I hear the beat when I first hear a song. The beat of the drum will determine if the song is good or not. Have you ever heard a great song with a lousy beat? Nope! No matter how hot the lyrics are, you’ll never hear a hit song without a good beat. My theory was proved right again when I heard Candombe music and saw the Candombe dances.

It was important to me to hear the music while I was here because, although it has spread worldwide, Candombe is very unique to the Río de la Plata region, specifically Uruguay and Argentina. These two places were active participants in the slave trade, which created entire communities of African descendants left behind after the slaves were freed. Bored with the traditional European dances, the people here created their own genre of music and dance. First the Afro-Argentineans used hip motions to go along with the beat of the drums. Then the Afro-Uruguayans added a shoulder motion. Today, all the people who dance to the Candombe beat move both their shoulders and their hips.

candombe-at-montevideo-uruguay

This musical style has gotten so big that there’s even a website you can visit to learn more. But if you’d rather learn about it in person, just wait until nightfall in Montevideo. On any given night, (it’s never planned) people have these Candombe parties in the street. It’s like a night parade during Mardi Gras. All it takes is one drum, and the people know what time it is. Party time!!!!!!

I sat on my balcony every night in hopes of catching a Candombe party, but it didn’t happen on my block. I tried playing the music on my radio loud so people would think it was time to come out, but that didn’t work. I don’t know who wrangles up the gang or how the party normally gets started, but I really wanted it to happen. Oh well. I guess I’ll have better luck next time. I hear the best time to come is during Carnaval in Montevideo.

Another thing I love is how Candombe is depicted in different works of art. Sometimes you’ll see a Candombe band playing as artwork on a wall in a restaurant, or you’ll see a mural on the side of the building. My favorite is the man playing the drum painted on the side of a drum. Sweet! When is Carnaval again? I can’t wait to come back!

Activities:

  1. What is candombe and where does it come from?
  2. Who invented candombe?
  3. ¡A investigar! Visit the website http://www.candombe.com/. Would you like to attend the Carnaval in Montevideo and hear candombe music live? Why?