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Blog // Sounds
March 8, 2010

Café de los Maestros

For most of us, there is music we like, music we love and then music we carry in our hearts, as if it were a legacy given to us by former generations. Tango is an example of the latter for me. However, I grew up in Australia and during my childhood years Argentina was struggling […]

For most of us, there is music we like, music we love and then music we carry in our hearts, as if it were a legacy given to us by former generations.

Tango is an example of the latter for me. However, I grew up in Australia and during my childhood years Argentina was struggling under a military regime. The bandoneón, an accordion-like instrument that is the voice and soul of Tango was becoming rare as production had stopped after WW2 (they were made in Germany) and few artisans remained to tune the instrument. Moreover Tango was often misunderstood and misrepresented in popular culture.

Cafe de los Maestros is a project not unlike the Buena Vista Social Club, that aims to bring the living legends of the style on stage to perform in classic “orquestra tipica” format (4 bandoneóns, piano, bass, cello 5 violins and guitar) . Among the musicians, Osvaldo Requena and Jose Colángelo are established composers and band leaders in their own right. Juan José Mosalini is a living legend on the bandoneón (Varvello, Montes and Silva are also great well known players). Anibal Arias is perhaps the best known Tango guitarist. Juan Carlos Godoy has, for generations been a star singer. Fernando Suárez Paz was a long time player with the famous Astor Piazzolla. Special mention should also go to bassist Horacio Cabarcos and singer Nina Miranda, who at age 85 and has come out of nearly 40 years of retirement to sing with gusto and conviction.

I had the opportunity to hear the Maestros in concert twice, as well as attending a talk and demonstration on the history of the bandoneón. Both concerts saw the Maestros greeted with the same warm and delight. It says a lot about the power of the music and the effortless mastery of the musicians that such a strong connection was forged across the divide of cultures, language and generations.

In the space of 25 years Tango has gone from being a genre in peril to one that is vibrantly resurgent and able to seduce an audience on what is, literally, the opposite side of the world from Buenos Aires.

Perhaps this shouldn’t surprise us, since Tango has, within itself, a rich and diverse musical heritage spanning early folkloric tunes, great vocal songs to thoroughly contemporary, cinematic instrumentals. It is a thoroughly modern and cosmopolitan music, one of the first styles to emerge from the “new world” and command attention globally. Moreover, Tango is full of light, shade, dynamics, passion, sorrow, power and humour.

Hong Kong was very blessed to see a show like this and from the early on it was clear the audience understood the rare privilege they had been offered. Cafe de los Maestros were simply wonderful and unforgettable.

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