Candombe: the (female) beat of Uruguay

20 Jan

Every Sunday La Melaza head out onto the streets near Parque Rodo in Montevideo to bang their drums. They’re not alone, there’s a number of different groups which march through their neighbourhood on a Sunday, as well as some groups which do it every night! La Melaza is a bit different though. I managed to get an okay recording of them playing on Sunday. You really should listen to it:

La Melaza

Okay, so my little camera/voice recorder couldn’t really handle the bass, but the main thing about this recording is just the different rhythms and the way they are using the drums. The Candombe dates back to when the slaves were brought over to Uruguay in the 18th century, and most of the candombe groups stick to the traditions as much as possible. There are three different rhythms they use.

La Melaza exist outside of this, despite the fact that they have an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of its traditions. I think the reason they have had to do this though is because they are all female. They started as a project borne from the idea of doing special for International Women’s Day and have grown as a force since then. Being an all-female group has meant that they have had to replace the normal thumping bass that ripples through candombe with different counter-rhythms, and I believe this has now set their style completely apart from all the other candombe groups out there.

I will be meeting some of them this week to do an interview so will probably be writing some more about them in the very near future. In the meantime, I also managed to get a short video clip, although the quickly-disappearing sun and my camera’s affliction to nighttime bashfulness, have not made it the cinematic glory it hoped to be. Despite this, it gives an idea of La Melaza, and also the chance to listen to some more of their mighty fine beats.

NB: Following this encounter I interviewed three members of La Melaza towards an article for UruguayNow. The article can be viewed here.

One Response to “Candombe: the (female) beat of Uruguay”

  1. Emily McClanathan May 19, 2014 at 3:28 pm #


    We have an upcoming concert at the Barbican that may be of interest to your audience. We’re hoping that you could help spread the word through your blog, social media, etc.

    Maria Gadú
    Sat 28 Jun, Hall

    Following on the footsteps of greats such as Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil and Chico Buarque, at only 27 Maria Gadú is widely recognised as the brightest new star to emerge in Música Popular Brasileira over the last decade.

    Nominated twice for a Latin Grammy Award – for ‘Best Artist’ and ‘Best Songwriter’ – her self-titled debut album was certified platinum in Brazil and gold in Italy. Her eclectic sound incorporates the rootsy acoustic sound of her São Paulo hometown with a brave new blend of samba, Afro-beat, and funk.

    ‘The first time I saw her I was dazzled and when she started singing it was spectacular’ Caetano Veloso

    Booking details and videos here:

    As Maria Gadú is such a popular Brazilian performer, we hope you’ll be interested in sharing this news. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

    All the best,

    Emily McClanathan
    Marketing Intern

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