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November 05, 2008

Adriana Varela Live in BA

Photo courtesy of Luis Guzman. Click to enlarge.

Adriana Varela - live performance Letter from Buenos Aires. October 31th 2008. Beatriz Dujovne

Adriana is definitely a wild tango singer. Different in style and personality from others I watched perform: Susana Rinaldi, Amelita Baltar, Maria Graña, Sandra Luna. Five different strong personalities, voices, stage presences, ways of feeling and delivering our splendid tango poetry.

The Ateneo theatre was filled to capacity. I asked the man sitting next to me why this was the most expensive show I ever attended in Buenos Aires. Varela has a big following, he said. She came to tango from rock and roll. She has followed Roberto Goyeneche’s (deceased) tango singing style. My neighbor warned me that his wife would scream during the show; that’s what she does when she likes something, he added. For no reason at all he recommended “La Fanola” a program in Radio Nacional from 1:30 am to 5:00 am. He likes to listen to the radio at those wee hours of the night.

[Cultural note. Strangers converse in a casual manner in Buenos Aires; we call it chamuyo. Like tango - creature of the night - porteños also like to live at night]

Dressed in furious purple skinny pants, strapless top, silver high heels, hair long to the waist in the back, she made a dramatic entrance yelling “Buenos Aires como te quiero!” (How much I love you Buenos Aires). She likes singing here more than anywhere else in the world even if she only makes two bucks (dos mangos) per show. Her mother tells her that poverty must make her horny (a vos te calienta la pobreza).

By the end of the show I could understand why singers like to perform in Buenos Aires. Where would they be able to turn the microphone towards the audience and have everybody sing lyrics they know by heart and are crazy about?

The ongoing conversation between her and audience seemed to be taking place in a large living room.
Varela interacted back and forth with friends, family, and her psychoanalyst, who was in the audience.

[Cultural note. Porteños like being in psychoanalysis and openly talking about it.]

She has been in psychoanalysis “one thousand years.” “Where are you Dr. Ivan?” (spot lights on him). “Where are you mom?” (spot lights on her) “I love you mom, even if you call me fifty times a day, even if you are a ball breaker (an hincha pelotas). Considering how you are, I still love you mom (tongue-in-cheek). I am going to dedicate the next tango to you. You are going to love it so much that you are going to fall on your ass” (in the back row her mother stood up and cheered her daughter). Mama had asked her not to use bad words but she made ample use of them in Spanish and in lunfardo. "I told mama to stay home if she could not stomach foul language.”

[Cultural note: Lunfardo is the everyday genre spoken by porteños; it is used in tango poetry as well].

Varela announced this show was being recorded for a CD. Six excellent guitars accompanied her. The audience, feeling part of the recording, sang and whistled at her request. She sang a fabulous repertoire of classic tangos: “Caminito soleado,” “Bajo un cielo de estrellas,” “Desde el alma,” “Nieblas del Riachuelo,” “Gricel,” “De barro,” “Amurado,” “Lejana tierra mia,” “En un feca,” and “Silbando” among other songs.

Foot in her mouth: “I love you (looking up to the balcony). I love people upstairs because they have less money; they are good people and the best love makers.” (Oops). “I like people on the main floor too, I do, they pay big money.”

Tonight’s performance was the last before Varela’s tour to Chile.

Foot in the mouth: “I love the Uruguayans, I would have preferred to lose (a recent soccer game) to them than to the Chileans. (Oops). How many Chileans are there in the audience? (Several hands go up). I love Chileans too. I do. I will be there in a few days. They treat me very well. But with the Uruguayans we share the same codes, the mate.”

“Ayy...me duelen los zapatos. May I take them off? Only one foot hurts, the right one.” From that point on she performed barefooted.

Someone stood up and shouted:
- Adriana, do you know how is today’s tango called?
- No.
- It is called Adriana Varela.

She rarely sang standing or sitting up as other singers do. She frequently leaned forward, contorted or squatted. My neighbor asked me if I liked her; I told him I was trying to. I enjoyed her freedom to say what she pleased, her healthy shamelessness, her speaking before thinking, even if she did not enunciate all her vowels, even if she imitated Goyeneche in her interruptions of the flow of sentences or in the interjection of unexpected pauses.

My neighbor whispered in my ear that Cacho Castaña (a well known and wild tango singer performer with a rock background) was in love with her and composed a tango for her “La gata Varela” (Varela the cat). At the end of the show the audience asked her to sing it. “How do you ask me to sing a song written to me. It would be like…masturbation, I would be praising myself.” But she did. “After the thousand years I was in psychoanalysis, Cacho wrote my x-ray in poetry. It must be the street in him.”

(Copyright (c) 2008 Beatriz Dujovne)

Posted by beatriz at November 5, 2008 11:31 PM


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