Photographer's Note

These guys were playing tango for tips in the colorful Boca neighborhood, but nobody was paying attention, not even the local fellows sitting on the bench on the left.

I post the shot (scanned) to do justice to tango music. I emphasize – the music, not the dance. For 99.9% of tango photos depict the dance, I guess because it is so photogenic. But the essence of tango is the music. It’d be unconceivable to think about the city of Buenos Aires without it: it’s on the air, heard casually in buses, taxis and cafes, or simply magically as from nowhere when you just walk the streets, probably coming from a music shop, or the radio, or a club.

So what do we have here? A singer, guitarist and a bandoneon player (“bandoneonista”). Let’s analyze this.

TANGO-SONG: Although instrumental tango is played for tango dance, the most popular style by far is actually the “tango-song” (tango-cancion), invented and popularized in the 1920s by tango legend Carlos Gardel (1890-1935), he was generally accompanied by guitar in his songs. He’s a national hero, and his portrait is a national icon, found almost everywhere.

Later, in the 1940s and 1950s additional instruments were incorporated to the music, actually in orchestra formations, and many of the most popular tango songs were composed, generally with lyrics based on philosophical poems with heavy use of “lunfardo”, the local slang.

A few can dance the tango, but every citizen of Buenos Aires knows the lyrics of tango songs like “El dia que me quieras”, “Mi Buenos Aires querido” and “Cambalache”.

BANDONEON: The bandoneon is the quintessential tango instrument. It’s the bandoneon that produces that slow, melancholic, magic cadence of tango. No, it’s not a kind of accordion, you’ll actually insult any tango musician if you suggest that. The accordion has piano-like keyboards on one side and it has a joyful sound. The bandoneon has buttons on both sides, it is very complex and should be played slowly. It was actually invented in the 1850s in Krefeld, Germany by Heinrich Band (hence “band-oneon”), to play religious music and brought to Argentina by German immigrants.

Two legendary bandoneon players have had a decisive influence on tango, each one revolutionizing it in his own time: Anibal Troilo “Pichuco” (1914-1975), in the 1940s and 50s, and Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992), founding father of contemporary tango, or “nuevo tango”, in the 1960s and 70s.

ChrisJ, Angshu, CRATEOS, jhm, josepmarin, sam224, plimrn, IvarsU, TeresaT, pranab, pierrefonds has marked this note useful

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Additional Photos by daniel yoffe (pastadog) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1672 W: 289 N: 2603] (13111)
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