Uruguay's capital of Montevideo is home to lush botanical gardens, inviting Atlantic beaches, and the propulsive sounds of the candombe. An Afro-Uruguayan dance genre, the candombe first appeared with Africans who were brought into the region as slaves around the mid-1700s. In its traditional context the dance celebrates the coronation of Congolese kings. Candombe today comes to life, in its most prevalent form, during Montevideo's carnival celebrations. Officially sanctioned carnival ensembles, known as Black Lubolo societies, perform the music of the candombe for two- to fifteen-hour stretches and to the tune of 12 to 30 drums. On the Big World Music release Candombe, the contemporary Grupo Del Cuareim melds candombe's dynamic rhythms with European-informed musical sensibilities. Arranged by multi-instrumentalist Hugo Fattoruso, the 15 songs on Candombe feature a ten member chorus singing over piano melodies and a polyrhythmic battery unleashed by ten candombe percussionists. The mix is occasionally dotted by the sound of an accordion, electric bass, electric guitar, and synthesizer. All but the final percussion cut on the CD, "U," reflects this hybrid candombe sound. Grupo Del Cuareim's inventive form of candombe should satisfy anyone interested in hearing contemporary sounds from South America. And as the band plays each selection with a genuine sense of energetic dedication, their music should move you as much as it fascinates you.
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AllMusic Review by John Vallier