Sunday, 27 November 2011


Candombe is said to be the origin of tango, but I think you have to go back 150 years and make a few big leaps too. There's really no resemblance now. In Uruguay I believe it has always been much more mainstream and public, but I've read that into the 1940s there were still late-night sessions in Buenos Aires when no whites were present, when the candombe drums induced trance. Public fiestas like this one seem to have started relatively recently in Argentina.

I doubt that much of the energy of this music will survive YouTube compression. The 'original soundtrack' is CD quality, and even then it'll need some big speakers. The sound is astonishing, not only because it is intensely physical, but also because it is both very organised and at the same time seems very close to dis-organisation, taken to the brink of chaos; both highly rhythmic and intensely complex. This website explains that the three sizes of drum play different rhythms simultaneously, hence the complexity of sound. Emotionally it's surprisingly overwhelming. A heavily overcast, humid afternoon.

Something that struck me about this event was the complete absence of a police presence. Yes, people were trusted to run their own street party, play loud drums, light fires in the street, dance, drink. Then the procession marched off along the streets, stopping traffic in all directions, without any apparent police presence. It was all very relaxed and good-natured too. Current UK policing gives the impression of being increasingly restrictive and confrontational: perhaps that's necessary in the UK.

'Intense performances can cause damage to red blood cells, which manifests as rust-colored urine immediately after drumming.' - Wikipedia.

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