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November 30, 2008

Alterna Tango idea

MediaMonkey Song-Liste

Following a request for help creating an alternative milonga, Peter Turowski proposed this playlist.

Interesting to think about, and there are some songs in here I haven't listened to before.

Posted by joegrohens at 07:53 PM | Comments (0)

Tango intimacy

Tango intimacy
Originally uploaded by Métempsycose

I like this photo. It feels like tango to me.

Posted by joegrohens at 03:34 PM | Comments (0)

Sandra Luna’s live performance. October 10, 2008

Letter from Buenos Aires
By Beatriz Dujovne

Sandra Luna and Raul Lúzzi. Click to enlarge.
From Link: Sandra Luna * Blog Oficial

Not all tango singers fulfill porteños’ expectations. There is no mercy for poor diction or out of tune voices. In a way they are as picky as Italians are with opera singers.

Sandra Luna has it all. She delivers the heart of tango with perfect voice, stage presence, beauty, warmth and drama.

Her intimate show happened at café concert El Vesubio in the mythological Corrientes Avenue where orquestas tipicas used to perform in multiple establishments during the golden era of tango.

[Historical Note: “Corrientes y Esmeralda”, the tango poetry written in 1922 by Celedonio Flores exalts the narrow street prior to 1933 when it became a wide avenue; I have to remind myself that the lyrics were not written for the avenue I know].

An excellent guitarist, Raul Luzzi, accompanied Luna on the small stage of this narrow, simple venue, all painted in black. She conversed with the audience in between songs, as many singers in this city do. This conversation creates a cozy cocoon for singer and audience.

Sandra sung many of my favorites, opening with the contemporary lyrics and music of Eladia Blazquez (who was born in Sur): “El Corazon mirando al Sur” [The heart looking South].

[Note: Sur is the district of Buenos Aires where tango was born. Most milongas are concentrated in Sur (barrios San Cristobal, San Telmo, Monserrat). Sur is where many tango musicians and poets were born. Countless nostalgic lyrics have sung – and will likely continue to sing - to Sur].

A poignant rendition of “Milonga Triste” followed, with music by Sebastian Piana and poetry of the great Homero Manzi (who grew up in Sur). Her repertoire included, among other songs, “Martirio” sung with the desperation its lyrics require, “Nunca tuvo Novio” [She never had a boy friend] from Agustin Bardi and another great poet Enrique Cadicamo, and “La Trampera” from Anibal Troilo.

Lazzi gave us a jewel, an instrumental only of “Adios nonina” [Good bye mama] by Astor Piazzolla; according to her this piece had never been recorded.

I enjoyed her selections of classic and contemporary tangos, particularly “Recalada” with music and poetry by contemporary artists; composers Nestor Basurto and Raul Luzzi and poet Alejandro Szwarcman.

I happened to see Szwarcman the following day at the National Academy of tango and told him about Luna’s repertoire including his beautiful poetry. With unnecessary humbleness he said that Luna can take anything and transform it into beauty. For Spanish readers, I recommend reading Szwarcman’s tango lyrics in: Todo Tango: Alejandro Szwarcman

(Copyright (c) 2008 Beatriz Dujovne).

Posted by beatriz at 12:01 PM | Comments (0)

Gavito’s dance shoes at the National Museum of Tango

Shoes, cologne, cufflinks of Carlos Gavito. Click to enlarge

Letter from Buenos Aires
By Beatriz Dujovne

There are many treasures in this museum. The typewriter where Catulo Castillo wrote his glorious poetry, the bandoneon play by our beloved Anibal Troilo, historic publications, recordings, and memorabilia of all kinds.

Link showing display cases: Academia Nacional del Tango - El Museo

Knowing that Gavito has a place in the heart of many in the Chicago area, I took pictures of his shoes, cologne, and cufflinks guarded at the museum. (Photos to come.)

(Copyright (c) 2008 Beatriz Dujovne).

Posted by beatriz at 11:25 AM | Comments (0)

La Biela


The picture above shows my "office": an outdoor table at confiteria La Biela, where I write my letters.

Link: El restaurante La Biela en el corazón de la Recoleta

Posted by beatriz at 11:19 AM | Comments (0)

TANGO...... alma, dolor y pasión.

TANGO...... alma, dolor y pasión.

Originally uploaded by C.Muá

The photographer says:
Vivencia intransferible del cuerpo. Magia en el encuentro, en el alma no hay más lugar que para el tango milonguero. Que no quede viruta en el piso de la academia, brilla el charol siguiendo el compás. Ciñendo el talle y mirándose a los ojos, así se baila el tango, sentido y pasional.

[My loose and weak translation. Suggestions for a better translation welcomed.] Intransferable experience of the body. Magic in the encounter. In the soul there is no space for anything more than the milonguero tango. So that there won't be wood shavings left on the floor of the academy, the gleam of the shoes follows the beat of the music. Encircling the waist and looking each other in the eyes, this is how is danced the tango, felt and passional.

Posted by joegrohens at 11:14 AM | Comments (0)

Iglesias del Pilar


This is Iglesias del Nuestra Señora Pilar. It was founded in 1732. The photo does not reflect what it is.

Posted by beatriz at 10:50 AM | Comments (0)

National Museum of Tango declared of cultural interest by the legislature of the city of Buenos Aires.

Letter from Buenos Aires. October 28, 2008
By Beatriz Dujovne

Salon Dorado. Click to enlarge

Hat of Carlos Gardel at the National Museum of Tango. Click to enlarge.

Sweet and brief. That’s how it was the ceremony held in Salon Dorado of the Legislature of Buenos Aires. This is one of many French neoclassic public buildings erected in the first third of the XX century. It features a ninety-five meter high clock tower. Upstairs the Salon Dorado’s elegant glass doors opened into a charming space of sober grays and rich golds. Shedding warm light, six chandeliers along the main central hall and ten smaller ones along two side galleries are testimonies to Argentina’s economic splendor during the early 1900s.

The ceremony, by invitation, was attended by the faculty of the Academy of Tango and their guests. During the mingling I spoke with Eduardo Aquimbau about our interview at La Refinery some years ago in Champaign, Illinois. (We had spent two hours talking about the early history of tango).

As founder of the Museum, poet Horacio Ferrer, wearing a light brown jacket, a striped white and blue shirt with his usual round collar and bohemian bow tie hanging down his chest, received the certificate of honor. Then he spoke about the creation of the National Academy of Tango in 1990, and entity which, under his initiative and direction, created the Museum of Tango in 2003.

Ferrer said that the "Museum of Rock" in Cleveland, which he had visited with Gideon Kremer, was spectacular. It was built with money. The Museum of Tango was created with limited financial resources. The space and display cabinets were designed by Ferrer himself. They did not have money even to announce “We are here.”

A brief show followed the ceremony. Maestro Juan Trespiana played “La bicicleta blanca” [The white bicycle] with lyrics written by, and today recited by, Ferrer, and music by Astor Piazzolla. Maria Jose Mentana sang the next piece with an exquisite voice.

Coffee followed with ample opportunity for conversation among guests.

I highly recommend to dancers - who go to Buenos Aires for tango – to visit this museum which displays things ranging from Gavito’s shoes to Troilo’s bandoneon, dresses of famous singers, tango books, historic recordings, and about anything related to music, dance, poetry and singing.

Academia Nacional del Tango - El Museo

(Copyright (c) 2008 Beatriz Dujovne).

Posted by beatriz at 10:41 AM | Comments (0)

More playlists

Below are a few more playlists from recent tango dances where I was DJ.

Previous playlists.

Posted by joegrohens at 10:15 AM | Comments (0)

November 23, 2008

How not to learn the tango

YouTube - Latin Dances & Dancewear Styles : How to Learn the Tango

Hoo boy.

Posted by joegrohens at 03:01 PM

November 19, 2008

How Humans Learn

I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand. - Confucius (551 BC - 479 BC)

Posted by joegrohens at 02:27 PM | Comments (0)

November 15, 2008

Piazzolla Music Online

This site has an extensive collection of recordings of the music of Piazzolla that you can listen to online, using Real Audio 3.

Astor Piazzolla Listening Booth

Posted by joegrohens at 02:14 PM

November 08, 2008

Each milonga is its own story

Each milonga is its own story.
Letter from Buenos Aires, November 1st 2008
By Beatriz Dujovne

Photos from milonga “Sueño Porteño”

“Sueño Porteño” on Wednesdays at 7 PM has a different ambiance. I found it friendlier and less macho scented than most. The space was problematic since I could not grasp the entire group, something I came to expect in the usual large square or rectangular venues. This one was split into several dance floors and seating areas but remodeling is planned for the near future. At 10 PM all seats had already been taken by the 500 to 600 dancers who had arrived before 8 PM.

A very accommodating woman (a rarity among milonga hostesses) led me to the only table available - next to two tables occupied by couples. I could move to any chair I wanted if one became available anywhere, she said. At most milongas, the men’s and women’s sections are clearly separated. Not in this one, a refreshing and different touch. My next seat neighbor greeted me, also an unusual social gesture in this city where people are friendly everywhere except at tango dance halls. He warned me that no one would look for a dance partner where I was sitting because this was the couples’ area.

What to do? Just sit there and watch?

So I did. I observed a majority of local people doing excellent art and entertained myself watching the different ways women dancers wrap their arms around their partners. Styles ranged from surrounding his shoulders and neck, to arms a few inches below his shoulders, to an awkward looking oblique positioning of the arm across his back (I started seeing this position relatively recently in Buenos Aires. I first saw it in Champaign, Illinois, several years ago in an Argentine couple of teachers).

Enough watching. How do I get invited to dance here?

To walk around and scan the environment may be a good idea. I did and was pleased to see “el muchacho del tio,” sitting around an elbow of the maze. (We had met at Club Español years before. He (el muchacho [young or not so young man]) was proud of his 90 year old tio (uncle) and insisted I should talk with him because he was a walking history of tango and could assist me with the tango manuscript I was writing). I moved towards him; I tapped his arm. He sprang up from his chair and was ready to dance. He is a good dancer without the airs one encounters among many tangueros.

After the tanda I returned to my territory for couples only.

I thought, shall I take a trip to the far end of this labyrinth? I did and I found more mazes until a voice reached my ears from my back. “Would you like to dance?" I turned my head and we recognized each other from having danced at El Beso six months before. He was as disoriented as I was in this complicated space. But we both liked its energy.

It became clear to me that the milonga organizer made this energy happen. She is a woman named Julia with a theatre background. With stage presence, in her becoming apricot tulle dress, microphone in hand, she addressed us with maternal assertiveness; she referred to women as “papusas” and to men “galanes” (papusas and galanes are two terms frequently used in tango lyrics of the 1920s and 1930s, they refer to women and men respectively). She announced the date of the upcoming “milonga of the transparencies.” “Papusas, we will wear something with a bit of see through (transparencia). Nothing showing. Only suggesting.” She also announced that the tanda of the rose and the tanda of the candy will happen later that night.

The galanes were told to fetch a rose following her cue, and then invite a papusa to dance adhering to the “strict code of cabeceo.” “Papusas may leave the rose at their table, or adorn the back of the galan with a garden.” For the other themed-tanda, women will have a candy, will initiate the invitation and then give the candy to the men. “We women are givers, we give birth, we give to others throughout life; this candy represents our giving feminine essence.”

[Cultural note. In Buenos Aires – whether in classes or at milongas – the words used for women and men preserve gender differences. The words “leader” and “follower”, which we use in the USA, wash out gender differences.]

After her words, an unknown galan found my gaze in couples-land and sent me a cabeceo from the bar area across the floor. He took a quick look at my shoe bag lying on the floor by my table. In between songs he said that since I carried a shoe bag I was probably from academia (meaning I learned to dance in schools as opposed to having learned within my family). Unlike me, he said, he was “from the terraza and the patio.” I knew what he meant. But asked him to explain and he did: terraza is where he learned tango, dancing with his cousins and family as he was growing up. So was the patio. I shared that the house where I grew up in Buenos Aires’ Barracas district had a terraza and a patio which I loved. Requesting I save the dance of the candy for him, he disappeared into the ocean of people.

[Note. Homes built in the Spanish tradition have terrazas, which are tiled open living spaces above the houses; they are surrounded by walls or ornamental iron. Patios are open courtyards in the middle of the ground floor of the houses.]

It was a pleasant surprise to see Horacio. He was waving from afar. I knew his name because we take the same course at the National Academy of Tango (a tango music class, not a dance class). Last week our professor, knowing Horacio and I were dancers (some people in the class are singers to be, others are poets in the making) asked us to dance so the class could observe what steps went with the variations of the rhythm and the pauses in the music. At La Gran Milonga we danced for real enjoying a Biagi tanda. We could not wait to report the event to the class the next day. Adding a little spice of imagination we said we had danced with a sign across our back which read “Sponsored by the National Academy of Tango.” The professor asked (tongue-in-cheek) if we had represented the Academy well. We said Horacio Ferrer (the president of the Academy) would have been proud of us.

People admired Julia, I learned. She took the microphone again and read lyrics written by someone in attendance – which she had also placed on each table. Another special touch. I believe her personality, her being a respected female leader, her arrangement of men and women sharing seating areas, have created a non-stiff milonga. This may be the reason for its success. It had started only two months ago.

The tanda of the candy was about to begin. I only had five galanes in the bar area across the floor to choose from. I decided to invite a friendly face. He accepted and we went out to the floor. From this role reversal I learned that I invited him with the certainty he would accept…because he was inviting me with a “smiling face.” Not with a smile, but an interested friendly look I am calling a “smiling face.”

The tanda of the candy was true candy for me. Because it was sung by Alberto Podesta. I had interviewed the singer two years before. He had told me he was in his late teens when he recorded the ageless and poignant pieces we were dancing: “Nada”, “Tu el cielo y tu”, “Bajo un cielo de estrellas.” How serendipitous that on that occasion Podesta had given me a booklet called “Caramelos” (candy).

(Copyright © Beatriz Dujovne, 2008)

Posted by beatriz at 01:55 PM | Comments (0)

art must arouse suspicion

"Somewhere art must irritate and arouse suspicions. Art is authentic when it is not complacent." - Rodolfo Mederos


Posted by joegrohens at 01:01 PM | Comments (0)

November 06, 2008

Playlist 11/5/08

This is what I played tonight.

Tango Playlist from Cowboy Monkey 11/5/08 (pdf)


Electronic 6%
World 8%
Vals 11%
Milonga 11%
Tango 64%

Some previous Playlists:

Posted by joegrohens at 12:36 AM | Comments (0)

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 11:31 PM | Comments (0)

November 04, 2008


Originally uploaded by leone.

The photographer Leone says:

"portrait of a man ....
photo taken during a conversation about tango and life ....
he was more than a dancer, more than any other teacher, he was more like a philosopher even when he danced."

Yes, I agree with that.

For Gavito, it seemed, tango was the way that a man such as himself - that is to say, among other things, an Argentine man - could explain and express and recognize what that it meant to be alive. I should say that this was my opinion about him. But you got this impression because every comment he had to make about life was related to an analogy of tango. And every lesson he had to teach about tango had to do with what it meant to be alive, with being human.

Gavito had some talking points that would astonish his listeners. At first you thought it was hyperbole. The next minute you reasoned that maybe he really believed his ideas himself. And later that evening you thought that maybe you had just heard the essential truth from somebody who had plumbed the depths of tango. Day by day, year by year, I still wonder about some of the things he said, and what the hell he was trying to say.

For example:

  • In Argentina all the people have only one feeling, and that feeling is tango.
  • Don't rush when you dance. Don't be in a hurry to get somewhere. Tango is not about looking toward the future. (Beats go by. In my mind's ear I anticipate that he is going to say that tango is about being in the present. I will be wrong.) Tango is about looking for something in the past.
It's a little cryptic, no? And pretty deep, depending on your interpretation.

Posted by joegrohens at 08:25 PM | Comments (1)