Monday, March 16, 2015

The Latin American Dance "Malambo" & Its Congolese Roots

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is Part III of a three part pancocojams series on certain traditional African competitive dances, games, or sports. This post provides information about and video examples of the Latin American dance malambo and its Congolese roots.

Click for Part I of this series.

Part I features information about the Kongolese empire, descriptions of Kongolese nsunsa and descriptions of South American adaptations of nsunsa.

Click for Part II of this series.

Part II provides information and video examples of Congolese Nzango and Ghanaian ampe. This Central African and West African game are presented together to highlight the similarities between these two games. Furthermore, readers of Part I of this series will notice the similarities between both of these games and the foot work descriptions of Kongolese nsunsa.

The content of this post is presented for historical, cultural, recreational, and aesthetic reasons.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to those who created these traditional games/sports and thanks to the past and present practitioners of this game/sport. Thanks also all those who are featured in these videos, and who published these videos on YouTube. Thanks also to all those who are quoted in this post.

Editor's note:
I've not found any information about the history of malambo in Argentina and other Latin American nations that mentions its African roots. This is probably an example of what this website refers to as "Blackout: How Argentina ‘Eliminated’ Africans From Its History And Conscience"
However, here's a small excerpt from a book about the Tango that mentions the Congolese roots of malambo:
From Tango: The Art History of Love By Robert Farris Thompson, pages 76-77
[Congolese scholar] "Fu-Kiau Bunseki saw an old dance called malambo performed at Kumba in North Kongo in 1951. Malambo is a dance of purification, its aim the solving of social dissension. The dancers stamp their feet vigorously on a prepared portion of ground laden with medicines of peace or reconciliation. Stamping these medicines (komo bilongo) into the ground , they “nail” or activate them, for the sake of communal well-being.

The memory of this Kongo stamping dance to black Argentina and named a rural stamping dance among cowboys, one that absorbed, however, strong influences from heel-stamping traditions (zapateados) of Spain. The malambo and the stamping remain, but Argentine malambo developed as a fast moving battle-dance. It was not “nailing” medicine but a competitive flaunting of stamina and patterns (mudanzas that tap-dancing, stamping, and bush steps. The man with the most patterns win. The stiff, erect posture of Argentine malambo comes from Spain."
It can also be noted that "Malambo" is a place name in Democratic Republic of the Congo.

"Malambo was born in the Pampas around the 1600. Malambo is a peculiar native dance that is executed by men only. Its music has no lyrics and it is based entirely on rythm. The malambo dancer is a master of tap dancing wearing gaucho's boots. Among the most important malambo moves are: " la cepillada" (the foot sole brushes the ground), "el repique" (a strike to the floor using the back part of the boot) and the " floreos". Malambo dancers' feet barely touch the ground but all moves are energetic and complex. Together with tap dancing, malambo dancers use " boleadoras" and other aids such as "lazos". Like 'Payadas" for gauchos (improv singing), malambo was *the* competition among gaucho dancers."


..."In a small town in Cordoba [Argentina] called Laborde, every year malambo dancers from all over Argentina gather together to celebrate the 'National Festivity of Malambo'. This has been going on for the last 38 years.

Malambo's true mark is that of allowing men to express themselves by themselves. They have no dance partners and the expression takes place with vigor.

Throughout the history of dancing there are two traditional elements always present: clapping of palms and tapping of feet. Before musical instruments were developed it was our own hand and feet that were performing sounds and rhythm that put together, lead to music. Among Incas, tap dancing and feet dancing was very common. Araucanos, Guaranies and many other natives too, performed similar dances.

...By far the essence of malambo lies in the firm strikes of the feet moves. While one of the foot might remain still, the other one performs very energetic strikes against the floor together with ample circular move of the entire leg. These cycles are the ones that permit the dancer to express himself throughout the dance. Dancers switch between feet and perform figures between them, one at a time. It is this dexterity of each foot at each time that is unique to malambo.

The top malambo dancer can perform cycles with both feet and legs indistinctly.

While feet and legs are crucial to dancing malambo, the rest of the body is not participating except to keep the dancer on the ground, stabilized. Thus, the malambo dancer becomes his own instrument as he performs music rhythmically with his lower body in unison to whatever is being played in a guitar and drum next to him. The music itself has no ending and it will only finish by the time the dancer gives up. Most of the time there is a continuous dialogue between the dancer and those playing for him, so that the dancer marks the instrument player when and how to make a pause, play slower or change to a more rapid pace.”

These examples are given in chronological order based on the video's publishing date on YouTube, with the video with the oldest date given first.

Example #1: Malambo Fernando Castro

ezequiel martinez, Uploaded on Nov 11, 2009


Example #2: Malambo Dancing Gauchos.mpg

Maxi Zurita, Uploaded on Dec 8, 2009

Malambo Boleadoras Argentina Folklore

Example #3: MALAMBO. En Paseo del Buen Pastor.

Aroma Aromai,Published on Nov 25, 2012

Festival Nacional del Malambo 2013, Laborde. Presentación en Cba Capiiiiiital.
[Aroma Aroma]

Example #4: Campeón Nacional De Malambo Juvenil Leonardo Blanes (Córdoba) Laborde 2013

Leo Blanes Published on Feb 3, 2013

Leonardo Blanes Córdoba
Profesores: Juan Carlos Baez - Sergio Dalmasso

This concludes Part III of this series.

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