I have just completed a chapter synthesizing the urban historical geography of Montevideo through its tapestry of neighborhoods and the incredible wealth of music that is rooted in place.
The best way to delve into the individual character of Montevideo’s barrios is through music. It’s not that each neighborhood has its own genre, though certain genres originated or spread more easily in specific barrios. Rather, what I find so compelling is the staggering quantity of place-based music from Montevideo, and the sheer amount of it about the city’s neighborhoods. Montevideo’s music channels its built environment. Any given montevideano block, is like a Jaime Roos album. There’s no world beating sight or sound, but many fine examples of different styles existing harmoniously side-by-side. Homages to barrios are present in native genres like folklore, tango, murga, and candombe, but also in pan-Latin and global genres like cumbia, rock, reggae, and rap. In this playlist that accompanies my text you will hear 17 songs by 17 artists that transcend and infuse Uruguayan and foreign genres with a fluidity and eclecticism that could only be montevideano. With each song I hear, and each neighborhood I write about, the more I realize just how beautiful, creative, and real the city “lost in the South” is in a global context.