Chamamé Dance: Traditional Argentina Culture

The culture of the Argentine Littoral region is a mix of unique sensations, and traditional Chamamé Dance is no exception to this. The sound of music is present in every moment, this typical entertainment experience is a treat for the senses, sorrounded by a colorful and cheerful region with nature, a sight to behold. 

In the Iberá Wetlands, this traditional Chamamé style is a special experience, expressed in the ever-present popular music, the distinctive nostalgic dance that conveys emotions, and the passion of the Sapucay cry.

The song lyrics and themes represent the traditions that are part of the rich and diverse culture of Corrientes Province. northeast region of Argentina.

Chamamé tradicional Argentina dance

What is Chamamé in Argentina?

Chamamé in Argentina is a unique cultural expression that developed in the province of Corrientes, northeast region of the country. It refers to both, a music style and typical dance, with a significant role in the cultural evolution of the Argentine Littoral.

As a widely known tradition, Chamamé is considered part of the intangible cultural heritage of the province of Corrientes. In addition, it is well-known in other south american countries, like central Brazil, especially in the states of Rio Grande do Sul and Mato Grosso do Sul, where national law established September 19 as the Day of Chamamé.

Typical Chamame music style

Chamamé is a musical style characterized by a polyrhythmic musical arrangement. In this music genre, the support structure of bass-base is binary, while the melody -that is, the singing and string instruments- overlap melodically and tonally with a ternary structure.

What does Chamame Mean?

The word “Chamamé” has Guarani and Spanish origin and is considered a variation of San Mamés, a martyr saint highly venerated in Spain. In Guarani, the term means “Dance in the rain.”

Where is Chamamé from?

Chamamé is found mainly in the province of Corrientes, but presents significant variants in the other Littoral provinces: Entre Ríos, Formosa, Santa Fe, Chaco and Misiones. It is also heard in the north and east of Santiago del Estero. 

How to dance Chamamé

The dance does not involve a settled “choreography”. Really, it gives dancers the chance to create passages and figures, an opportunity to shine. Chamamé dance steps include the “trancado” or “trancadito,” which is done by advancing the left foot in rhythm, the body leaning on it with a slight break, while the right foot approaches the left. 

Sapucay: a cry or phonation present from the beginning, is a typical form accompanied by gestures and body movements that is used to convey feelings, emotions and sensations. This term comes from Guarani, “sapukai” meaning “to shout in a triumphant cry.”

As for the instruments, originally the violin and vihuela were played, but over time the guitar, harmonica, accordion, bandoneon and double bass were also incorporated.

There are two styles of Chamamé today: Chamamé Orillero has influences of tango and Chamamé Ganci or sad Chamamé is a modality of Chamamé characterized by its tone, also called Chamamé Canción. 

Chamamé typical dress

Chamamé outfits vary depending on the region and specific event: In some areas, men wear “bombacha” pants of dark colors in a single piece, along with plain cotton shirts in semi-dark colors, i.e., browns and blues, while in other areas, the “gala and salon” variety prevails, the outfit typically being very wide bombacha pants with small plaits on the front and back, matched with usually plain and white shirts. 

Traditional women’s outfits consist of a blouse, skirt, petticoat and espadrilles. Ladies may also wear a collar scarf the color of the party emblem.

Chamamé, a symbol of Littoral culture

Every year the renowned National Chamamé Festival takes place in the city of Corrientes, Argentina, in iconic places such as the Cocomarola Amphitheater and the Pexoa Bridge. For several days in January, visitors can enjoy this music and dance. The event also includes the presentation of the National Chamamé Couple: they are the ones that best represent this dance and culture. 

Chamamé is a valuable and significant cultural manifestation for the inhabitants of the region, and its transmission from generation to generation has strengthened the collective ties of the communities. Its role in the cultural evolution of the Argentine Littoral region and its recognition as intangible cultural heritage bear testament to its cultural value.

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