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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.


www.danielmelingo.com

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