12 June 2010

Milonga on air

It was like a broadcast milonga. Tunes broken into tandas (that set of tunes for a tango dance) separated with cortinas (the disparate “curtain” music that allows the dancers to swap partners at a social dance, ie, at a milonga). So it was when Los Jovenes del Tango performed last night for ArtSound’s Friday Night Live. Actually, I’m cheating. I’d never heard of a milonga or a cortina (other than Cortina d’Ampezzo) before last night, but I’d heard some tango, and we all know how seductive it is (musically and otherwise). This music of the bordillos of Argentina is the music of prostitutes and the lower classes that was later taken on by French upper classes, and became an international music, impinging on jazz and classics. I’ve written on CJ of Marcella Fiorillo, Canberra’s wonderful link to Argentina, performing a tango opera of Astor Piazzolla, Maria de Buenos Aires. This was less formal and less classically-composed, but still ordered and complex with emotional crescendos, some unexpected time signatures and the inevitable words of passion. During the intermission interview, Natalya quoted one line: “I slit my wrists and bleed at your feet”. Not light hearted and not writing of the middle classes, other than perhaps their impassioned teenagers. But unlike teenagers with their passions, this feels true. This feels of backstreets and desperation. I can hear why people get so committed.

The band was an uncommon mix, too (as was Marcella’s Piazolla orchestra). The backing was Simon on a steady double bass and Liena on a classical pedal harp that performed various lines for guitar and others. There was no bandenoneon, but Valdis drew notes of heart-on-the-shoulder emotions from the bellows of an accordion and Lathika’s violin generously emoted each impassioned line. I particularly noticed both the violin and accordion for these intimately voiced melodic snippets. Valdis swapped for trombone at one stage and that fit nicely too. Natalya provided the voice. I found the tango voice strangely enervated but I expect that’s the nature of tango singing: a world-weariness that we also recognise in cabaret, perhaps a European equivalent with a similar dark history. But it’s lovely music of rhythm and passion but also with an end-of-time edge.

Los Jovenes perform regularly for milongas of the Tango Social Club of Canberra, so if you have always wanted to indulge in dancing this Argentinian passion, chase them up. Link below. Los Jovenes del Tango are Natalya Tacheci (vocals), Lathika Vithanage (violin), Valdis Thomann (accordion, trombone), Liena Lacey (harp, viola) and Simon Milman (contrabass).

  • Tango Social Club of Canberra
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