If you came to Buenos Aires looking for Latin America and instead found 17th century Europe, you may be pleased to know that the Latin heart of Argentina is alive and beating in a small club in Abasto.
Tucked away in a quiet side street is Uni Club which hosts Fiesta Pa’ Gozar with a 13-piece jam band and resident DJ bringing you everything from mambo to jazz every Wednesday night.La Descarga was formed two years ago by three friends who had travelled around Latin and Central America studying music. They set up residency at the club and have been hosting steamy Latin nights there every Wednesday for over a year, inviting a carousel of new musicians to contribute to the music and develop new sounds so that every week is different.
A sure sign of quality; there are about three Argentines for every foreigner in the club and there’s a laid-back non-pretentious vibe, which is refreshing after the dolled-up dance floors of places like Pascha and Rumi.
According to Maxi Garcia, 33, who was one of the founding members and plays drums in the band, Cuban rhythms they picked up in Havana and Matanzi had the greatest influence on their music.
“Cuban music is really rich because it’s constantly evolving and reinventing itself,” he says. “Latin Jam is a night of different types of Afro music – we play mambo, latin, jazz – a total mixture.
“When we take a break, the idea is that the DJ plays something a bit different like funk, salsa or rap – to keep the atmosphere lively and break up the genres a bit, otherwise people get bored,” he says.Once the doors open the small club quickly fills up with loyal Latin Jam-goers and newcomers. As the beer taps start pouring and the temperature rises, noisy chatter and the sound of the salsa DJ really get the party started.
Each week the night is divided into an opening section of rehearsed music, followed by two jam sessions – where the band and guests improvise latin music. La Descarga currently comprises three trumpets, one baritone sax, one trombone, guitars, bongos, congas, a singer, cow bells – although composition varies depending on who’s playing with them that week.
Some musicians stay for a few sessions before moving on and the sound is constantly refreshed with new influences and styles.
The party shows no sign of stopping by five, when the band members have joined the dance floor and the DJ plays anything from Michael Jackson to (what sounds like) electronic mambo.
Drinks are pretty cheap for Buenos Aires, with a (treacherous) pint of Fernet and coke setting you back $25, Gancia $15 and Murakamis Mambo $25 while gaseosas are around $6.
Whether you want to salsa until dawn or stand by the bar listening to the band with a cool Quilmes, this is the place for Latin music and a lively night out.
Arrive from 11.30pm for a great midweek party, perfect for tight purse strings and totally worth a dastardly Thursday fernet-over.
Lead photo by Beatrice Murch