Uruguayan Drummer Brings Afro-Uruguayan Music to Minnesota

Last month, for the first time ever, the small town of Montevideo, Minnesota was introduced to the 200-year-old Afro-Uruguayan “candombe” music their sister city, Montevideo, Uruguay, is so well known for. Candombe is a cultural heritage, music and dance native to Uruguay, with African roots. With a travel grant from Partners, Uruguayan drummer Álvaro Salas traveled to Montevideo, MN in June to present workshops on candombe drumming, history and culture in Minneapolis and Montevideo, as well as attend and perform at the town's annual Fiesta Days, a celebration to commemorate the town's association with its sister city. 

The video below features Álvaro and Montevideo, MN musician Andy Stermer. Just six months prior to Álvaro's visit, Andy traveled to Montevideo, Uruguay on a grant from Partners to study Afro-Uruguayan candombe drumming and music, where he was a student of Salas.

Álvaro’s visit created new interest in candombe music and Afro-Uruguayan art and culture in the Minneapolis community of Uruguayans. One Uruguayan remarked: “[After moving to Minnesota], I thought my son would never see candombe.” The music exchange created a means for many to see, hear, and experience a music, culture and people they otherwise would not have connected with, and to share it with their communities in a meaningful way.

The media was abuzz with news of Álvaro's visit--Montevideo American News provided coverage prior to the trip, and Álvaro appeared twice on KFAI, a community-run radio station broadcast throughout the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, and was the featured guest on an hour-long KFAI program hosted by Al McFarlane, a prominent leader and activist in the Minneapolis African American community. The Fiesta Days candombe activities in Montevideo were also featured on the Art Hounds segment on Minnesota Public Radio, broadcast throughout the state of Minnesota.

The Minnesota-Uruguay Chapter has been active since Partners' founding in 1964, and the sister city relationship is one of the oldest such relationships in the U.S.