Uruguayans Mourn Death of Musician José Carbajal, ‘El Sabalero’

Singer and composer José Carbajal, nicknamed “el Sabalero,” was found dead in his house in Villa Argentina, Uruguay on October 21; he died of a heart attack at age 66. José Carbajal is considered an icon of Uruguayan “canto popular” [popular song], as Martin Charquero (@MartinCharquero) explains via Twitter. Throughout the day, Uruguayans have been reacting to the news of his death on social networks; and, as Mariu (@mariu070) said on Twitter,

La musica Uruguaya de luto por el fallecimiento del Gran Sabalero

Uruguayan music is mourning the death of the great Sabalero

Image on Wikimedia Commons, posted by user Zeroth and used under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Creative Commons license

José Carbajal [es] left Uruguay in the 70s during the military government. He lived in Argentina, Spain, Mexico, France, and finally the Netherlands. He returned to his native country in 1984, but left for the Netherlands again in 1992; he had been traveling back and forth between Uruguay and the Netherlands for the past 14 years. In his song “Borracho pero con flores” [Drunk but with flowers] he sings:

Soy cantor, cantándole a mi pueblo voy
de país en país
dejo en versos lo mejor de mí
y me llevo su calor

I'm a singer, singing to my country I go
from country to country
I leave in verses the best of me
and I take its warmth with me

In the same song he wonders about Montevideo, “so distant and so loved”:

Twitter users have been remembering this and other songs by Carbajal. Fernando Francia (@fernandofrancia) wrote:

Haganme un favor… ríndanle un homenaje a EL SABALERO, trovador y luchador (youtube: angelitos, no te vayas nunca, a mi gente)

Do me a favor…pay homage to EL SABALERO, troubadour and fighter (youtube: angelitos, no te vayas nunca, a mi gente [songs by Carbajal])

Pablo Olivera (@pabli31) recommends one of El Sabalero's most famous songs, “Chiquillada”:

hoy los uruguayos estamos tristes se nos fue un grande de nuestra musica se nos fue el sabalero . Chiquillada – Jose Carbajal.vía @youtube

today we Uruguayans are sad [because] a great one of our music has left, el sabalero has left. Chiquillada- Jose Carbajal.via @youtube

In the blog Pensamientos… [thoughts], Fiaris briefly reflects [es] on the passing of José Carbajal, naming the song “Chiquillada”:

Nos dejo muchas canciones que sabemos todos desde que eramos muy jóvenes qué son vivencias Uruguayas como esta que se llama “Chiquillada”y relata la niñez de antaño.

He left us many songs that we have all known since we were young, that are Uruguayan experiences like the one called “Chiquillada” which recounts our distant childhood.

This citizen video shows El Sabalero singing part of the song “Chiquillada”:

José Carbajal and Plan Ceibal

This year, José Carbajal was working alongside other Uruguayan artists in a project called “Ceibal Canta” [Ceibal Sings]. The project is part of Plan Ceibal, the One Laptop Per Child initiative that gives a laptop to every child attending Uruguayan public schools. In January, the site 180 [es] interviewed José Carbajal and asked him about the project “Ceibal Canta.” The site describes the project:

Se trata de una serie de más de 120 conciertos que dará para todos los alumnos de cuarto, quinto y sexto de las escuelas públicas. El proyecto se inscribe en el Plan Ceibal ya que el espectáculo estará disponible en ese portal.

These are a series of more than 120 concerts that will be given to all students from fourth, fifth and sixth grade in public schools. The project is part of Plan Ceibal because the show will be available on that portal.

Carbajal explained what the project is all about from his point of view:

Vamos a hacer una especie de estampa del Uruguay geográfico: ríos, montes, arroyos, barriadas, pueblos en canciones y palabras. Además, vamos a dar datos de la producción de cada región, proyectando cosas, con buena iluminación. […] Es una especie de aula abierta.


Vamos a hablar de todo un poco. En cada región de Uruguay cambia la producción y entonces le vamos a contar a los chiquilines las cosas de su lugar. Hacemos una pintura del Uruguay, de todo el territorio, y también del lugar donde estamos.

We are going to do a sort of stamp of the geography of Uruguay: rivers, hills, streams, neighborhoods, towns in songs and words. We are also going to give them facts on the production in each region, projecting things, with good lighting. […] It is a sort of open classroom.


We are going to talk about a little bit of everything. In each region of Uruguay the production changes and so we are going to tell the children things about their place. We make a painting of Uruguay, of the whole territory, and also of the place where we are.

The Plan Ceibal website has created a page called “Homenaje al Sabalero” [es] [tribute to El Sabalero] that provides information on José Carbajal that children can access through their OLPC laptops.

Musicians Washington Carrasco and his wife Cristina Fernández were working with Carbajal on “Ceibal Canta”; on the day of Carbajal's death, Carrasco said [es]:

Quien escuche al Sabalero, está escuchando al Uruguay, el lenguaje uruguayo, sus costumbres.

Whoever listens to Sabalero, is listening to Uruguay, the Uruguayan language, its traditions.

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