15 Jan 2006

Música del Alma

What is tango without tango music? Tango music and tango the dance is an intertwined experience for me. Tango music elicits a deep instinctive response from the inner core that will not be denied.

There are many tango songs that I enjoy dancing to, most of them from the Golden Era up to the Fifties. Among the assortment of much-loved pieces, I find the few songs listed below entrancing and worth a special mention.

Este es el rey
The opening section and refrain of this song is bold and audacious as befitting the title. Trust D’Arienzo to concoct this big, brassy exciting piece!

Ella es así
The milonga by Edgardo Donato is totally wicked and irresistible to dancing feet. Exhilarating!

Siete Palabras
Some songs wait for tango dancers to complete the picture. Such was the case for Siete Palabras by Di Sarli. Maestros Julio Balmaceda & Corina de la Rosa’s performance on the tangoaficionado website clinched it for me. The plucking notes are magic.

Champagne tango
I confess a certain preference for late Di Sarli – rich, deep and emotive. There is something very alluring and sensuous about the soaring melody of this piece. Indeed, the golden notes tingle on the palate like fine champagne. Oh, to have the grace to glide to the Champagne tango!

Tres esquinas
This song by Los Dos Angeles (Angel D’Agnostino & Angel Vargas) always conjures up scenes of the Buenos Aires social dance floor for me, in particular Club Sunderland. Vargas’ singing is a perfect counterpoint to the echoingly nostalgic tune.

Yo no sé que me han hecho tus ojos
Ever since I watched the 2003 tango documentary of the same name (I don't know what your eyes have done to me) directed by Sergio Wolf and Lorena Muñoz *, this vals has embedded itself into my mind. It is sung by late tango singer and diva Ada Falcón with music and lyrics by Francisco Canaro. The documentary traces the life of Ada Falcón, her doomed relationship with Francisco Canaro and her subsequent withdrawal from society at the height of her fame. Ada Falcón was famous for her green eyes.

When I listen to Canaro’s songs, many have a characteristic sweetness, but often it is a bitter-sweetness of heartache and broken love affairs and not the sweetness that you find in pieces, say, by Osvaldo Fresedo.

Even though I am not a particularly lyrics-driven person, the lyrics of “Yo no sé que me han hecho tus ojos” reads like an impassionate love letter, the words in the setting of the haunting tune are unforgettable given the background context. Devastating.

Yo no se que me han hecho tus ojos Translation

Yo no se si es cariño el que siento,
yo no se si sera una pasión,
solo se que al no verte una pena va rondando por mi corazón...
Yo no se que me han hecho tus ojos que al mirarme me matan de amor,
yo no se que me han hecho tus labios que al besar mis labios,
se olvida eldolor...

* Footnote: "Yo no se que me han hecho tus ojos" was awarded the Best Latin America Film Ward

Quejas de Bandoneon
This is the definitive song for me. The signature piece by Anibal Troilo incapacitates me every time I hear it, the experience is so overwhelming that it makes my insides clench tight. The full orchestra sound and powerful bandoneon swells bring to mind a grand passion/story that spans across the years. Its full intensity is interspersed with achingly sweet sections of the bandoneon. Finally, the ending comes and goes without regret.

I first heard the song in the tango documentary “Tango, baile nuestro” by Jorge Zanada. It contains a seminal performance by an old couple to Quejas de Bandoneon which is so fitting I doubt I would ever see another equal to it. I should stop trying to dance to this song, it is completely beyond me to express it.

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