TIMEBOMB! La Bomba De Tiempo

To me, traveling isn’t about seeing the super touristy stuff and leaving. It’s about experiencing the culture, meeting people, and having great adventures.

As part of my time in Buenos Aires, I was trying to find fun things to do that aren’t super touristy. I’m not a fan of going to look at a building, taking a picture, and then walking to the next one (it doesn’t mean I haven’t done that, but it doesn’t really excite me).

As I was looking for fun things to experience, a friend told me about this party/concert/rave every monday night with drums that was called “La Bomba de Tiempo” which means, Timebomb. Since I’m a drummer at heart and I love good rhythm and a funky beat, I thought it would be awesome and decided to do.

It was at this place called Konex. They play every Monday, but sometimes they play indoors and sometimes they play outdoors.

We went with a group from Couch Surfing that Matias, a local guys who plays Ultimate Frisbee puts together. We went to the meet up spot across the street and waited. Slowly, about 10 people showed up from Couch Surfing. They were from Brazil, USA, Columbia, Australia, New Zealand, England and Argentina. When enough people showed up, we went inside. Tickets were $50 Argentina Pesos each (about US$12).

Once you were in, you can show them your ticket stub and get a pass for next week to be 50% off in case you want to go again.

The show started with some really cool solos and group drumming instructed by a few different people. About 30 minutes into the show, they invited two guitarists onto stage and played a lot of awesome rhythms behind the guitars and vocals. They started getting the crowd jumping around. Some songs, the crowd would chill out, stay planted and just sway side to side. Some songs would be so full of energy that the crowd would end up jumping up and down, clapping to the beat, and dancing around.

La Bomba de Tiempo Drummers

They look a little like Mario on stage in red and black outfits.

There were three distinct segments of the crowd:

  • The back. This is where the people were standing around drinking and socializing more than paying attention to the music
  • The front right (looking at the stage). This is where people were really only paying attention to the music, but a little too scared to let loose, jump around, and dance.
  • The front left (looking at the stage). This is where the party animals went. The people wanting to let loose, jump around, maybe form a mosh-pit, and go a little crazy. Just like any rock concert, this is where the crazies and the fun is at.

So where did we go?  We started at the front right and inched towards the front left. Near the very end, I made my way into the mosh-pit after being warned to guard my wallet and cell phone in my pockets…

Here comes the rant…

This seems like a normal thing in Buenos Aires. Nothing is safe. The general idea is that everyone, everywhere is trying to steal stuff from you. I’m all for being smart about where I am, how I dress, and what people see I have, but I couldn’t live in fear everyday. If you have a backpack on, you wear it in front of you. Not because it’s better for your back (is it?), but because people are going to open it and take your stuff in under 2 seconds.

You don’t speak english out loud at night when you’re not in large groups (it’s not so bad since there are a lot of tourists and expats in Buenos Aires). When you are out in public, you’re constantly observing everyone around you the whole time because you’re scared someone is watching you, waiting for you to let your guard down.

The whole time I was in Buenos Aires, people were trying to be nice and warn me, but it was always “watch your stuff”, “are you trying to stand out?”, “don’t walk near them”, etc…

Thanks for the advice, maybe I’ll just stay away from Buenos Aires and go somewhere else like Bali or the Philippines.

A lot of people say it’s not as bad everyone makes it out to seem, but I know two people that were robbed the week while I was in Buenos Aires. One on the subway and one in the busy streets at night.

I know there are problems everywhere, but even in Columbia, friends said the main cities there are safer than the main city of Buenos Aires.

…okok, I’m ending my rant about Buenos Aires. Back to the drums!


So, I worked my way towards the front left. Small steps turned into larger steps, larger steps turned into dancing with the people around me, and the dancing turned into jumping. Jumping/dancing, whatever you want to call it with cute girls from London and New Zealand.  The show was da bomb! Literally.

Here’s a video clip someone else took of them. I don’t feel like it does it justice because if they took this video on the night I went, most of the crowd in front of them would be going crazy.

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For more of Buenos Aires, check out Randi’s posts around the city: Walkabout Buenos Aires and Wandering Alone in a Huge City.


Desfile de Las Llamadas

Translated as the Parade of Calls. This is one of the main events of the carnival season in Montevideo and happens every February. It consists of two nights (last thurs and fri) in which candombe drum groups parade down one of the main streets in Palermo (our neighborhood) from 9 pm until about 3 am. People from all over the city converge on a 10 block area, carrying with them bottles of beer and boxes of wine. The candombe drum tradition originates from an african migrant call to gather, and sometimes uses a complex call and response pattern of drumming.

The Little House is located about 2 blocks from the end of the parade route which means that we were really close when we wanted to go check stuff out, but we were also really close when we just wanted things to be quiet. In the weeks leading up to the parade, various candombe groups would practice their routines by marching through the neighborhood in the evening (usually starting around 10 pm… still haven’t figured out when Uruguyans sleep).

We decided to party it up and went out for chivitos (yummy sandwich of sorts… more on those later) before heading up to see the parade. We got there a little early (i.e. the parade had already started, but the crowds hadn’t arrived) and found a spot right up against the guard rail dividing the street from the sidewalk, and the performers from the spectators. We were at the very end of the parade route which facilitated our arrival and departure.

Some general information about the parade… We were told there were approximately 30 groups walking each night, for a total of about 60-70 groups. The groups with better costumes, prettier girls, and better drumming walk on the second night. Each group is some sort of club, with the better ones having sponsors.

Each group is lead down the street by their banner and a carried coat of arms of sorts. This is followed by various people in costume waving large flags. It seems the thing to do is to fly the flag over the spectators’ heads, allowing them to touch the silky fabric. The children, who inevitably end up in the street with the performers particularly like to play with the flags.

The flags are followed quickly by one or a couple sets of scantily-clad dancers exhibiting various levels of happiness. Having just danced their way down 10 blocks in heels, I understood some of the unhappy faces I saw. If I had to pick two words to describe the dancers I would choose “flashy” and “feathers”. They had feathers in their hair, feathers attached to their shoulders, and sequins everywhere.

Following the dancers were a couple of pairs of old “geezers”; a men and women who are suppose to represent the eldest of the community. The men usually carried canes and wore fake beards and top hats, while the women wore long skirts with petticoats underneath to make them fluff up. All the while they danced and twirled down the street. One group that we saw on thursday night had replaced their old geezer with a young geezer who couldn’t have been more than 4 years old. He still looked the part; sporting a cane, beard and top hat.

Dancing around and through the old geezers and into the candombe drums were two or three girls in more elaborate costumes. Supposedly the prettiest girls in the group were awarded this honor.

Then came the drums. Deafening, you could hear them coming from blocks away. The sounds from separate groups never  mingled because the one closest was so loud it overshadowed any other sound. The ground vibrated a bit. Each group had 60-80 drummers, almost exclusively men, each playing their own drum painted in the groups’ colors. Not all drums are created equal, as some are larger or smaller and produce deeper or higher pitched sounds. The large drums seem to stick to a 4/4 rhythm while the small ones beat to a different rhythm, maybe a 7/8. It was hard to catch the beat and dance, but it was obvious that was my own unique problem.

Some of the groups would continue playing until they were well off the end of the parade route and on to the next street block. They would be followed by their family and friends and inevitably someone carrying a broken drum.

A broken candombe being pushed along the parade route in a baby stroller.

This went on and on, with groups following each other by a few minutes, until the full hours of the morning. Between groups people would come along selling things… carnival masks, light up toys, cotton candy, popcorn, and of course apples on sticks!

For more pictures, see Asa’s Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/cadburynaught/sets/72157629307021283/