Music of Uruguay

The most distinctive music of Uruguay is to be found in the tango and candombe; both genres have been recognized by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Uruguayan music includes a number of local musical forms such as murga, a form of musical theatre, and milonga, a folk guitar and song form deriving from Spanish traditions and related to similar forms found in many Hispanic-American countries.

Folk music

Charrúa people used wooden drums, hornpipes, flutes, seashells to play music. Other folk musical instruments are marimba and musical bow.[1]

Uruguayan tango

Tango has been recognized by UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The modern field of tango music and dance arose in Buenos Aires, Argentina as well as Montevideo. Carlos Gardel, the great tango singer, was born in France and raised in Buenos Aires, but in 1920 after becoming famous he registered his birthplace as being in Tacuarembó, Uruguay, probably to avoid problems with French authorities during an upcoming tour of France.[2] Other Uruguayan tango musicians, among the most important names, were director Francisco Canaro and his violinist Modesto Ocampo. Also the singer Julio Sosa. One of the best-known tangos in the world, "La Cumparsita", was written by Uruguayan composer Gerardo Matos Rodríguez. Modern tango includes the late poet Horacio Ferrer, who contributed lyrics to several of the most important tango works by Argentinian composer Astor Piazzolla; celebrated singer-songwriter Malena Muyala and Valeria Lima. The Uruguayan-Argentinian band Bajofondo is a multi-award winning project which aims to create a more contemporary version of tango and other musical styles of the Río de la Plata region. Juan Campodónico's Campo consists of a mix of musical styles, including tango, which released album was nominated for a MTV Europe Music Awards, the Grammys, and Latin Grammys.


Candombe has been recognized by UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Candombe originates from the Río de la Plata, where African slaves brought their dances and percussion music. The word tango then referred to the traditional drums and dances, as well as the places where dancing occurred. Candombe rhythms are produced by drum ensembles, known as cuerdas, which include dozens of drummers and feature three drum sizes: tambor repique, tambor chico and tambor piano, known as tambores de candombe.

Popular candombe musicians include Hugo Fattoruso and Rubén Rada. Fattoruso has been a longtime part of both the Uruguayan and Latin American music scene, including as a member of rock band Los Shakers, and The Hot Blowers, as well as Brazilian Milton Nascimento and the Latin jazz and Acid Jazz group Opa. It was in the 1970s the most important Latin band in the United States according to the magazine Down Beat.

The Afro-Uruguayan rhythm Candombe has played a significant role in Uruguayan culture for over 200 years. The rhythm is created by the use of three drums (tambores); tambor piano, tambor chico and tambor repique. The piano is the largest in size and the lowest in pitch of the three tambores. The rhythmic base of Candombe, its function similar to that of the upright or electric bass. The chico (literally "small") is the smallest in size and highest in pitch of the three tambores, serving as the rhythmic pendulum. The tambor repique (ricochet) embellishes Candombe's rhythm with improvised phrases. Each of the three tambores is played with an open hand (mano) and a stick (palo) in the other. At a minimum, one of each of the three tambores must be present.

The purest form of Candombe takes place each Sunday night on the streets of Montevideo, where many drummers assemble, playing their drums under the moonlit sky. Isla de Flores is the main street that joins Cuareim and Ansina, Candombe's two main social groups. For over a century spontaneous cuerdas have paraded on this street, and continue to do so today (Isla de Flores is also known by its other name, Carlos Gardel). As the cuerda slowly makes its way through the narrow streets of Montevideo, this contagious rhythm takes with it all in its path, surrounded on all sides by the neighborhood people moving their bodies to the rhythm of Candombe. At intervals the cuerda will pause, and by setting a fire, will heat their drums' skins for tuning purposes.


The milonga was a South American style of song that was popular in the 1870s. The milonga was derived from an earlier style of singing known as the 'payada de contrapunto'.

The song was set to a lively 2
tempo, and often included musical improvisation. Over time, dance steps and other musical influences were added, eventually giving rise to the tango. Milonga music is still used for dancing, but the milonga dancing of today is derivative of tango.


Murga is a kind of Montevidean musical theatre for Carnival celebrations. A traditional murga group comprises a chorus and three percussionists and this is the type of murga performed on stages at Carnival. The singers perform in harmony using up to five vocal parts. Vocal production tends to be nasal and loud with little variation in volume. The percussion instruments, derived from the European military band, are the bombo (a shallow bass drum worn at the waist and played horizontally), redoblante (snare drum) and platillos (cymbals). The two most important pieces of the performance are the opening song (saludo) and the exit song (retirada or despedida). These get played on the radio during the

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