Posted: August 2, 2011 in Parameters
Tags: , , ,

The Tango (from PARAMETERS, 2010)

The Tango is a passion, a way of life.

Tango was born on the Rio De La Plata delta, when Buenos Aires was a child: holes in pockets, scuffed shoes, a tattered bandanna called Monserrat.

The dance tales a story: In the long struggle between the power of the Rancheros and the centralised State, the Pampas felt the hand of man.
The economy is a snake, it twists and turns, at times it devours its own children. In the 1850s it twisted again. Rural workers made their way to the city, they fetched up in Monserrat.

With them came the old dances, music; the milonga was danced on the street of Corrientes. The music of European immigrants trickled through alleyways; the German religious accordion, the Bandoneon, was prominent. Lutheran austerity met Catholic poverty. Pride was in the mastery of its 71 buttons, in elaboration upon a frugal base. The withheld gesture, syncopation: all the arts of drawing from a 4:4 structure the utmost gestures.

The Tango, the Condorel, the Fandango grew up in the barrio, fostered by uncertainty, fed by hunger, and the bitter herbal tea, Mate, a substitute for coffee. For all the coffee was exported.

As the snake lay glutted in the country’s Golden Age, the Tango grew into its youth: everyone was young again, the future possible. Everyone danced to ‘La Cumparista’s marching tune, tweaked and as polished as patent leather shoes.

Songs added an extra sound. So when a world at war no longer found safe footing, they listened to songs of loss: of pride and confidence, and loss.
The singers held them with a sob in the voice, as the world reeled.

Nothing was the same; the snake turned, and columns shook and crumbled. Argentina became a backward look, a lost glory, the plaster falling from the cornice of the fashionable street, never to be replaced.

The long, troubled look into the dark of La Plata at night; only warships churned, some never to return. Later, the Belgrano, sunk like the fortunes of Presidents, before and after.

To remember the songs. Tango is a passion. At times it shows a light across the delta, a boat perhaps, where fishermen can still make a living.
Tango lives on in the wilderness, far from home. It establishes cult centres: Paris, New Orleans, even Helsinki, Tokyo.

Lately the Paris based performers, dancers, musicians, singers joined in a dance-based beat and rhythm to become ‘The Gotan Project.’

But it always returns home: Buenos Aires, its’ columns and chipped marble, the peeling paint. The passion as strong as ever. Whenever the blood is taxed in its artery, the economy lays its stifling torpid weight on all, bodies can still transport the soul, dance it out into the brag, and the ultimate sacrifice of self, that Tango enacts.

Out of the head of the snake a bird flies, from its body the blood beat and rhythm; its poised draw-back places precisely the footstep of new rhythms.

From SUR (South) 1948, lyrics Homero Manzi:
Ancient San Juan and Boeda street corner, the whole sky,
Pompeya and farther down, the floods
Your loose hair of a bride in my memory
And your name floating in the farewell.
The blacksmith’s corner, mud and pampa,
Our house, our sidewalk, and the ditch
And a scent of weeds and alfalfa
That fills the heart all over again.

Or the accumulation of urban details: witnesses: A MEDIA LUZ (In Half Light), 1925. Lyrics: Carlos Cesar Lenzi

Corrientes three-four-eight
Second floor, elevator.
There are no doorman, nor neighbours.
Inside, cocktail and love.
Loft furnished by Maple:
Piano, rug and nightlamp,
A telephone that answers,
A phonograph that cries
Old tangos of my flower,
And a porcelain cat.

The mystery of: CHARLMOS (Let’s Chat) 1942. Lyrics: Luis Rubinstein

Belgrano 6-0-1-1?
I would like to speak to Renee…
She doesn’t live there?… No, don’t hang up…
Could I talk with you?

Don’t hang up…the afternoon is gloomy.
I feel sentimental.
I know Renee does not exist…
Let’s chat…
…life is so short…
let’s dream, in the grey
rainy afternoon…

From the same period the highly impressionistic, almost surreal: TINTA ROJA (Red Ink) 1942. Lyrics: Catulo Castillo

Thick wall,
Red ink in the
Gray of yesterday…
Your emotion
Of brick, happy
Over my alley.
And a blotch
Painted the corner,
And the cop
That in the wide of the night
Placed to the end of the beat
As a clasp…

And then suddenly, possibly a future: PRELUDIO PARA EL ANO 3001. (Prelude for the year 3001) Lyrics: Horacio Ferrer, and music by the modern master Astor Piazollo.

I’ll be reborn in Buenos Aires in another June afternoon
With a tremendous desire to love and to live.
I’ll be reborn fatally, it will be the year 3001
And there will be an Autumn Sunday at san Martin square
Little stray dogs will bark at my shadow
With my modest baggage I’ll arrive from the beyond
And kneeling down on my dirty and pretty River Plate
I’ll knead me another tireless heart of mud and salt
And three shoe shiners, three clowns and three
Sorcerers will come, my immortal accomplices…..

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