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.

Monday, January 26, 2009

La Cumparsita: Murgas and Carnivals in Argentina

It's the party time of year again: summer, vacations, heat--and Carnival!

An article in the English Guardian highlights the fun of Carnival in Gualeguaychu, a small rivertown about 3 hours from Buenos Aires.

Ruben and I took a turn-around van trip up there a few years ago (not recommended; better to stay the night) . It was fun and very impressive. We hope to go back again one day to enjoy the amazing Carnival del Pais.
Meanwhile, here in town we enjoy the murga in Bodeo.
(photo: Reuters)

Buenos Aires Travel Rent has written a couple of nice articles on this fascinating and entertaining murga phenomenon.

The Carnival Puts Color on the Porteño Night

The city of Buenos Aires gets dressed with rhythm and color to receive, during every weekend of February, over a hundred “murgas” that will participate in forty corsos in different neighborhoods of the city. It is a popular party that takes place on the streets and where “murgas” are the main stars of the night.
The porteño murgas are characterized by the mix of humor, street music, color, dance and joy. To the traditional bass drums, cymbals and whistles, they add percussion and melodic instruments.
Most murgas have a presentation song, a critical song, as well as homage songs.
The name of the murgas vary depending on the neighborhood they come from.
The style of the Buenos Aires murga is unique. Maybe it’s the dancing that sets them apart. Guided by the rhythm of bass drums and cymbals, the porteño murgero jumps around, kicking and contorting, showing great skills, strength and agility.
The corsos will take place in the most well-known corners of Belgrano, Lugano, Núñez, Parque Avellaneda, Parque Patricios, Pompeya, Saavedra, Villa Ortúzar, Villa Urquiza, Costanera Sur, Boedo and San Telmo neighborhoods.

And here's another one:


In its 2009 edition, the Porteño Carnaval will offer music, joy and the color of hundreds of “murgas” that will perform in different porteño neighborhoods for the enjoyment of neighbors and visitors.
The first “corso” done in Buenos Aires dates from 1869, with “comparsas” of blacks and black and whites, contributing their costumes and rhythm, while their singing and crazy dancing shoot arms and legs up in the air.

The lyrics of the “murgas” are called “critiques” and unite denunciation with laughter, color and dance. What differenciates the Argentine murga from others, besides their clothes (frock coat, gloves, top hat and baton), are the bass drum with cymbals and different rhythms, and traditions which are used to differentiate each neighborhood.

The “murgas,” declared a Cultural Heritage of Buenos Aires since 1997, are an artistic expression of each neighborhood.

Cherie speaking now:
The most famous tango in the world? La Cumparsita! And now you know where it comes from!
By the way, I have a double CD album of nothing but La Cumparsita, beginning around 1916. It's a fascinating way to study the history of tango as well as the changes made in the same orchestras over the years. And you know what? After hours of listening to La Cumparsita I am not ever tired of it, nor can I sit out the last tango of the night, which is always La Cumparsita!

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