Here's my quick take on the March 13 Sounds of Uruguay showcase at Speakeasy:
Daniel "Tatita" MárquezTatita Márquez is the lonely young king of Afro-Uruguayan candombe, the southernmost Afro-Latin rhythm in the world. It is a syncopated rhythm played with three drums: the piano (the bass drum, which serves as the rhythm's heartbeat), the chico (the unchanging rhythmic pendulum that keeps the whole thing together), and the repique (which improvises over the other two). Working independently from the purist candombe mainstream, he has been doing his own thing for the last few years, mixing candombe with electronica, dance, hip-hop, and jazz. After his Haribol album, the initiated Hare Krishna devotee started a candombe/jazz project named Mukunda ("He who bestows liberation," one of Krishna's names), and quickly became the hottest Uruguayan percussionist (he's one of two percussionists in Jaime Roos' band, the most influential Uruguayan musician since the late '70s). At SXSW, he had to open the show, and the usually calm Tatita (calm as in "Om") didn't mind showing his displeasure for not being able to do proper soundcheck. When told he had four minutes left, he went rogue and kept on playing for almost 10. He had to be convinced to stop, and after a couple of hours he explained his refusal to abide by the rules of engagement. "If I hadn't done that, everybody's set would've been shortened," he said. "I was the first act and had to set the tone. You have some Grammy-nominated and Grammy-winning people here that deserve respect. You saw how calm Malena [Muyala's] and everybody else's band played after myself. But I had to stop [impatient sound people] on their tracks." Tatita (who plays the repique drum) shared the stage with Enrique "Papo" Guzmán on the piano and Leo Giovannini on the chico. Their starting point was candombe, but they took it everywhere, showing power, precision, and a lethal ability to exploit the rhythm's war-like darkness to the max. Less effective was Tatita's solo set, during which he played all three drums by himself over derivative prerecorded dance tracks. While their collective percussion-only section was original and groovy, Tatita's solo disco-friendly set was the type of stuff any second-rate African or Caribbean drummer (the type you find in every corner of the U.S.) could've done (minus the candombe part, that is). Completely needless and distracting, and I sincerely hope Tatita snaps out of it, for the simple reason he doesn't need it. The three came back at the end of Campo's set, which was the night's highest point. But I'll get back to that later. Malena Muyala Somehow, tango/milonga/milongón singer Malena Muyala and her band managed to be the only ones who were allowed to do proper soundcheck, and it paid off: their set was the most polished from beginning to end. My favorite moment was her rendition of Carlos Gardel's "Guitarra, guitarra mía" ("Guitar, guitar of mine"), an old classic from the early 1900s. Besides being a superb singer, she's also an underrated composer. The following gem is (at least in my book) one of the great Uruguayan popular songs ever. It is an existential milongón played in candombe time that talks about how we go through life gradually losing everything except our appetite for grooving. Franny Glass
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