CORRIENTES, Argentina – The city of Corrientes, in northeastern Argentina, came alive with music and dance Friday night to mark the beginning of the 28th Chamame Festival.
Every year, the 10-day long festival, one of the longest in the calendar of summer festivals in the South American country and one of the most important, showcases Chamame, a folk music and dance genre, which might soon find itself on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List.
“This music and dance genre is the common culture shared by around 30 million people. And common culture is what identifies a nation for what it is,” said Eduardo Sivori, the art director of the festival.
The festival will be celebrated from Jan. 12-21 and opened Friday at the Mario del Transito Cocomarola Amphitheatre, which is named after one of the most influential figures of Chamame, and saw performances by several artists from all across the country.
Julian Zini and Neike Chamigo, Juancito Guenaga and his group, Lito Nebia, Ricardo Scofano, Chango Spasiuk, Los Alonsitos, Las Hermanas Vera and Mateo Villalba are some of the names which will delight the audience at this year’s festival, which has been declared an intangible heritage of Mercosur, a South American trade bloc.
One of the most awaited moments is the return of Ramona Galarza to the festival, one of the most popular artists of the genre.
Frequently described as a dance form that involves natural improvisation during performance, Chamame has ancient Guarani roots and has various versions owing to European and African influences.
The lyrics – which are set to music with guitars, accordions, pianos or bandoneons – speak of beliefs, traditions, love, estrangement, social issues and topics such as discrimination in Corrientes, a part of the country that has never been considered to be especially important.
“Chamame is music and dance inextricably united. Something similar to what happens with tango,” said Sivori, who added that a total of 150,000 people are expected to attend the event.
Apart from the official festivities, Corrientes, a city of 350,000, situated 900 kilometers (560 miles) from Buenos Aires, also hosts various other parallel events connected to Chamame throughout the month.
Although Corrientes is considered to be the heart of Chamame, it is also popular in other parts of the country, as also in parts of Paraguay, Brazil, Bolivia and Uruguay.