Luna Kafé e-zine  Luna Kafé record review
coverpic flag Uruguay - Full Moon 37 - 10/24/99

Grupo del Cuareim
Big World Music

I've known about candombe for quite some time, and now finally comes the album I've been waiting for. Candombe is an African-derived rhythm that traveled to Latin America with slaves at the beginning of the nineteenth century. This exotic rhythm anchored itself in Montevideo, Uruguay two hundred years ago, and continues to breathe life in the streets, halls and carnivals of this small enchanting country. History describes candombe rituals for which the word tangó was used to describe the places where these gatherings were held, and with the word tangó they defined the place, the instrument, and the dance of the blacks. These dances were considered to be their reward for a long day of brutal work. Therein lies an intriguing musicological tale about the obscure origins of the tango, one of the best-known Latin American musical genres. When these candombe drums heat up, it's like no other rhythm you've heard before.

This new release from Big World Music is a great example of how so called "Latin American" music doesn't necessarilly have to fall into the eternal repetition of stereotyped formulas. This is a thrilling record, from beginning to end. Including ten candombe drummers, a vocal chorus of ten, and Hugo Fattoruso on acoustic piano, produced are some of the most beautiful songs ever written for candombe. The CD begins with the lively track Lonjas del Cuareim (Skins of Cuareim), Cuareim being a neighborhood in Montevideo where candombe has a very strong pressence. As you listen to the record, you'll find yourself traveling through a wonderful mosaic of melody, harmony, and of course this very hip rhythm throughout. The label was thoughtful to include the English translation of all the lyrics (all songs are sung in Spanish), and within the lyrics you'll feel the love for candombe.

This record was produced in Montevideo, Uruguay, under the direction of Hugo Fattoruso. Born in Montevideo, Hugo is widely known throughout Latin-America as a founding member of the 60s pop group Los Shakers. During the 70s Hugo's musical trail took him to form Opa, a Latin jazz ensemble considered second to none. For most of the 80s Hugo spent his time living in Brasil, where he toured and recorded with an impressive array of Brasilian artists, including Djavan, Chico Buarque, Nana Vasconcelos, Toninho Horta and Milton Nascimento, and has recorded extensively with Milton on the albums Journey to Dawn, Planeta Blue Na Estrada Do Sol, Angeles, and on the 1997 Grammy Award winning CD Nascimento, where Hugo served as keyboardist and co-arranger.

This debut recording of Grupo del Cuareim is dedicated to a painter, Pedro Figari. One might wonder why this fine production pays tribute to an Uruguayan painter that lived during the last century. A great portion of Pedro Figari's work focused on capturing the images of the candombe gatherings that took place over a century ago. One of Pedro Figari's wonderful paintings was used as the cover artwork for this lovely record, and I must add that one of my favorite songs on the record is the beautiful Candombe for Figari. The label has developed a website, where many of Pedro Figari's wonderful paintings of candombe can be viewed.

It's not every day that a new rhythm is uncovered, especially one as old and hip as Candombe. I strongly recommend this CD to anyone with interests in African and Latin music, or for those looking to discover some exciting new world music, this is it!

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