Tuesday, 21 July 2009


So, what about Candombe?

The only piece I have in my collection that's described in the insert as a "candombe" feels quite like a milonga, but with a low-pitched drum beating a fairly complex rhythm that isn't just the habañera, although it seems to include it some of the time, and the habañera is definitely there in the other instruments. There's also some sort of bugle which gives it a New-Orleans-Party feel, reinforced by the sung words, which I don't quite understand but which sound like something vaguely along the lines of "Black man, I like your music, and that chick is pretty hot". I feel basically two beats that I want to step on, one of them divided in various ways. Probably you'd dance it as a milonga, although it feels like it deserves something different, maybe along the lines of what I was once taught as Canyengue. The orchestra is Francisco Canaro's, 1943.

This style of music doesn't get played much, but I like it and I think I've danced it as milonga a few times.

I could google it, and I probably will, eventually, but talking to people is more interesting and worth trying first. What do you lot think about it? Extra credit if you can say something from your own knowledge, I can google it myself.


Simba said...

Hi, the candombe is quite intersting, and where you can most clearly hear the african influence on tango.

Even today there will be youth gathering playing drums in San Telmo in Buenos Aires in the nights, you can hear the drums from far away. As far as I understood from the documentary I wrote about a while back, there exists an entire subculture of candombe, much like with tango.

If you like this music, you should also check out Alberto Castillo, who had quite a few candombe hits, and the more recent Juan Carlos Caceres, who is using lots of percussion based on candombe and murga.

Anonymous said...

I've danced it as a milonga and as candombe with someone at The Wine Bar. It is easy to learn as the moves repeat themselves and once you get the hang of it can be quite fun.
Maybe someone should teach a candombe class. I would go.

msHedgehog said...

@LT - Were you dancing with Leo? I think he may, or might, do a candombe class, or I might just be wrong about that. P&M do a canyengue course once a year and that feels as though it fits the style better than milonga does. I think there was a lot of woodwind and at least some true percussion in the music they used when I went. But not drums like this, I don't think.
@Simba - what do you think about how it should be danced?

Simba said...

I guess you would kind of get away with dancing some sort of milonga to it, but for me it doesn't really work.

I think it should be danced more like an African dance, that's how they dance in the streets, and the only couple I've seen doing something to candombe music was Facundo & Kely, and that was a mix of milonga and candombe, probably with some swing tossed in as well. Looser than milonga with some more bouncing and shaking seems apropriate to me, but then I wouldn't really know.

You could have a look at the book by Robert Ferris Thompson, he writes a little on candombe, but some caution needs to be used with this book, as he seems to have a very selective use of sources.

maya said...

I once had a candombe class, 9 years ago at the Central Club with Paul & Michiko of El Once.I remember it jumpy and exhilarating with an enjoyable african beat. To see candombe danced to, look for Facundo and Kely Posadas, one of the great partnerships. I saw them on several ocassions when they visited London.Omar Vega was another candombe dancer, see him in this great video : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MpvVMvPVmN8&feature=related
Companhia Milonga Camdombe have a video which reminds me of some of the steps I had on that class, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z7alEek9M6I&feature=related

Game Cat said...

Have no candombe knowledge to offer. However, observations based on Maya's first video clip:

Looks like giros on E after a pint of Red Bull and bag of sugar to boot. ;-) It also looks fun, though I'm not inclined to try it yet.

I can see bits of swing in there (she has more hip sway). Someone told me that Jive originated from the tribal music and dances of West Africa, so I'm not surprised.

The connection is real and live. But it's very centrifugal, and in that way is more akin to nuevo than salon which is very centripetal.

Limited travelling, or LoD (or maybe it's just because it's a performance). Floor craft in LoD must be challenging.

Finally, it looks like it can be danced on a dirt floor, so likely started before in-door salons appeared.

Tangocommuter said...

As Simba says, Robert Farris Thompson's book is hot on Candombe but, for a Yale art historian, he does seem to get a bit carried away with his ideas; but enthusiasm is surely welcome. Thompson sees Rodolfo Cieri and his childhood friend, 'El Gallego' Manolo as the most 'authentic' canyengue dancers, who learned their dance back in the 1940s. There are clips of both of them on YouTube: Rodolfo and Maria Cieri and Marta Anton and El Gallego Manolo. Rodolfo died a few years ago, but he and Maria taught at an early incarnation of Paul and Michiko's El Once, so Paul and Michiko might be the best teachers to go to in London. Marta Anton and 'El Gallego' Manolo still teach in Buenos Aires.

I hope the videos link OK, but they are on YouTube. It's a fun dance, simple enough, but it involves following the rhythms of the music very exactly. I did a few classes with Paul and Michiko and really enjoyed it.

msHedgehog said...

Oooh this is good! all sorts of interest, I'll do another post with the videos embedded.

I think I'm starting to hear what the distinctive rhythm is.

@TC - what do you think the relationship is between candombe and canyengue?

Tangocommuter said...

I don't know! I meant to say 'canyengue'. I'm afraid I use the names interchangeably: we all seem to. Candombe is African drumming, still practiced in Uruguay. If you search YouTube for candombe that's all you'll find: you won't find any Argentine dance at all. If you search for canyengue you'll find Rodolfo and Maria, and the others.

Robert Farris Thompson says: '...key candombe steps were inserted into the habanera and the result of this was the milonga', so candombe was also a dance. Canyengue looks more like the precursor of tango. According to sources RFT spoke to, canyengue was the pre-1900 precursor of tango, and after 1900 it started to change rapidly. He claims an African origin for both but, he says, along the way they met the polka...

msHedgehog said...

I'm not sure they do use them interchangeably. The music sounds quite different in the videos; and the dance certainly is.