Sunday, October 18, 2009

Argentina Mourns Sosa, Uruguay Celebrates Candombe

Earlier this month, two significant events took place in the Southern Cone musical scene. On the one hand, Argentine folksinger Mercedes Sosa, who gave outspoken performances in public even after the military coup of 1976 before being forced into exile, died at the age of 74. Sosa, perhaps the most beloved performer in all of Argentina, was honored by a three-day official mourning period, with her ashes to be scattered among her northwestern birthplace of Tucumán, the western city of Mendoza, and the city of Buenos Aires. Sosa won three Latin Grammy awards in the last decade, but was no purist, performing with artists such as Argentine rock icon Charly García and Colombian pop singer Shakira.

On a more positive note, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared Uruguayan candombe, a music and dance that derives from Afro-Uruguayan tradition, as part of the world's Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Mostly concentrated in Montevideo’s Barrio Sur, the Afro-Uruguayan population is only about 5.5 percent of the country’s 3.6 million people, but candombe, with its rhythmic drumming on barrel-shaped tamboriles is not exclusive to Afro-Uruguayans, as the accompanying photograph, taken in the World Heritage Site of Colonia, would suggest. It is most commonly seen in January or February, during Carnaval festivities, which are not so exuberant as in Brazil, but considerably more so than in Argentina.

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