La musica

In Buenos Aires, if you are lucky enough to have a radio, you can listen to tango music 24 hours a day. My radio is now tuned into 92.7 FM. The tangos, milongas and valses that I dance to in the Milongas are now settling into my soul faster than ever before. Often when I’m dancing, my partner will sing his favourite tangos in my ear. This is gorgeous. These guys know every lyric of every tango. If only my Spanish was up to it… I am determined that eventually it will be.

To this end I have five strategies up my sleeve:

  • Study tango specific Spanish.

I have found an amazing book, ‘Enjoy the tango of learning Spanish’ by Demian Gawianski. It is a Spanish course complete with CDs, but designed for people like me who are here to immerse themselves in the tango culture. The Spanish is Castellano, the learning situations are tango related, the lyrics of famous tangos are included as part of the course of study.

  • Learn some Lunfardo.

Ariel introduced me to Lunfardo, the language that formed as a consequence of the mixing of the immigrants who settled in Buenos Aires at the end of the 19th century. It’s a slang with many words having their origins in the languages of Europe. Many tangos have lyrics written in this slang, or at least including some of its words.  My Spanish teacher Ana helped me translate the lyrics of Chorra, a famous tango composed by Enrique Santos Discepolo originally sung by Gardel. This tango contains a great deal of Lunfardo and I was fascinated to understand the origins of some of the words, the layers of meaning within the lyrics, the depth of pain beneath the surface jokes. Knowing Spanish alone would not be enough to translate such Lunfardo laiden tangos.

  • Improve my basic Spanish by watching English and American TV with Spanish subtitles.

This is the easy one. I have managed to find AXN on my cable TV.  In the early hours of the evening while I am resting before the night’s Milonga(s) I can watch Lost, CSI Miami and great movies in English but study the simple Spanish subtitles at the same time. This is great way of picking up conversational phrases which are often not easy to learn in formal lessons.

  • Listen to recorded and live tango music every day.

I have already mentioned the radio. Tango CDs are plentiful and cheap here and I have bought at least ten so far. In big music shops there is always a massive section devoted entirely to tango. Recently I bought a CD of 40 milongas, one of 40 valses and one of 40 of Carlos Gardel’s most famous tracks. The CDs cost between about $10 and $25 pesos (about £2 to £4) depending on the collection. Then of course there are the countless opportunities to listen to live tango music: the orchestras in the Milongas, lone singers in bars, small orchestras in the markets. At the weekend I went to a tiny bar in Abasto and heard beautiful tangos sung, accompanied by a guitar. The bar was traditional, packed and full of Portenos humming along. I was captivated by the experience. I have seen Color Tango twice now. The singer is only 18 years old, but what a voice. It tugs at my soul.

 See pictures of us enjoying the music in BA

  • Talk to as many Porteno tangueros as possible.

Ah well I guess this has to be the fun one! But only sometimes. You try explaining diplomatically to a Porteno that you only want to dance and be good friends, in a language you have only been learning for a few weeks! Still the more practice I get, the more confident I am so I guess I’ll just have to put up with the hardship…

The point is that I realise now that to be a great tango dancer I must have a real understanding of the music, and that means the lyrics too. If I am to truly know these tangos and be able to dance with my soul I have to feel where the tangos came from, the experiences from which they were born. So I need more time in this great city than I first thought. I think I’m going to be here for a while…


2 Responses

  1. I have to go to sleep again. It’s 30 mins past midnight, early Monday morning. I have to get up in several hours to begin a new workday.

    I’ll read you some more tomorrow night, Dear Sally. I’m going to see if I can find that book on I want that book. It simply sounds fascinating!

    Anywhoo, good night. Only on April 20th. Many more months before I catch up. 🙂

  2. For reasons unknown, Damien’s book isn’t on amazon. He’s right now touring for the new book (“He has also translated the book of poems Listening Inside the Dance: A Beginners Journey into Tango, by 2006-Poet Laureate of Belfast, Maine, Elizabeth Garber.”)

    The other book can be had from Europe!:

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