Many slaves from Africa were brought to South America two centuries ago. Even if it was for a while - their customs remained, one of them was to gather, play and dance to drum music in order to escape from their daily sufferings and tragedies. Their music was like a "calling of the drum" to other African tribes.
Upon their freedom, Uruguay became a homeland and they settled in the country. They continued with their drum traditions shyly at first, but the sound of their drums became more and more popular which lead them to start parading to everyone's enjoyment and delight.
With a 200-year history, it has been recognized by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage of humanity. To date, it is still striving and will certainly not disappear. It has spread from being an African American custom to being a national tradition, no matter race, social class or religious creed.
Each group, also called troupes, is composed of members that act in specific roles of historical characters, all dressed in colorful costumes. Their music is based on 3 specific drums made of wood and animal skin: the piano, chico and repique drums, each with a characteristic sound, played to form a unique rhythm that touches the audience's heart, making feet first to move, then bodies dancing to an unstoppable beat.
Although a passer-by can appreciate their art during the entire year, their primary festivity is during Uruguay's Carnival in February. They have become so popular that they even have their own exclusive parade, "Las Llamadas" (meaning "The Calls"). literally "calling" and inviting not only locals, but tourist from all over the world who come visit this specific event.The gathering during this parade is virtually what has been achieved by the "calling of the drums".
Two hundred years ago, "the call of the drums" was focused and made to communicate from tribe to tribe. Nowadays, their fantastic rhythm makes the call to everyone around the world. This is all achieved and successful without using any modern technology. Therefore, remaining quite the authentic event and tradition.
Written by Jennifer Sprigings
LARM Uruguay Country Director
cover photo by Jimmy Baikovicius