In my last post, I mentioned seeing some Murga groups perform during Carnival time in Uruguay. They perform in groups and will compete with each other in and around Montevideo, often practicing on street corners. There is a juried competition held for the various groups in Montevideo. The winners are published in the newspaper after Mardi Gras. To help them get ready for the juried competition they will often perform on various stages and venues in local towns during this Carnival time.
I can best describe the concept of Murga music by comparing it to the use of Reggae music on the Island of Jamaica.
The wikipedia states that, "Reggae is noted for its tradition of social criticism in its lyrics, although many reggae songs discuss lighter, more personal subjects, such as love and socializing. Some reggae lyrics attempt to raise the political consciousness of the audience, such as by criticizing materialism, or by informing the listener about controversial subjects such as Apartheid." Most people know of Bob Marley's song "I shot the Sheriff but I did not shoot the Deputy". Reggae music has a great familiar beat and style.
Lyrical content is based on a particular theme, chosen by the group, which serves to provide commentary on events in Uruguay or elsewhere over the preceding year. Consequently, murga lends itself well to being used as a form of popular resistance. For example, during the dictatorship in Uruguay in the 1970s, groups like Araca La Cana became known for their left-wing tendencies, subversive commentary and oppositional stance.
I did however, enjoy seeing and hearing some Murga groups present their satire songs/skits.
For those of you that want to know more on the subject of Murga and it's history, I suggest that you do click on this wikipedia link, it's an interesting read.
However, for those of you who probably won't do that, I'll copy a direct quote from the wiki source about the Murga sound; "The singers perform in polyphony using up to five vocal parts. Vocal production tends to be nasal and loud with little variation in volume."
wikipedia: Click on this Murga link.
If your wondering about the title of this post, "Murga and Pizza" it was used because as I already mentioned, many of the groups will seek out places and venues to perform at. My friends know of a Pizza restaurant that is fairly new, located down in Atlántida. It is a cooperative restaurant opened up by a group of young people. I believe 16 people got to gather to buy and operate this restaurant. It is in a great location right on the rambla, the road that runs by the beach. The name of the restaurant is "Piedra Lisa". They have good (round shaped) pizza, freshly baked for VERY reasonable prices, along with a few other things on the menu. If you want to go there, you can find this restaurant, on the rambla, after you leave the town of Atlántida but before you come to Las Toscas. You will see a giant metal buoy (now on land) in the parking lot. The restaurant is there.
The restaurant, Piedra Lisa sponsored a Murga competition between 2 groups one night, so I went down to hear and watch them perform and to eat great Pizza!
I snooped around before our dinner arrived and found a group of them practicing out back under a thatched roofed building ( a Quincho).
Each group has a leader who directed them.
At first I was afraid that the show wouldn't come off that well as the restaurant had several power outages. Too many appliances plugged in at once, I guess. We did have some candles on the table so I thought, well maybe they will just sing in the dark but at the last minute and by the time the food arrived, we had light (Llegue a haber luz).
I have made a UTube video of one of the shorter opening songs that the first groups did. Sorry it is so dark but for some reason the group had a stage light shinning behind them instead of on them and in front of them, illuminating their faces. I fought between being blinded by the light essentially shinning on me and their darkened fronts.
To watch and hear this Murga group, "Click on this UTube link."
I did understand the theme chosen by one group and it was delightful. It was on childhood, The little "kids" in this case, the full grown performers were visiting grandma's house (La casa de Abuela). The children were expecting some gifts from grandma. I think it was their birthday and of course they were singing about everything they wanted to receive from balls to dolls. Then how disappointing some gifts were like underwear and socks. They sang other songs about getting in trouble and being spanked by their parents and being scared by the boogie man at night. It was fun seeing the grown actors being children and singing about such innocent subjects.
I had a front row seat as our table was right in front of the stage!
The second group wasn't as good vocally as the first group. I think the women in the first group though not usually presented in traditional Murga somehow added a fuller more complete sound. Then again, me being a women probably makes me a little bit bias.
After eating and watching the show, my dinner companions took me further down the rambla towards Atlántida to show me where the street had washed out. It was a huge gapping hole and drop off. In my last post, I had mentioned how some towns had canceled their local Carnival parades because of the extremely wet, rainy weather we had (quite unusual for this time of the year). Well, when I saw the now missing chunk of road, it really brought home how bad the rain had been.
Further down, several towns away, passed the toll bridge, the town of Solymar had really been inundated with water from these rains. Water came into houses and made mini lakes of the streets.
The good thing about Uruguay is that even when the weather gets bad, suddenly and surprisingly a few super nice days will come along (a sort of reprieve) just when you need it the most. So I am glad to say, all though it has just started raining again tonight I have had a rather great and sunny past week. I got a lot accomplished. I also learned a couple of weeks ago about a great new pizza restaurant and a new genre, the music of the Murga. Murga and pizza a winning combination!