Feel the Beat
Our recent trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Montevideo, Uruguay, had beautiful architecture and great weather. We found it a bit more “faded glory” than anticipated, but one real high spot was the amazing energy of the carnival parade in Montevideo’s old city.
Uruguay’s carnival celebration is more family oriented than those in New Orleans or Brazil. Grandmothers, young couples and toddlers with face paint enjoy meat from vendors cooking over open flames, sip their omnipresent mates, and spray foam at participants during parades featuring candombe drumming troupes.
Candombe is recognized by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage tradition, brought to Uruguay via African slaves. Dancers in colorful, sequined costumes and dramatic headdresses move in time to multiple drums, four sizes of which correspond to the range of human voices. Candombe’s classic characters include the old man and old woman, with cane and fan, who dance together. Paper mache floats and gigantic flags also play key roles. The drummers and dancers practice all year to perform during the 40 days of Uruguay’s carnival. I’m still sorting through my photos for use in paintings, but here’s one example.
The parade was my favorite part of the trip and an article in Psychology Today explains why. While many animals are musical, humans have an innate ability to lock into a steady beat and synchronize with others. This skill, called entrainment, enables us to bond socially. You see it when people clap together at a ball game or in church. I felt the beat of the candombe drums in my gut, and wanted to be part of it. However, I’ll settle for some new paintings inspired by Uruguay!