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Beto Satragni – An uruguayan candombero

Beto Satragni is a major figure of the Uruguyan popular music, especially of the candombe.
Its name is a betoadded to the musicians and type-setters like Romeo Gavioli, Pedro Ferreyra, Ruben Rada, Hugo Fattorusso, Eduardo Mateo, Ricardo Nolé, Urbano Moraes, David Ross.
The candombe, music of black origin of Rio of Plata, which is atthe origin of the tango and which will disappear from western bank of the river, in Buenos Aires, will not cease living and of renouveller on Eastern bank, Uruguay.

Luis Tarantino: What has it occurred for twenty years to Uruguay with the candombe and its people ?

Beto Satragni: The candombe was declared in the Eighties “official folklore of Uruguay”. Even if Uruguay is not a racist country, it were necessary many efforts so that this arrives.To speak about the candombe before was as for the tango when it was banished. That came from bottoms melt, the robbers and the marginal ones. In spite of that, candombé A always was present in the street but it was badly seen in the balls. It was badly perceived by people of a certain intellectual elite; it is not any more the case today, because the candombe is very respected. It succeeded so that attention is paid to him and with being developed because one realized richness of his rate/rhythm and his strong complexity. The candombe finally overcame. Today even, one gives courses of candombe to faculty. It was institutionalized.
From the 18th century, when the blacks used the candombe for their religious rites, it did not cease being alive in Uruguay. Since last century, it is always present in the carnivals, the processions of Avenue 18 of Julio, in the districts On and Palermo, like in other districts of Montevideo and the interior of the country.Certain blacks say that the candombe was born in the suburbs from Montevideo but me, which am of Canelones, I do not divide the same opinion. In my birthplace, I listened to since my childhooda ‘ cuerda’ (group) of drums. I had my head plunged as of the two years age in a ‘ drum-piano’ and I made it tower of the place. Also in the town of Colonia there was many candombe. Todayit is played everywhere in Uruguay
In Canelones, there is small ‘ a llamada’ drums in each district. The ‘ llamada’ is a gathering of many drums, sometimesspontaneous, sometimes at the time of patriotic festivals or for a match of football. The candombe is always present. In Montevideo in the district of the Union, with the Cord, Buceo. There is several ‘ toque’ (to touch) candombé. Each district has its ‘ toque’ clean. There is also that of the drum-piano which is quite different. At ‘ Lobo’ Nuñez, a manufacturer of drums, which we take for the place ‘ placenta’ drum, is one of the places from which a ‘ llamada’ leaves, and we always speak about the quantity of ‘ toques’ different of drums that there was formerly in Montevideo.
The popular memory kept what we appellons today candombe, but there were six other rates/rhythms, among them one named zimbawe. The people lost but certain musicians still preserve it. Ihave still outstanding this work of collection of all the rates/rhythms of Montevideo about 1900. I dedicated all my life to the candombe including eleven years with Ruben Rada, made rounds with Osvaldo Fattorusso and recorded and produced with my own formation Raices. 

LT: How people leave behind the drums ?

BS: When the ‘ llamada’ passes people, follow it slowly, because the candombe is played while going in the street, of a slow step, beside the drums. The candombe is not asmerry as the Brazilian samba. It is more emotive and is warlike,tribal. Some accompany it on the sides, those which dance some steps very well before the procession. To the head, always una old injury goes which dances very well or a black which him also dance well, and the others go on the sides, the pavements or behind.
The candombe lost its religious side when the Uruguyans adaptit and becomes a pillier of our culture. It is the rate/rhythm afro par excellence of Montevideo.

LT: If we must speak about something about ancestral, the candombe is purer than the rates/rhythms afrocubains or afrobrésiliens ?

BS: Not, I believe that for the Uruguyans, the candombe is the same thing as for Brazilian the samba or the Cubans the sound.

LT: The ‘ toque’ of drum is it recognized likeformer in Uruguay ?

BS: The candombe is the root. That played today is the same one which was played in 1800. It could there have some contributions. The wire of Lobo Nuñez which are 18 years old today make some ‘ paradas’ different. It also knew some losses. The ‘ repique’ (striking) of Jimmy Santos has aspects of 1900, very old women, who is played on the sides of the drum. A touch which was lost a little. In general the pattern of the candombe is the same one. The key of the candombe is 3/2. All the rates/rhythmsafro-American have a key. This key is given by the blows on which the rate/rhythm is placed. There are keys which can coincide between Uruguay, Cuba or Brazil.
In Cuba cheek keys have 3/2 (three blows with the first compass and two in the second) and 2/3 (two with the first and three with the second). These coincidences of keys come from Africa.
To Montevideo, thus those which tells know, arrived various African communities. The candombe was born from fusion from these communities, the such zulus or the bantus. It is thus not a African rate/rhythm but of Montevideo, Uruguyan. Lobo Nuñez, which is my reference, known as always: “We are not a African rate/rhythm or afro. We are Uruguyan, montevideains “. Africa, it was with the whole beginning.
Until in the Thirties, the candombe was taught from one generation to another. If there were not a father or a grandfather who could you learn it, it were impossible to play it. Even if one were black, it were impossible to play it if there were not a family for that. He was almost hermetic. About the middle of the XXème century, other people commençent to arrive at the candombe. White will learn it. Today, it is of all the Uruguyans even if it is inheritance of the culture of the people afro-Uruguyan which preservé it during 250 years. My wish is that the recognition is for these people and that musicians, like me, who come from the rock’n’roll, of the jazz or of the popular music can know its secrecies.
If the candombe must be recognized in the world, the reward mustgo to these afro-Uruguyan, otherwise it would be unjust. They worked during many years in difficult situations so that it does not disappear. The candombe is a rate/rhythm very exciting for the interpreter, it is difficult to stop it. Once that you have the well heated engines, it invades you and you must continue. This arrives to me even at me which am not black. It has something ofhypnotic, vice. I saw people who are wounded during the ‘ llamadas’ but they continue, impossible to stop. The candombe iscompletely physical.

LT: What does it happen in Europe with the candombe ?

BS: They become insane, they adore. We enclosed the fetival jazz of Konisberg, an island opposite Lithuania and Sweden frequentée by Swedish rich person. There were, on this occasion, Chick Corea, Mingus Band, Peter Erskine and his trio. We started to play in a castle and finished in a ravine vis-a-vis in the Baltic. We played with an orchestra of 50 musicians then in quintet with Hugo and Osvaldo Fattorusso, Ruben Rada, Ricardo Nole and myself and enclosed the spectacle while playingonly with the drums.

LT: Does the Uruguyan government do something for this culture ?

BS: It does not do almost anything for the candombe.It could make more, but our controlling are worried by the purchase of a BMW than by the blacks which play of the drum and preserve their traditions. It is difficult.

LT: The bass in the candombe. Fattorusso. The world ?

BS: When I started to make experiments in writing for low in the candombe, there was only one or two who did it. The candombe gave me the advisability of writing for the low one, and currently, there are musicians who play about it. It was a single opportunity: to be able to create bases to play of the candombe to low. I was not the first, before me others threwthe first lines, but I had the occasion to give him another dimension.
Here much of people arrive, of the musicians professionels, interested by the candombe. We had the visit of Walfredo Reyes, beater of Santana and Frank Sinatra; Robby Amin, the beater of Ruben Blades and Berklee.
I think that it is Osvaldo Fattorusso, the musician who the mostdeveloped and diffused the candombe. We played of the drums withDennis Chambers, Alex Acuña and the beater of Colour Living room and all were very interested by the candombe. There was also Billy Cobham, Juan Formell of Van Van which sent to me a message of congratulations for my CD ‘ Raices’ that it listened to in Cuba. We played Cuba and they became insane with the candombe. Arturo Sandoval, Irakere and Pablo Milanes are friends and know the candombe well. But for them, it is difficult to play it because they are accustomed to play back. What the Cubans play is closer to the candombe than the Brazilian ones, especially because of the sentimental expression. They use much the ‘ bata’, a drumwith two plasters on the leather sides, on the other hand in Brazil, they use the metal or of plastic plasters. The Cuban has a similar force but I believe that candombé is the most powerful rate/rhythm in Latin America and that which preserves more the Africanroots because it acts of a drum out of wooden and a leather band. But I does not want to more speak bus me, which I like is to play it. I enjoyed by interpreting it and by transmitting this music. Nowadays, the candombe is not ignored any more in the world.

Luis Tarantino

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