Archive for the ‘Tango’ Category

Man or ghost? Daniel Melingo's stage presence says it all.Never heard tango music? Now is a good time to tune in. Daniel Melingo is a classically trained, punk rocker musician from Buenos Aires (where else) who is resuscitating the folk music form with life, mixing its rich tradition with musical innovation and a voice comparable to that of Tom Waits or Nick Cave. His songs are heart-wrenching melodies that feature the host of unsavory characters and seedy nights fitting of the genre.

Many of Melingo’s song lyrics are directly influenced by the verse of Lunfardo poets of old Buenos Aires, where tango has its roots. Lunfardo was the slang of criminals and prisoners before it assimilated into general Porteño (Buenos Aires) culture. Melingo claims that the slang developed between inmates who didn’t want to share conversations with prison guards.

Melingo’s latest album, Maldito Tango, was recorded in Paris and Buenos Aires. Most songs are set in city backstreets at the turn of the twentieth century, the historical moment that gave birth to tango in Buenos Aires and Montevideo. It includes the tracks Pequeño Pariah “a prayer for a child raised in loneliness.” A Lo Magdalena, the story of an abandoned girl, saved by a nun, who eventually falls back into disgrace, crying when she hears the tango, remembering her past. En Un Bondi Color Humo is the story of the arrest of a pickpocket.

Some have called it low-life soap opera. England’s Independent newspaper called it cool.

Currently on tour through Europe, most of Melingo’s audiences won’t understand the Spanish lyrics anyway. The music seduces enough on its own: the mixture of wailing violin, birdcalls, rhythmic double bass, and twanging guitar, all shuffling, mixing, and turning with the bandoneόn (similar to an accordion, but a little different) accompanying the scruffy yet tender, charismatic voice of Melingo, is more than enough to keep listeners intrigued, even turned on.

In the genre of world music, in which Melingo fits, other artists are at work on similar projects converting traditional music into newer, edgier forms. One of these groups is Gogol Bordello. The nine person group plays eastern European gypsy music, turning it into high-energy punk rock. This turning of folk culture on its head led to a backlash for Gogol Bordello by purist, traditionalists. Not the same for Daniel Melingo, who won the 2009 best male artist tango album with Maldito Tango at the Premios Gardel a la Música in Argentina. Another common ground between these artists: theatrical and over the top on-stage performances that excite audiences. Melingo has a background in theatre, which shows in his on-stage presence as the eminent tanguero.

Melingo’s music is a bridge into tango for today’s and tomorrow’s generations. It is more accessible to modern audiences than tango’s classic performers, such as Carlos Gardel, Astor Piazzolla, Alfredo De Angelis, Miguel Calo, yet retains the sentiment–the reek of nostalgia, cologne, and the dim lights of the tango club.



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Sudestada is an arts and culture magazine based in Buenos Aires, Argentina with a leftist spin. In November 2008 they published a series of articles on Alfredo Zitarrosa's life and works that form the basis of this post.

Alfredo Zitarrosa (b. 1936, d.1989, Montevideo, Uruguay) is Uruguay’s most beloved folk singer. He is often compared with Carlos Gardel, another of the most famous folk singers of Latin America. Often, their songs express the spirit of Latin America. Zitarrosa sang folk milongas, he even had songs to Jose Artigas, the national hero of Uruguay. Zitarrosa, more than Gardel, also lead a life of letters and was a well-known poet, journalist and composer during his life.

He wrote some of his first poems in the attic of the pension his mother, Blanca Iribarne, rented out to sustain them. The hotel was on the street Yaguarón in Montevideo across from a cemetery. There he had his books, figure of Beethoven, portrait of Vallejo. His first poems were urgent verses or the perceptions of a sensitive man, his memories as he recalled them.

At the age of 23, he had little expectations when he sent a short book of poems, Explicaciones, to be judged in a contest of the Premio Municipal de Poesia Inedita, which he won. Juan Carlos Onetti, the famous Latin American poet, was among the judges.

Following he became friends with many other Latin American poets, writers, and anarchists. They would go to literature workshops and perfect his style, read over everything that crossed before his quiet gaze. Bécquer Puig was another man of letters with whom Alfredo shared his love of the arts.

The Other Zitarrosa

It was interesting that he always admired the parents of his friends. Perhaps this was because of the painful absence of his biological father and his constant changes of identity during childhood. Between the time of his birth to his sixteenth birthday Alfredo adopted three distinct last names: Iribarne, for his Mother, Durán for the adopted family that raised him, and finally, the one for which he is known, Zitarrosa, for the husband of his Mother.

By the end of the fifties and the beginning of the sixties, Alfredo continued being Alfredo, “El Flaco,” or “el pocho.” He was still not the Alfredo Zitarrosa known today in Latin America, nor was he even dreaming yet of being a singer, it hadn’t crossed his mind.

Alfredo continued writing as he worked as a newscaster at the radio, El Espectador, sometimes reading the editorials of his friend Vicente Basso Maglio, from whom he learned the craft of journalism, which he would later adopt as a profession.

Alfredo continued to write during his many years in front of the microphone.

He always remained humble. Even after his writing and singing career advanced, he would say that he was no writer, no poet. He would say being a poet was a privilege of humanity which it gave to itself as a gift, and that he was no such thing, that if anything he was basically and fundamentally a Uruguayan.

Zitarrosa is Gardel

Later in the early sixties when his singing career brought him outside of Uruguay, he would stay in contact with his friends thought letters. The letters were about simple, heartfelt themes: revolution, love, absence. “El amor es mutación constante, así nos lo parece y no amamos tampoco sino a lo que se nos niega; no reconocemos al amado sino en la apariencia que ya había abandonado cuando se nos mostró…”

Throughout his life Alfredo would write and reflect in his many letters to friends. Exiled in Mexico, after losing his passport, he wrote to then President of Uruguay Gregorio Álvarez asking for permission to re-enter his country.

He always wrote on the inner side of his LP’s. Later he would write for the periodical Marcha.

Revolution and “el pueblo” were the themes of so many of his compositions and his concerns. He held a firm belief in the youth. To friends he was known to ask: “does a revolutionary leader have to be a Marxist?”

The respected writer and journalist Carlos María Domínguez said about Alfredo: it is difficult to speak about “el pueblo” but somehow curiously enough when Alfredo Zitarrosa speaks about “el pueblo,” even after his death, it exists.

During his exile in Mexico he traveled to Nicaragua with Argentine producer, Modesto López. They were making a series of reports on “el pueblo,” the Uruguayan exiles in Nicaragua, and chatting with Sandinistas, Toms Borge and Daniel Ortega, among others. The work was never completed, though notes from the reports appear in Guillermo Pellegrino’s book Cantares del alma.

Upon his return to Uruguay in 1988 he worked on a program “Fábulas materialistas” that was published in the cultural supplement to the newspaper La Hora.

Five months before his death, August 8, 1988, he released the book Por si el recuerdo. The book contained twelve stories, written in distinct stages, over the course of 30 years. They are about childhood, humor, sadness; they range from autobiographical to fantastic, but always with a sense of continuity.

Alfredo Zitarrosa, today popular myth in Uruguay and Argentina, is a bridge crossing over into a world of deep passion, of life and its contradictions; an artist who got to the heart of simple, resounding things, a singer that put into words an epoch and a world that dreamed, a constructive doubt that never ceased, but with some unalterable convictions until the end of the road. “El futuro es de los que trabajan. Ese futuro se llama socialismo. A mi me falta hoy la canción que proponga en términos apropiados profundidad ideológica y la operatividad política necesaria. La canción de hoy me esta faltando, vacilo, escribo, escucho, leo, propongo cosas a los compañeros, consulto, pido critica, y me sigue faltando la canción nuestra de hoy, necesaria, viable…”.

An updated ZITARROSA still inspires today’s Latin American artists. The famous Uruguayan/Argentine group BAJOFONDO made a song called Zitarrosa, they performed the song live in 2009 in Rio De Janeiro.

“Zitarrosa” lyrics-
La milonga.

Ladies and gentlemen
a man.


His music.

La milonga es.

He`s ask tonight
he`s here
Alfredo Zitarrosa.


Ladies and gentlemen
ladies and gentlemen.

La milonga es hija del candombe
asi como el tango es hijo de la milonga.

He’s ask tonight
he’s here.

La milonga es hija del candombe
asi como el tango es hijo de la milonga.

He’s ask tonight
he’s here
Alfredo Zitarrosa.

Ladies and gentlemen
ladies and gentlemen.

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