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'Los Gauchos de Roldán' Share Down-Home Dance Music Tradition From Rural Uruguay

On January 31st, 2012, Smithsonian Folkways shines the spotlight on the South American country of Uruguay, with Los Gauchos de Rold?n's new self-titled album. Though perhaps better known for its standout performance in the 2010 soccer World Cup, the small nation situated between Argentina and Brazil now shares its much-loved, yet little-known, down-home rural dance music. Born in the gaucho ranching homelands of northern Uruguay, the multiracial genre combining accordion and guitar has been an important social tradition for families since the late 19th century. Watch a mini-documentary about Los Gauchos de Rold?n ( Listen to "Como mi suegra" (Like My Mother-in-Law) ( "Los Gauchos de Rold?n: Button Accordion and Bandone?n Music from Northern Uruguay" is the 34th release in the Smithsonian Folkways Tradiciones/Traditions series since 2002. The series, a co-production with the Smithsonian Latino Center, showcases the diverse musical heritage of the 50 million Latinos living in the USA. Button accordionist and bandleader Walter Rold?n hails from Tacuaremb?, Uruguay, a melting pot of Spanish creoles, indigenous descendants, Afro-Uruguayans, Brazilians, and European immigrants. It's also a center of rural northern Uruguayan traditional music, notable for the two-row button accordion and the bandone?n, a complex accordion-like instrument with a lush sound that is also a symbol of the urban Tango tradition. In the mid-19th century, the popular European dance forms of the time—polka, mazurka, waltz and schottische—arrived in Uruguay and joined the Afro-Creole rhythms of habanera, maxixa and milonga to eventually take root in the countryside. The rhythms were then "reshaped in the style and way of thinking of the paisanos (rural people)," says Rold?n. The rhythmically infectious result can be favorably compared to south Louisiana's Cajun and Creole traditions played with a Tango sensibility. "We were just a few that kept up the struggle for people not to forget that the two-row button accordion is part of our roots. The majority of our grandparents and their relatives met at dances where the two-row button accordion was played. Then they fell in love, and got married. That's the way it was, and we keep up the fight," states Rold?n. On the new album, Rold?n pumps out time-honored polcas and chotis, Brazilian-tinged maxixas, and more on his button accordion. With songs inherited from Rold?n's father and grandmother, 'Los Gauchos de Rold?n' also features bandone?n master Chich? Vidiella, guitarist Bernardo Sanguinetti and Ricardo Cunha on guitarr?n (a classical guitar with a large, deep body and lower tuning). Renowned and formerly-exiled Uruguayan guitarist and singer Numa Moraes makes a guest appearance on multiple tracks. Moraes says, "We were known for the soccer World Cup, and for the first time people are starting to talk about Uruguay in another way, and from a musical point of view I think that it will be very important.... It is a very small country, but it has a great variety of rhythms and colors in its music." In addition to countless performances in Uruguay, Los Gauchos de Rold?n have been featured at the Chicago World Music Festival, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC, and the International Accordion Festival in San Antonio, TX. The content and comments posted here are subject to the Smithsonian Institution copyright and privacy policy ( ). Smithsonian reserves the right in its sole discretion to remove any content at any time.
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