Carnaval in Uruguay is long. I’m not sure how long but more than a month. Basically it consists of groups of (mostly men) performing short (aprox 45 minutes) plays on stages in neighborhoods throughout the city and ending in a final competition in the main theater – Teatro de Verano.
The plays fall into 3 categories–Comedy, Parody and Murga. Murgas are the most traditional and seem to be the most popular. They’ve been doing them since the early 20th century. Mostly they are politically themed and consist of three parts – the greeting, the… middle… and the ending or ‘despedida.’ The beginning and end are the most important parts, the middle seems to often be a mixture of spoken word and singing.
Murga groups are about 15 men. They sing loudly and vary their voices in a sort of falsetto harmony. Hearing it live is impressive. It’s the kind of thing that gives you goosebumps. Costumes are elaborate. Extremely elaborate. Competition is stiff.
I went to the last night of Carnaval and though I didn’t understand a lot of what they were singing about I really enjoyed it.
Ok, this is turning into a Wikipedia entry. Let me stop by linking there and putting in a video of a Murga so you can get the feel for it and… there you go. Don’t miss Carnaval. I’ve never seen anything like it.