Friday 27 March 2020

The Music of Uruguay

The colonization process in Uruguay started in the 16th century although colonial music only flourished in the 18th century where European composers started writing several musical scores, which today one can find at the music archives of San Francisco where 215 compositions exist.

Uruguay borders Argentina and Brazil. It is situated in the southeast region of the Latin American continent. Uruguay remained largely uninhabited until the establishment of Colonia del Sacramento, one of the oldest European settlements in the country, by the Portuguese in 1680. Montevideo was founded as a military stronghold by the Spanish in the early 18th century, raising competing claims over the region. Uruguay won its independence between 1811 and 1828, following a struggle between Spain, Portugal, Argentina and Brazil.

Uruguayan music draws on 3 cultural sources the indigenous, the western European and the black African. The indigenous were the Chaná-Charrúa who had their own music but very few survived to be able to influence greatly Uruguayan music. African heritage is one of the most influential, the slaves came mainly from Mozambique and Angola, the most conserved genres are the llamada and the Candombe which are typical of carnival.

Murga is a form of popular musical theatre performed in Uruguay during the Carnival season. Uruguayan murga has a counterpart in Cadiz, Spain from which it is derived, the chirigota, but over time the two have diverged into distinct forms. The Murga is performed by a group of a maximum of 17 people, usually men. In the months prior to Carnival, which takes place from late January to early March in Uruguay, each group will prepare a musical play consisting of a suite of songs and recitative (heightened speech) lasting around 45 minutes. This suite will be performed on popular stages in the various neighbourhoods, known as tablados, throughout the Carnival period. Groups also vie against one another in a prestigious official competition.

Traditional music in Uruguay contains several types of instruments some which are derived from European influences like the guitar, the violin, the piano, and the accordion particularly the Bandaneon which are mainly used in the Tango and Milonga. In the northern parts of Uruguay close to Brazil one can also find the cavaquinho which is a type of small four stringed guitar. The Tamboril is a typical instrument of African origin found in Uruguay. There are three different types of Tamboril, the chico, repique and Piano. This is played by hand and also a stick

The Payada:

The Payada is a performance of improvised ten-line verse called Décimas usually accompanied by guitar. The performer is called a "payador", and in performances two or more payadores will compete to produce the most eloquent verse, each answering questions posed by the other spontaneously. This is still traditional in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and other Latin American countries. In Uruguay it is barely surviving because few people remain as professional payadores.

The Milonga:

European classical music influenced greatly the musical genres of Uruguay. One of which is the Milonga which originated in the Rio de la Plata region between Uruguay and Argentina. The milonga was derived from an earlier style of singing known as the payada de contrapunto.The song was set to a lively 2/4 tempo, and often included musical improvisation. Over time, dance steps and other musical influences were added, eventually giving rise to the tango. Milonga music is still used for dancing, but the milonga dancing of today is derivative of tango.

The Uruguayan Tango:

Uruguayan tango is a form of dance that originated in the neighborhoods of Montevideo, Uruguay towards the beginnings of the 20th century a few months before than Argentine tango. It consists of a variety of styles that developed in different regions of Argentina and Uruguay. The dance is often accompanied by several musical forms such as: Tango, Milonga and Vals.

•By Luke Attard

•Culled from

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