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Lobo Nunez

During our visit to Montevideo, Uruguay we had the unique opportunity to visit the studio of Fernando “Lobo” Nunez, an Afro-Uruguayan drum builder and percussionist, a legend in the music genre Candombe.  Lobo is a fascinating, engaging character who also builds a number of other unusual musical instruments from recycled materials.  Whether you have interests in music, are a famous musician yourself (think guests such as Mick Jagger and Carlos Santana), are a child, or just like entertaining people, a visit to Lobo’s studio is a “must” if you can grab a couple of hours with him between his gigs with musicians around the world, who invite him as a guest percussionist.




Lobo's studio resembles a hoarder’s packed home, indeed the yard outside his home studio and the inside quarters are packed with the instruments he has created, including the famous Candombe drums, which are his passion.



Candombe is a music genre that originated from the African slaves, dating back to 1760 with the origin of the slave trade, when the slaves were only allowed to celebrate once a year.  It is an arrangement of three barrel-shaped drums with a unique African beat.  Although the three drums vary in size and sound, they all play the same rhythm.  Candombe was officially integrated into Uruguayan culture in the late 18th century and further developed in the 19th century in Montevideo, then spread to Argentina.  In the late 19th century groups of singers, dancers and musicians began to perform in outdoor carnivals.  These groups ae called comparsas and are common in various types of music in Spain and Hispanic America.  Eventually the Uruguayan comparsas became integrated with people of all races and ethnicities, with as many as 40-80 drummers and incorporating dance movements with roots in Africa.


Lobo and his family legacy as former slaves represent the soul of Uruguayan Candombe.  In a visit to his studio, you will learn about his family and valuable traditions that led him to his craft.  Now in his 70s, Lobo loves to tell you about the first instrument he created – from a tree saw when he was just a young child.  At his studio you can play that same saw, or any number of instruments he has created, whether it’s a steel drum built from recycled material, a candombe drum, a canasta made of a piece of wood and an old door handle, or perhaps plastic bottle shakers, a sack of marbles, or even a cow bell.  The number of random instruments he has built from “junk” is outstanding, with sounds that at times are familiar or others quite unique. 


This privileged access to Lobo and his studio will provide insight into not only the musical scene in Uruguay but the celebration of people like Lobo will help you understand the progressive nature of the country’s culture and how they were the first country to abolish slavery. Lobo is dedicated to keeping the traditions and spirit of Candombe alive.


Candombe entered the modern music scene in the 1960s in pop, rock and jazz.  Lobo indeed has influenced popular musicians with his percussionist style, including Carlos Santana, Airto Moreira, and the Rolling Stones.



Candombe was inscribed in 2009 on UNESCO’s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.  UNESCO described candombe as such:

“On Sundays, and on many holidays, the llamadas de tambores de candombe (candombe drum calls) cheer up the Sur, Palermo and Cordón barrios (districts) in southern Montevideo, Uruguay.  These are neighborhoods with a population of African descent.  The candombe tradition begins around communal fires as people assemble to tune their drums and mingle before beginning their march.  Once in progress, the drum-call parade is led by the most respected members, from families known by the community for their drumming for many generations.  Other drummers are organized behind them in rows, and informal participants, dancers and spectators march alongside or watch from balconies.”

Citation: (“The World of Afro-Uruguayan Candombe Music”)

 


If you find yourself in Montevideo or even across the River Plata in Buenos Aires, don't miss the chance to meet Lobo in his “den” of instruments (Call us: we can help arrange it). It was perhaps the most outstanding and memorable part of our trip to South America a few weeks ago.

 



 

 

 

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