Forget tango: the murga of Buenos Aires is a riot of sequins and salvation

Freelance photographer Kate Stanworth has been following a Buenos Aires murga group for 10 years, as they perform in an energetic street carnival that is little known beyond Argentina

Argentinas charismatic capital, Buenos Aires, might be more famous for tango, steak and football than colourful carnival parades. However, murga a feisty, home-grown form of street dance and percussion performed during carnival season, once unfairly thought of as only performed by drop-outs and drunks has flourished in recent years, providing a source of pride, happiness and salvation for the predominantly working class families that dedicate their lives to it.


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  • A team talk before a parade during carnival season in Buenos Aires.

One of the capitals approximately 100 official groups, La Locura de Boedo (the craziness of Boedo), invited me to tour the city with them 10 years ago while working on a newspaper assignment. I have been following their fortunes through carnival seasons ever since, travelling with the troupe on beaten up school buses to parades in far flung barrios across the city unpretentious affairs in which street corners house makeshift scaffold stages.


  • La Locura de Boedos band on a carnival night, playing the distinctive bass drums with cymbals, that are unique to the murga percussion.



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  • Ulises dances during a carnival parade. Right; A dancer performing in a carnival parade between two motorway fly-overs in the neighbourhood of Barracas.

The carnival takes place during the humid summer months when the citys well-off residents tend to relocate to the coast. Local children, many of whom cant afford holidays away, peer transfixed through railings, in search of a different kind of escape, as their local idols fling their arms around and dance in a rapturous series of acrobatic kicks, to the hypnotic, thunderous beat of bass drums and cymbals.



  • Florencia and Priscilla, dancers for La Locura de Boedo.




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  • Dani dancing during a carnival parade in Buenos Aires. Right; Paola poses, almost nine months pregnant, in her murga suit.

Like Rios Samba, Salvadors Axe and Andean Carnavalito, murgas roots reflect the cultural melting pot of Argentinas colonial past, nodding back to the shores of Europe and Africa. The art form was repressed during the dictatorship of 1976-83, but went on to flourish during the 1990s among predominantly working class families, with the number of groups increasing more than tenfold.



  • The back of murga suits, covered in appliques made from hundreds of beads and sequins.

Over time I learned that behind the spectacle of the parades, murga is a powerful social force shaping peoples identities and providing a support network rooted in the local neighbourhood. It gives people a sense of pride, an outlet for collective creativity and an escape from everyday struggles.


  • Dana at home with her boyfriend Juan, who joined the troupe to surprise her, Buenos Aires.

Through the murga you give a hand to whoever needs it, says Juanjo, the charismatic director who runs the troupe with his wife Monica and their two sons, Maxi and Jony. You try to contain the kids on the street, get them out of drugs and put them within this circle, which is the most beautiful thing there is.


In the lead up to carnival, Juanjo and Monicas humble grey-cement house is a hive of activity, as murgueros of all ages gather to put the finishing touches to brightly coloured satin suits, put on shimmering make up in their group colours of red, white and turquoise, and assemble the distinctive bass drums with brass cymbals on top that anchor the murgas percussion.


  • Maxi, watched by his mother and group director, Monica, and other performers, sings during a group rehearsal in the directors house in Boedo.

During weekdays, the troupe are taxi drivers, receptionists, pest controllers, teachers, cleaners, plumbers and students, many struggling under the weight of Argentinas worsening economic situation, which has recently seen a dramatic currency devaluation and soaring food and utility prices.


  • Ten-year-old Felipe practices the drums with cymbals, during a rehearsal in a local park in the lead up to carnival season in Boedo.

But on Saturday and Sunday nights they leave their troubles behind and transform into glittering performers, with coat tails weighed down by appliques made of thousands of beads they have painstakingly sewn by hand over months.


  • Children gather and play outside the group directors house before a carnival parade.

Juanjo, Monica, Maxi and Jonys decision to dedicate themselves to murga came in an attempt to take their minds off their sadness after Juanjo and Monicas youngest son died of meningitis in 1995 at the age of two. Now the group feels like a giant family. The directors are looked at by many in the 200-strong group as parental figures. The role that my father left, he (Juanjo) took on, says dancer Maki.


  • Macarena, Sofa, Florencia and Martina prepare for a carnival night in the house of the groups directors, Monica and Juanjo.

Like many group members, Maki met her partner through murga, and the couple made their three children tiny suits for carnival not long after they were born, carrying them through the parade in their arms until they were old enough to dance and play the drums.

HERE ; This post was curated & posted using : RealSpecific

This post was curated & Posted using : RealSpecific

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