Negra Mária 'Milonga candombe'

T:3:01; bpm: 109

Lucio Demare (08.10.1941)
Music:     Lucio Demare
Lyrics: Homero Manzi (1907 – 1951, Tango poet, scriptwriter, revolutionary)
Voc:     Juan Carlos Miranda

Lucio Demare (1941/ Miranda)
Osvaldo Fresedo (1941/Roldán)
Mercedes Simone (1941)
Libertad Lamarque (1941)
Armando Pontier (1961/Carlos Maidana)

Negra María still fascinates today. Dozens of bands of various genres present their cover versions on Youtube, showing how they interpret this song, its beauty, its tension, its emotion and its sadness.

Trio Argentino (Demare, Fugazot, Irusta) - 1946

Tango-Jazzrock-Fusion by Hugo del Carril (1976)

Susana Rinaldi - 1976

María José Demare
María José Demare is the daughter of Demare's brother, the director Lucas Demare. After an international career (including in the musical HAIR), she was successful with Tango canión since the 90s.

Las Bordonas - 2018


But what is a Milonga Candombe? A look at the history helps.

One of the roots of tango is the old candombe: rhythmic music played with drums by the black population, which at times made up almost a third of the inhabitants of Buenos Aires, but was decimated to insignificance by epidemics, wars, ruthlessness and poverty in the years before 1900.

Milonga, on the other hand, was, from the end of the 19th century, rather rural folk music performed on the guitar by wandering singers called payadores. Played more slowly, it developed into the first tangos at the beginning of the 20th century. In the following decades, the term milonga was often used to describe a faster style of playing rather than a genre.

But then the pianist Sebastián Piana, together with the poet Homero Manzi, composed a number that founded a whole new genre. Mercedes Simone was the first to sing the Milonga sentimental. But it was Francisco Canaro who made it famous in 1933. He arranged the piece for a large Orquesta Típica and made Milonga sentimental his signature tune. Milonga as a new dance style was born.


The old milonga was now called milonga campera (rural milonga), the danceable orchestral version is now simply called milonga, or is given the attribute ciudadana or urbana (urban) to distinguish it.


At the end of the 1930s, it was again Homero Manzi who brought to life themes from the culture of the blacks from the end of the 19th century in the lyrics of milongas such as Pena Mulata, Papá Baltasar and Negra María. Mostly, misery and suffering were in the foreground. And the composers, who worked closely with the lyricists, also reflected on the old candombe of the black population, e.g. Sebastián Piana or Lucio Demare composing accompaniments to Manzi's lyrics, which took up many musical elements of the candombe such as percussion instruments, emphatically repetitive phrases, their own harmonies or choral singing, without completely leaving the rhythmic paths of the milonga ciudadana.

The dancers were enthusiastic, milonga candombe was the big hit. Other popular examples of milonga candombe of the 40s are Azabache (1942, Berón) or Pobre Negra (1943, Iriarte) by Caló and Negra María , Carnevalito and Luna (1943, Berón) by Demare. Candombe feeling also fits Canaro, of course. As early as 1934 Negrita (Galán) was produced, later examples are  Candombe and La Rumbita Candombe (both 1943, Roldán), among others. The king of candombe, who had already left the paths of the milonga, was the singer Alberto Castillo, who garnished his shows, which had degenerated somewhat into folklore, with groups of black dancers.

Candombe enjoyed and still enjoys great popularity in Uruguay and Montevideo, where the proportion of people of African origin is much higher, both around 1940 and today. Accordingly, African culture is also more present, and candombe is still today an important part of Uruguay's identity. And so there are also numerous beautiful milonga candombes from Uruguay. For example Donato's former singer Romeo Gavioli was particularly successful with his own orchestra (Borocoto Chas Chas, 1942) or with Ángel Sica (Rebeldía) or Emilio Pellejero (Mi vieja linda, 1941) as well as Jose Tinelli (Milonga Nueva, 1938).

Homero Manzi was inspired to write the sad verses of Negra María by a true story among his friends. But in his moving adaptation, these verses exemplify the misery of black people. Manzi, whose life story could fill a book of its own, died at the age of only 44. As a lyricist, he inspired the greatest composers of his time, including Troilo, with whom he wrote Sur (1949). Troilo said that Manzi's verses already contained all the melodies he composed for them.

The music

With rhythmically complex runs played tutti by the whole orchestra and sharply played staccato and pizzicato, a driving candombe-like rhythm and melody are established. Demare on piano complements and embellishes here - as in the final section - with wonderful little solos.

The singer Miranda enters at 0:42. From the first bar, his voice embodies the great hope and enthusiasm of the new parents, but he also weaves the tragic ending into his phrasing right form the beginning, dragging out the last syllable of individual phrases in a slightly melancholic manner.

The whimsical choral singing (e.g. 1:03, 1:32) initially evokes a candombe carnival mood again, but this is somewhat muted by the minor harmonies. And at the end, it is the choir that laments the much too early death of the little Black Maria with sighs that become quieter and drift into lower registers. At 2:00 and 2:32, the violins swell in high registers like cries of despair, foreshadowing the tragic end.

Lyrics (1941)



Bruna, bruna

nació María

y está en la cuna.

Nació de día,

tendrá fortuna.

Bordará la madre

su vestido largo.

Y entrará a la fiesta

con un traje blanco

y será la reina

cuando María

cumpla quince años.

NEGRA MARIA (deutsch)

Bruna, bruna

María was born

and she is in the cradle.

She was born in the daytime,

she will have fortune.

The mother will embroider

her long dress.

And she will enter the feast

in a white gown

and she will be the queen

when María

turns fifteen.

Te llamaremos, Negra María...

Negra María, que abriste

los ojos en Carnaval.

Ojos grandes tendrá María,

dientes de nácar,

color moreno.

¡Ay qué rojos serán tus labios,

ay qué cadencia tendrá tu cuerpo!

Vamos al baile, vamos María,

negra la madre, negra la niña.

¡Negra!... Cantarán para vos

las guitarras y los violines

y los rezongos del bandoneón.

Te llamaremos, Negra María...

Negra María, que abriste

los ojos en Carnaval.

We'll call you, Black María...

Negra María, who opened

your eyes in Carnival.

Maria will have big eyes,

mother-of-pearl teeth,

brown colour.

Oh how red your lips will be!

Oh how your body will have a rhythm!

Let's go to the dance, let's go Maria,

black the mother, black the girl.

Black!... They'll sing for you

the guitars and the violins

and the bandoneon's grumblings.

We'll call you, Negra María...

Negra María, who opened

your eyes in Carnival.

Bruna, bruna

murió María

y está en la cuna.

Se fue de día

sin ver la luna.

Cubrirán tu sueño

con un paño blanco.

Y te irás del mundo

con un traje largo

y jamás ya nunca,

Negra María, tendrás quince años.

Te lloraremos, Negra María...

Negra María, cerraste

los ojos en Carnaval.

Bruna, bruna

Mariá died

and she's in the cradle.

She left in the daytime

without seeing the moon.

They will cover your sleep

with a white cloth.

And you will leave the world

in a long suit

and never ever again,

Negra María, you'll be fifteen years old.

We'll mourn you, Negra María...

Negra María, you closed

your eyes in Carnival.

¡Ay qué triste fue tu destino,

ángel de mota,

clavel moreno!

¡Ay qué oscuro será tu lecho!

¡Ay qué silencio tendrá tu sueño!

Vas para el cielo, Negra María...

Llora la madre, duerme la niña.

Negra... Sangrarán para vos

las guitarras y los violines

y las angustias del bandoneón.

Te lloraremos, Negra María...

Negra María, cerraste

los ojos en Carnaval.

Oh how sad was your fate,

angel of mota,

brown carnation!

Oh how dark your bed will be!

Oh how silent your sleep will be!

You are going to heaven, Negra María...

The mother cries, the child sleeps.

Black... They will bleed for you

the guitars and the violins

and the anguish of the bandoneon.

We'll mourn you, Negra María...

Negra María, you closed

your eyes in Carnival.