Master's ThesisMontevidean Candombe and Murga: symbolic expressions of dissatisfaction and opposition
In Uruguay, especially in the city of Montevideo, the contribution from African descendants comprises a major element of Uruguayan national identity: today this contribution is apparent in all events linked to music. The significance, function and symbolic meaning of the Afro-Uruguayan percussive form candombe and to a lesser degree its musical counter genre murga—a male chorus singing in four to six part harmony accompanied by percussion –is key in visualizing, interpreting, critiquing and reading Uruguayan national culture. The expressions of these music forms during Montevideo’s Carnival celebrations are important transcultural signifiers on the world stage, serving as a testament to the equality, social peace and racial harmony existing in Uruguay. Nothing could be farther from the truth: socially, educationally and economically the Afro-Uruguayan stands as the nation’s most underserved population. This thesis reveals a story that most Uruguayans wish to forget. Candombe is the antithesis and direct negation of the pain and exhaustion of coerced heavy labor and murga is a carnavalesque theatrical form devoted to the expression, representation, and critique of Uruguayan social experiences with enormous participation of the popular classes. Accurate articulation of the black Uruguayan resistance to the homogenization of their musical identities and cultural practices is essential to uncovering the conflictive nature of Uruguayan national culture. The display of the Uruguayan national music forms murga and candombe are aesthetic and symbolic modes of production that signal dissatisfaction with the American-Atlantic history.
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