By mid 18th century, the port of Montevideo was the only access way for Africans slaves to enter the River Plate region. At the end of that century 35% of Montevideo's population was of African descent. At that time it was typical of black slaves to play the musical rhythms of their own countries in their free time. The music they produced became known as tango, or tambo. The term candombe appeared in 1830. Today candombe is played in Montevideo streets at weekends and holidays.
On 6th January, drums are played in celebration of Saint Balthazar's day, or of “the call of the kings”. On the first Thursday or Friday of February, comparsas parade in the "Llamadas", a traditional candome celebration performed along streets of the traditional Barrio Sur and Palermo areas. Old houses, narrow streets and sidewalks are the trademark of these neighborhoods, a place of residence of many Afro-Uruguayans. The candombe is connected to ancient African roots, when it was a tradition to play music with three drums (chico, repique and piano). These same drums are used to play candombe, and the only difference among them is their size. Before being played, drums are usually tuned around a bonfire.
In 2009 UNESCO declared candombe Intangible Heritage of Humanity.