the capital Montevideo and can last up to 40 days, involving a series of cultural events such as dance parades in the streets, street stages called "tablados" and an artistic contest in the "Teatro de Verano" in Montevideo. Carnival in Montevideo is very different from carnival celebrations in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.
Alvaro Salas is a Uruguayan Master Candombe drummer and percussion teacher.
Lágrima Ríos was the stage name of Lida Melba Benavídez Tabárez, a prominent candombe and tango singer of Afro-Uruguayan descent. Her voice was powerful and she is also known as the "Black Pearl of the Tango" and the "Lady of Candombe". Her rendition of Vieja viola was listed in the book 1001 Songs you must hear before you die.
Isa Soares is a Brazilian-born Argentine dancer and activist involved in creating awareness of the African traditions of Argentina and fighting racism against Afro-Argentine peoples. She was one of the pioneers in developing African dance interpretation and instruction in Argentina.
Sandra Chagas, sometimes known as Mary Sandra Chagas Techera, is an Afro-Uruguayan dancer and activist.