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Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Stories from the barrio

A while ago, some rousing music by Anibal Troilo was playing at a milonga, when an argentine fellow asked if I knew what the tango was about. He'd grown up with tangos playing at home, so he knew all the words. This piece was called Una Carta (a letter). At that stage my Spanish was not good enough to understand the lyrics, so he enlightened me: A man is writing to his mother from prison, asking if it's true that his wife has found another man. Only then did I understand the energy in the music. It reflected his frustration, pain and anger. Since then, dancing to this tango has been a totally different experience for me.

And so it is with other tangos, valses and milongas. Fundamentally, most are stories set in a working class background. Often the poetry of the letras (lyrics) is exquisite and multi-layered. On top of that, the emotional impact of their universal themes is amplified by superb singers and the music played by great tango orchestras. So nowadays I make a point of finding out the meaning of my favourites. To help with this, there are even a few websites with some translations in English.

Here are a few gems to read, listen to and view:

In Al Compas de un tango the singer wisely advises us to go dancing in the milonga in order to forget the painful demise of a relationship (Note how the two singers evoke somewhat different feelings), while El encopao seeks solace in the bottle. Some pitfalls of machismo feature in Gloria and Patotero sentimental (I found a stunning video of this one, too). Suerte loca deals with gambling, while Volver and Adios arrabal remind us of the powerful influence of one's past.

Do you listen to the lyrics? What are your favourites?


Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Short tango films

Tango music and dance have featured in many movies – sometimes as the major focus, e.g The Tango Lesson, Tango (Saura), Tango Bar, or as a strong thread, e.g. Assassination Tango, or incidentally as in Scent of a Woman, Volver, Frida.

Short tango movies, however, tend to make the dance the core of their stories; they’re made by professional groups, film students, animators, and many others with an interest in tango & with a camera in hand. There’s certainly a range of quality to be found on the internet, but there are some gems, covering a range of genres – documentary, drama, comedy.

La Apertura (22.11m) is a drama with Miguel Angel Zotto playing a cameo role as the boss of the tango show.

Lonely Woman Dances Tango (5.31m) – a woman’s fantasy through tango.

Perdizione Tango - La Historia De Un Ciruja (4.23m). You may remember ‘Perdizione’ which came out a few years ago, sometimes referred to as ‘supermarket’ tango. Only the trailer is now left on Youtube, but this is a spoof on the original – but with better tango technique.

En Tus Brazos (In Your Arms) (5.20m) also came out a few years ago, and is an excellent piece of animation; it carries with it a beautiful tale of love, fantasy, and tango.

New York Tango Film (8.55m) In documentary style, it shows a broad variety of every day "milongas" throughout Manhattan in unusual locations.

… and finally, a bit of comedy as well-known BsAs dancer & teacher Eduardo Saucedo hams it up in Milonga de mis amores (1.53m)

There are many more, but the quality starts to fall away, but if you add a comment to this blog and ask for more, I’ll email a list through to you.


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