Un saludo cordial: teatro musical popular intelectual y la voz política de la murga Uruguaya
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This dissertation is a literary analysis of the popular culture phenomenon of a component of Uruguayan Carnival – the murga. Murga is a musical theater form whose members sing and act on tablados – neighborhood makeshift stages – and is the most politically subversive component of Carnival. My study traces the origins of murga and analyzes historically significant shows as well as contemporary performances. This project also includes an anthology of transcribed and annotated murga repertoires and interviews, which fills a gap in the study of Uruguayan popular culture as such research has never before been conducted. Chapter 1 examines the origins of Uruguayan Carnival and murga in particular, both in concrete history as well as in its “mythical origin,” a term used by Uruguayan historian Milita Alfaro to describe the collective idea of popular culture phenomena. In the 20th century, murgas became a crucial form of resistance during the military dictatorship as murguistas could subvert censorship and voice criticism of the regime. The chapter concludes with a discussion of present-day murga and its evolution into a Carnival institution, considering how the function of murga has changed in today’s society. Chapter 2 presents a close reading and literary analysis of two historically important murga performances, Falta y Resto in 1992 and Agarrate Catalina in 2011. These two years are significant because of their political context; in 1992, Uruguay was in a moment of post-dictatorship transition, and 2011 was the “honeymoon” period of the leftist Broad Front Coalition. In particular, I examine the intellectual, meta-literary nature of murga lyrics and their ever-present social commentary. Chapter 3 is a comprehensive study of three shows from 2017 and is based on research conducted in Montevideo, and also includes interviews with historically important murga figures including Milita Alfaro, creator of Falta y Resto Raúl Castro, and Edu “El Pitufo” Lombardo, one of the most recognized murga performers. The full transcriptions of the performances are collected and annotated in chapter 4. This final chapter, as well as the included appendices, represent the foundation of a murga archive and the construction of new primary texts as a base for future research.
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