Archive for September, 2011

1942, September 29 – RAUL BERON RECORDS “AZABACHE”

The world “Azabache” means black and the lyrics speak of the abandonment in African candombe rythms of a young mulatto girl  in San Telmo, Buenos Aires whose hips movements are captivating….there is a reference to blood and “tumba” which in the lunfardo dialect means the boiled meat typically served in prisons…in the mind of legendary lyricist Homero Exposito he was harkening back to the period when blacks and mulatos outnumbered “whites” five to one…their disappearance is one of the most intriqueing riddles in Argentine history..many emigrated to Uruguay which had less racist policys and many died in in various wars as they disproportionately comprised the soldiers in the army….still others intermarried and many of mixed african descent were great contributers to the development of tango…for example Oscar Aleman, Cayetano Silva, Rosendo Mendizabal, Celedonio Flores to name just a few

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Raul Beron is considered by many as the best tango voice in history and yet in the eyes of cognoscenti, Jose his older brother, had the talent surpass his legendary brother but preferred the bohemian night life …but it wasn’t only these two brothers but the whole family that seemed particularly gifted…their sister Elba for example, would record several hits with the Anibal Troilo Orchestra….they  were the children of Adolfo Manuel Beron, a guitarist and composer who encouraged his children to play and sing; theirs was a household visited by Adolfo’s musician and artist friends….their first taste of stardom occurred when Adolfo organized his five children into “Los Portenitos” which began singing in the cafes of their home town of Zarate…Azabache was composed by Enrique Francini

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2007, September 28 – PUBLISHED, “TANGO LESSONS FOR LIFE”

“To surrender when you dance is a sign of trust and deep spiritual faith” says Jeannette Potts in her book “Tango Lessons of Life”…Jeannette turned her passion for tango into a series of seminars on how to live better through the lessons of dancing tango…she hugs her students and talks about the spirituality of the embrace…tango is the embrace and it gives us a feeling of power and yet vulnerability, “as when we fall in love” she says….ah! and she cautions of the women on female narcissism, “self indulgence and self obsession is an addiction and it destroys the dance”…she talks of giving and loving; “happiness is a by-product of helping others”…she uses the lessons of tango to help tired executives, to improve leadership, to be better parents, to reawaken femininity and to learn how to heal ourselves…but in her day job, Jeanette is a Urologist specializing in infectious diseases and chronic pain…

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She studied fine arts in college and sold automobile parts internationally before deciding to enter medical school….but it was her beloved grandmother Lily in Mexico City, a lover of dance, who bedazzled her with dancing stories and encouraged her to dance…she studied salsa and cumbia and even did slam dance at an inner city punk bar…one day she discovered tango in Cleveland and it changed her life…she later perfected her tango in Mexico City and Buenos Aires…through her infectious enthusiasm, her human warmth, the gleam in her eyes and he natural elegance she began to share her observations and lessons of life through highly successful seminars which include a passionate tango dance demonstration…one student said, “it reminded me of all the great artists I have ever seen…you brought the meaning to light and brought it all together as a humble teacher”

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1957, September 27 – ALFREDO BELUSI RECORDS “RECORDANDOTE”

He was a tough Steve McQueen type hollywood character…having grown up on the streets of Quirguinchos, in the province of Santa Fe, Argentina he was prone to settle arguments with his fists…with his low hoarse voice and his love of women, race cars and whiskey on the rocks he cut quite a figure and yet he lived with his mother and ironed his own pants…he dropped out of school to work in a series of menial jobs but he loved to sing…prodded by friends, he began singing in local bars and cafes where to his astonishment he was rewarded and encouraged by the patrons…at age 17 he made his debut in the city of Rosario with the Quarteto Los Ases (Aces Quartet) but his big break came when he was recruited by the Raul Bianchi Orchestra with whom he made his first recording “Te Presenti”…his best years however were with the Jose Basso Orchestra with whom he recorded “Recordandote” on September 27, 1957…

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He would later also sing with Osvaldo Pugliese and Alfredo De Angelis…”Recordandote” was composed by the ill-fated guitarist Guillermo Barbieri….Barbieri first met Carlos Gardel at a party to celebrate the victory of a race horse which led to an invitation to be part of his back up group…half of his compositions were recorded by Gardel including “Viejo Smoking” and “Cruz De Palo”, “Rosas De Otono”, “Anclao En Paris”…on January 12, 1935 he boarded the ship “Panamerican” to join Gardel not realizing that it was to be his last; he would perish at the age of 41 with Gardel in the tragic airplane crash in Medellin just a few months later…the lyrics to “Recordandote” were written by Jose De Grandis about whom little is known other than he died young at age 44…he was a violinist who worked with a number of singers including Roberto Goyeneche…he is best known for the tango “Amurado” which was recorded by Pedro Maffia and Pedro Laurenz

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1926, September 26 – LIBERTAD LAMARQUE, 1ST RECORDING !

Lorenzo Lamarque, the father of Libertad Lamarque, was a fiery anarchist with impassioned political ideas for which he endured hardships…one day he accepted into his theater company a young aspiring actor and singer Agustin Irusta who would one day become , perhaps the most widely popular tango singer of his time…one of Agustin’s first compositions “Chilenito” would become Libertad Lamarque’s first recording…interestingly, both Agustin and Libertad would become immensely popular in Mexico…Libertad would finally settle in Mexico and Agustin in Venezuela…the two would cross paths in their careers: in 1939 they would star in “Puerta Cerrada”, a highly successful film directed by Luis Saslavsky and produced by Angel Mentasti’s Argentina Sono Film producers of the mythical “Tango” six years earlier…in “Puerta Cerrada” Libertad Lamarque plays a woman who is released from prison 20 years after having been falsely accused of having murdered her husband played by Agustin Irusta

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Libertad Lamarque, like Agustin Irusta was born in the city of Rosario, Argentina to a French immigrant who married a woman with six children; Libertad was their only mutual child…he created a home, not only of fiery political idea but of music and literature as well…he started his daughter in theater at the age of seven where she frequently acted in his own provocative plays…by the age of 12 Libertad was already beloved by the public for her singing and acting…by the age of 18 she had attained fame as a professional actress and singer, had given birth to a daughter and was in the middle of a messy divorce…in 1935 she may have tried to commit suicide by jumping from a building; luckily an awning broke her fall and saved her life…the output in Libertad’s career is mind-boggling, over 800 recordings, 65 films and even the screenwriter for her film “Ayudame a Vivir”…she died at the age of 92 in Mexico City while performing in a “telenovela

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1925, September 25 – GARDEL SINGS WITH JOSEPHINE BAKER

French newspapers in 1925 were ecstatic about Carlos Gardel…Le Figaro waxed with child like enthusiasm, “his consumate artistry…his magnetic charm over the public…perfectly cadenced”…his photo graced the cover of the magazine “La Rampe” in a luxurious end of the year edition…Gardel was stunned by his success and almost incredulously he wrote to a friend, “I am living like a millionaire in the best hotel in the best neighborhood”…Gardel was more than happy to oblige his fellow countryman and mentor Paul Santolini when he asked him to perform at a charity event at the Femina Theater to help the victims of the Island of Guadaloupe…it had been ravage by the 165 miles per hour winds of the famous 1924 “Cuba Hurricane” the earliest officially classified Category 5 Atlantic hurricane…interestingly, it was at a charity event to help victims of an earthquake that “Evita” first met Juan Peron

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Among the performers at the Femina Theater that evening, was the great Josephine Baker…growing up abandoned and in abject poverty in the slums of St. Louis, she left school at the age of 12 to work in a series of menial jobs, surviving in makeshift cardboard shelters…her street corner dancing attracted attention and at the age of 15 she was recruited to dance in a vaudeville show…she found success in New York Harlem’s dynamic night club scene and eventually she was invited to Paris where her exotic looks and erotic dancing captured the imagination of the public…beloved by the French public, she became famous and rich at a time when she would be denied entry into a restaurant in her own country…her love of France was such that during World War II, at great personal risk, she used her notoriety to spy on the Nazis…she would become the first American woman to receive the French military honor, the Croix De Guerre…she was a mentor and inspiration to tango and jazz guitarist Oscar Aleman, one of the greatest entertainers in Argentine history…among her numerous lesbian lovers was the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo…Ernest Hemingway would call her “the most sensational woman anyone ever saw”

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1910, September 24 – DOMINGO SANTA CRUZ DEBUTS AT “LA MOROCHA” CAFE

Composer, Leader, Bandonist (Libra) – He debuted at the Cafe La Morocha with a quartet which included his brother Juan on piano…Inspired by the colorful Uruguayan revolutionary activist Aparicio Saravia da Rosa, Domingo Santa Cruz wrote the tango “Union Civica”; it was an immediate hit and continues to be recorded and played in milongas one hundred years later…at the time that he wrote it, he had to hum it to a friend at the piano, as he was totally uneducated in music…he was to write other popular tangos like ”Hernani”, “El Viejo”, “Una Duda”….at age 15 he had an accident, while closing a warehouse door a thick iron bar fell on his face landing on his leg; it was to leave him with a permanent limp and for the rest of his life he would be known affectionately as el “El Rengo…he was born in the neighborhood of El Once, in Buenos Aires…his father had fought in the war in Paraguay and was later a railroad foreman; in his moments of leisure he would play a small bandoneon which he had acquired in  pawn shop for a few pesos…

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From the moment the toddler Domingo, strong-willed in character, touched that bandoneon he was entranced with its sound and he would become an accomplished bandoneonist practically self taught…as a young man he found his first work playing in the neighborhood hangouts, La Morocha Cafe, El Cafe Atenas, the Cafe Tupi Namba in Montevideo often accompanied by his brother who was an accomplished pianist…eventually he and his brother opened a dance school , The Santa Cruz Academy of Popular Dances, where they would sponsor joyous tango dance contests often announced with great fanfare; the prize was more often than not, a handsome tailor-made suit provided by a neighborhood  tailor..Domingo had only one serious vice, he was a heavy smoker and he began to have health problems associated with it..doctors eventually told him that he had an intestinal tumor and that he would have to undergo surgery…a charity event to raise money for his medical expenses was held at which the best musicians of the day performed for free…nevertheless, during recovery broncopheumonia set in and he passed away at the age of 47

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1905, September 23 – BIRTH OF FRANCISCO FIORENTINO

Emily Dickinson had said it, “Fame is a fickle food upon a shifting plate”  and indeed Francisco Fiorentino,“Fiore” (Virgo), had been struggling for a number of years now…his career, from the glorious days of fame and fortune with the Anibal Troilo orchestra, had been in steady decline…but finally a breakthrough had come, Anibal Troilo, his old mentor, had invited him to record with his renown quartet, “it is the break I have been praying for” he confided to a friend..and so it was with renewed hope that he departed to the city of Mendoza where he would sing at a charity event..on the evening of the 10th of September 1955, Francisco Fiorentino sang before an enthusiastic crowd…it was the morning of 11 September when he and his musicians finally left the dance hall and someone suggested that some time could be saved by taking a short cut on the gravel road instead of following the main highway…30 minutes into the drive, after having crossed a bridge, the car suddenly skidded on the gravel and slid into the river which at this time of the year contained little water…in a tragic case of bad luck, the side on which Fiore was a passenger happened to land in a puddle of muddy water..Fiore was knocked unconscious and his torso remained under water and he drowned…he was 49 years old

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Francisco Fiorentino was born in the neighborhood of San Telmo in Buenos Aires to a musical family which had emigrated from the ancient fishing village of Giovinazzo, in the state of Puglia in Southen Italy…as a child “Fiore” began studying the bandoneon and envisioned a career playing in an orchestra…he was barely more than a child when he began playing the bandoneon  alongside his brother Vicente, a violinist, in silent movie theaters…it was with the Francisco Canaro orchestra, that he discovered his talent for singing as well as playing the bandoneon and in fact he would be one of only a handful of musicians who would also sing as well as play…he would have this dual role, bandoneon player and singer in a number of orchestras including Juan Carlos Cobian, Pedro Maffia and Juan D’arienzo…it was however, during his six years with Anibal Troilo, that his fame as a singer would emerge…later he would create his own orchestra and hire a young Astor Piazzolla to arrange and lead the group

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1977, September 22 – PREMIERE OF “SOLDIER OF ORANGE”

 “We were looking for a situation in which to bring the hero and the anti-hero of the film together and came up with the tango.” said director Paul Verhoeven …he had remembered Jack Lemmon and Joe E Brown dancing tango together in Billy Wilder’s 1959 film “Some Like It Hot”; there was the answer…“I grew up admiring that scene” recalls Verhoeven…his other inspiration was Bertolucci’s “Last Tango In Paris”…considered as one of the best European films in history, “Soldier of Orange” is about a group of friends in the Netherlands and how the onset of World War II leads them to different paths…two of those friends, Erik played Rutger Hauer and Alex played by Derek De Lint have widely divergent fates; Erik works for the resistance and Alex becomes an SS Officer…

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Eric, as an undercover spy, runs into Alex at a Nazi dance party where they dance a tango together during which Alex says, “It’s a pity we are not fighting on the same side”, “yes, it’s a pity” answers Eric…The film is based on the memoir “Soldaat Van Oranje”, the personal World War II experiences of writer Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema who helped supervise the film…the film had a budget of 5 million dollars at the time the most expensive film in Dutch history…it went on to win numerous awards including a Golden Globe nomination for “Best Foreign Language Film”…in 2006 Rutger Hauer would write, direct and narrate the critically acclaimed, short film “Starfish Tango”

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1914, September 21 – FIRST “BAILE DEL INTERNADO”

It was the custom during the “Baile Del Internado” (Interns Ball) to play grotesque pranks using dead body parts and sheets to simulate ghosts…every  year on the first day of Spring, an interns ball was held and it was customary that tango orchestras would debut new tangos at these events….on the eleventh ball, on September 21, 1924 Osvaldo Fresedo debuted “El Once” (the eleventh)…it was to become one of the most beloved tangos in history and to this day, there is probably not a milonga somewhere in the world that does not play “El Once”…interestingly, it was a piece that he hurriedly improvised at the last moment…however, during this ball, during the one of the pranks, one of the students accidently got killed and the authorities thereafter forbade the balls..

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The first ball was held at the legendary Palais de Glace, the site of important tango events including, purportedly, the altercation where Carlos Gardel was shot in the lung…it was also the cite where a young Angel D’agostino debuted his first orchestra…the tangos premiered at those balls were generally tongue in cheek compositions…“El Matasano” (to kill a healthy person) was written by Francisco Canaro to celebrate the first such dance…others included  “Cura Segura” (sure cure) by Juan De Dios Filiberti, “El Serrucho” (the saw) by Luis Teisseire, “la Muela Careada” (the infected tooth) by Vicente Greco, “El Frenopatico” (the loony bin) by Osvaldo Pugliese, “Mano De Oro” (hand of gold) by Eduardo Pereyra, “El Cirujano” (the surgeon), “Anatomia” (anatomy) by Eduardo Arolas, “Aqui se Vacuna” (here we vaccinate)

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2005, September 20 – PUBLISHED, “TANGO THE ART HISTORY OF LOVE”

The topic of “Race” is still a topic which awakens deep passions….Robert Farris Thompson’s, “The Art History of Love” in which he makes a strong argument for the African roots of tango, even precipitated a heated battle of critics over the subject…in startling acrimony, reviewer Anthony Howel says of Thompson’s book “this irrelevant and dishonest book…the author makes irresponsible claims and insists in implying that white folk stole tango from the blacks”...in a counteraccusation, reviewer Christopher Everett defends Thompson and in a point by point rebuttal…”Tango, The Art History of Tango” is in fact a thoughtful, well documented and well written book…the number of people of African descent in Argentina went from 34% in 1810 to 2% in 1887 and their disappearance is a subject of controversy and a source of racist humor among the residents of Buenos Aires…reportedly, when the great Josephine Baker visited Argentina in the 1950s, she asked the bi-racial minister of public health Ramon Carillo, “Where are the Negroes ?”, Carillo responded laughing, “there are only two, you and I”…nevertheless, Thompson, renown Yale Africanist and art historian, demonstrates how their presence can be clearly traced through the tango culture…

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He asserts that the word “tango” comes from the Ki-Kongo word which means “moving in time to a beat”…he explores tango’s relationship to cakewalk, ragtime, cubanhabanera and even rossini’s opera and he observes that the custom of dancing tango while moving in a counter-clockwise direction may have been influenced by the African myth that moving in a counter-clockwise direction means long life…he mentions that renown dancer Juan Carlos Copes was taught by Afro-Argentine Carlos “El Negro” Anzuate…he cites renown Afro-Argentine tango greats like Celedonio Esteban Flores, the black poet of tango, Rosendo Mendizabal composer of the immortal “El Enterriano” and Oscar Aleman one of the greatest entertainers which Argentina has ever produced…one reviewer said of the book, “Thompson mines working class origins and its emotions of defiance, freedom, self-control, humor, love and redemtion”

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