la Murga 3

the streets: bailando, cantando y espuma

Each barrio has a coursu. They barricade 2 or 3 blocks, set up a stage and sound system, and invite Murga groups to come and perform, usually 3 or 4 per night. The two blocks are lined with people from the barrio: abuelas, fathers with little children on shoulders, and endless streams of teenagers spraying cans of espuma, repackaged shaving cream, in each others faces.

locura.  a child dances

locura. a child dances

People I hadn’t met yet kept waving at me to come to them to tell me to go somewhere else. Finally Mati handed me some red and blue shiny pants and a pair of white gloves and I quickly got into costume.

Then they handed me a giant bandera (flag).

Man… I thought I was dancing. Apparently my first night I would be tied to a flag, but I took it seriously and danced as hard as I could waving this 20ft thing. There’s definitely an art to keeping it from getting tangled, and playing with it and trying to dance at the same time I enjoyed myself rather than simply being disappointed. I waved my heart out:)

The second night, I was promoted to “wacky blond guy who dances in the back” and that was my role for the most part for the remaining 20+ coursus. A description of a typical coursu is in order:

In general, when we got off the bus we’d mill about, stretch and wait for the first sounding of the bombas.

The main bombadero would start with his right handed symbol, brandishing his hefty mallot high in the air. After 30 seconds of anticipation, it would come down in unison with 15 other drummers, and continue on the first beat of every measure, the intensity building. The explosion of the bombas was often jarring, ricocheting off the concrete structures of the barrio, conjuring images of ancient battles, and kindling an incredible urge to begin flailing madly.

That’s when the very slow procession would start. The incredibly cute children were in front, followed by the teens – all, but two, girls – the women, the freestylers, the musicians, and then the murgeros (men) in the back. and then me. flag wavers were dispersed throughout. Besides the freestylers, everyone was doing choreographies and each grouping had it’s own set of routines. The leader of each group generally would put a number in the air with his or her hands to signal what was about to start.

After 15 minutes, the singers would take stage, circle around the microphones and all the dancers below would begin to dance freely, milling about between the various groups, dodging espuma and hamming it up for the countless cellphones that were grabbing pixelated videos of the chaos. I’m hoping that someday I’ll find a random video of myself on youtube.

The songs themselves I never understood, and I was pretty content simply to dance around oblivious, but I had learned that the lyrics were often charged with social commentary, and investigated that a bit. I’ll post those next.

After the goodbye song, we’d commence the choreographies again in our sets, and then proceed towards the exit. It came to a close in the same way the ensayos did, just with the energy of the crowd fueling everyone to greater heights. The drummers split to line both sides of the street, facing in and creating a gauntlet of sorts for the dancers to make their way through, each given a chance to show his or her biggest, fastest movements fed by the increasingly powerful and frantic rhythms. Arms and legs everywhere. Movements amplified by long coattails, shining sequined jackets, and legs with the motion blurs of countless tassles.

As the last dancer passed through, the bombaderos would close into a circle slowly. The leader, who originally birthed the first beat, would be in the center and after a final, recognizable ending sequence would raise his mallet one last time to end it all in unison.

And then were back on the buses for the next round.

read more about the music

1 comment

yay, comments! This is great, love the story. You should add some more tags like “travel”, “writing”, “crazyadventuresonbuses”

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