Friday, 24 July 2009

You said candombe and I said canyengue...

… which rather confused things. I'd never sorted out the difference: now I need to.

Candombe is the only music with drums we're likely to hear in a milonga. It's still a big part of the popular music tradition in Uruguay, but has more or less disappeared from public view in Argentina, along with most of the black population. But it used to be there: the black milonguero Facundo Posadas told RFT that when he was a child in 1945 the candombe drums used to play at the Shimmy Club in Buenos Aires for black audiences, who would go into trance, and that he was warned not to bother them. RFT says: '...key candombe steps were inserted into the habanera and the result of this was the milonga'. Facundo says: 'The candombe of today is not the candombe danced a long time ago. But the little that remained we put into the milonga.'

According to RFT's sources, canyengue was the pre-1900 precursor of tango, and it started to evolve rapidly after 1900. Rodolfo Cieri and his childhood friend, 'El Gallego' Manolo learned the canyengue of 1900, along with tango, when they were growing up in the 1940s. 'El Gallego' Manolo and his partner Martha Anton still teach in Buenos Aires.

RFT claims an African origin for both canyengue and candombe but says that along the way they met the polka, newly arrived from Europe...

(RFT = Robert Farris Thompson: Tango: The Art History of Love, an exploration of the black origins of tango music and dance.)

6 comments:

msHedgehog said...

In the drums, in all the examples I've seen, I hear a clave beat that reminds me of salsa; but I'm not sure if it's the same because I've never quite been able to get my head around the clave in salsa either. It's a rather complex rhythm and I need a musician to explain it to me.

Tango commuter said...

I think you're right, and clave is Cuban. It sounds like 3 against four - the rhythm you'd get if you put three beats alongside four beats in the same time. Like to hear a proper explanation. In the music Facundo and Kely dance to I hear habanera, the traspie rhythm, and in that context it sounds as if it's a simplification of clave, clave made easy, which I guess would be how milonga came out of candombe.

msHedgehog said...

In that video of them dancing candombe, yes, I hear the habanera, but I also hear an additional more complex rhythm in the drums, and that I think is what he's doing the traspie to.

Tango commuter said...

Yes, there's something going on there that is more than just milonga beat. Interesting: I'm not sure when that was recorded or by whom. Hard to say, sometimes the singing sounds recent, sometime 'Golden Age'. Hard to say. It would be interesting to collect together recordings of candombe, though they would have been be made for the most part by non-African musicians for a tango and non-African audience. Curious, Facundo, with his background in the African music and community of Buenos Aires, performing this for, I guess, a tango audience.

I wonder if this video has any relation to what you hear. It sounds to me like cross rhythms, three against four, which you can work out on paper by dividing a line into three, and then dividing the same line into four, and trying to beat out the divisions as a rhythm. But I'm not at all sure this is that simple, and would like to know more.

msHedgehog said...

It sounds similar but it's far too complex for me to make sense of. I do hear the 3-3-2 Piazzolla was so fond of, though:

1 . . 4 . . 7 . 1 . . 4 . . 7 .

The cuban salsa "son" rhythm is like this (I looked it up):

1 . . 4 . . 7 . . . 3 . 5 . . .

i.e. alternating sets of 3 and 2. And I hear that clearly from 02:12 in this candombe. Obviously a lot more than that is happening, though, especially earlier.

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