After eleven years living, dancing, teaching tango, and writing in Buenos Aires, I came home to L.A. in 2014, where I'm reconstructing my life.

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Murga in Buenos Aires

Or Why Am I Covered in Foam?

Cordoned-off streets all over Buenos Aires pulse with drumbeats weekend nights for a local phenomenon--the Murgas. Not related to Carnival, there are no religious overtones to the carryingson of the Murgas, although sometimes there are political. The idea is to have fun, and old and young flock out in the streets of their neighborhoods to do precisely that on the season's hot summer nights. Whole families participate in the club-like Murgas.

The Comparsas are practicing for Carnival city-wide at the same time. The rhythms of the comparsas are different, and there are floats and almost-naked girls adorned with feathers--what people tend to think of as Carnival, or Mardi Gras.

Aside from enjoying the cavorting and costumes of the murgueros, people arm themselves with cans of spray foam and attack everybody, coming or going!

Here's what I learned from

The condombe and murga are both typical dances of the villages along the nearby Río de la Plata. These dances were created in the 18th century, born from the mixture of cultures that resulted during the period of slavery in Uruguay; the dances soon migrated to the neighboring countries of Argentina and Brazil. [In Buenos Aires the candombe formed the basis of tango as well.]

There are more than 180 murgas belonging to "Centro Murga" and "Agrupación Murguera." The Centros Murga are the ones that observe the traditions of the '40s and '50s of Buenos Aires carnivals, using unique instruments like the bombo con platillo (bass drum with small cymbals on top), the silbato (“pito”) or whistle, and a solo singer. On the other hand, the Agrupaciones Murgueras use a modern style, including a chorus of more than 2 voices, choreography and other instruments like the guitar, snare drum, samba drum and other latin american rhythm instruments.

The style of the Murga in Buenos Aires is unique, different from the murgas of other cities. The dancing is perhaps the most important feature. Inspired by the rhythm of the bombo and of the platillo, the murguero jumps and kicks with strong and agile contortions, and touches the ground with each beat of the drum.

I'm looking forward again to this weekend when I can walk a block to Avenida Boedo and take in the Murga; only this time I will arrive early enough to buy a spray can of foam! The best defense is a good offense!!.

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