the Tango Zone

What an amazing week of live tango music!  We must be in the cosmic tango zone, because we stumbled — metaphysically if not literally — into a milonga called Zona Tango in the Balvanera barrio.  A kind of offbeat, rundown area, a funky gritty milonga in a space owned by the Carboneros Genovese Argentino.  Italian coal miners from Genoa?  Founded in 1905.  The tango zoners appear to be mostly under 30, hip, cool youngsters, lots of ponytailed guys & beautiful young women, a few middle-aged hipster intellectuals, the usual lefty mix.   A group of leather-jacketed Fonzie types were standing, beers in hand, in one doorway.  (Are they here for the music, I ask?  Of course not, says Ben, they’re here for the girls!)  No scarcity of men who can dance in Buenos Aires!  “The odds are good, but the goods are…. dark and handsome!”

The dancing was mostly traditional tango, vals and milonga, but with the exuberance of youth and nuevo flavor, so crowded it was almost a meleé, but with a happy, high-energy vibe.  When the orchestra finally started (’round midnite) the crowd was electrified.  The musicians were so young!  The lead violin (of 4 violins) looked about 16.  The group included 4 bandoneons, bass fiddle, guitar, keyboard, and two singers: a guapíssimo youth (translate:  good-looking guy) and a rockin’ mama.  She reminded me of a latina Janis Joplin, lungs on steroids.  Great music, some of it original, t all of iintense and passionate.  There was a whole contingent of Colombians there, and a Mexican who lives in Paris, in BsAs visiting his daughter who also tangos, of course.

the 4 bandoneon players in action

Around 2:00 am we had to get off the dance floor because Ben didn’t have enough elbow and body-blocking technique to keep his girl dancing safely around the floor (like a soccer player keeping defenders off the ball as he’s heading for the goal), though still feeling friendly and in the spirit of La Zona Tango.  I’m not sure when Orquesta Típica la Vidú stopped playing, we left at 2:30, tired but happy.

Friday night we met some friends at La Baldosa, a beautiful tango club in Flores, a barrio about 12k to the south of this huge metropolis.  Our milonga teachers Gabriela Elias & Eduardo Perez host this weekly milonga.  We arrived early (9 pm) to take their class which started an hour late.  (Buenos Aires time!)  They are such awesome teachers!  Gabriela  is one of the judges of the yearly international Tango competition.  They  returned last week from a workshop and performance tour in Italy.  Tango teachers seem to go back and forth to Italy like you or I would go to SF or LA.  Most Argentines are of Italian descent, the rest are Spanish, with a spattering of other nationalities, like the spots on an Appaloosa.  A “criollo” is a person of mixed Euro and indigenous blood, born in South America.

Orquesta Sans Souci

At La Baldosa we were delightfully surprised by yet another random act of divine benevolence.  One of our favorite tango orchestras was playing:  Orquesta Sans Souci!   Three bandoneons, 4 violins, piano, bass… and their awesome singer, el Chino Laborde,  himself son of another tango singer.  So happy to hear them again.  They evoke the style of Miguel Caló, from the 1930s & 40s.  We danced, and shared a table, a bottle of very decent Malbec (22 pesos a bottle)  and conversation  (between tandas) with our good friends, the beautiful poetas Silvina and Marisa, Marisa’s husband Salvatore (they spend part of the year in Italy, the rest in BsAs), and a new friend, Nuria.

Nuria & Silvina

We met a couple of years ago after exchanging 16th century style poetry on the losFansdePapito website ( fan club of tanguero Jorge Firpo).  The site thrived for a few months on some absolutely phenomenal poetry, in the style of Garcilaso, but eventually collapsed due to an invasion of people we didn’t know hacking in from god knows where.

Marisa & Salvatore

The show was over when the orchestra quit playing and the rock’n’roll break started off with Creedence Clearwater.  After 5 hours of tango we were done!

Today we’re taking it easy.  We decided to forego the 2-hour canyengue class in favor of allowing our bodies and minds to recuperate so we can go out to yet another milonga this evening!!  Next blog will be lots of pix of the city and our neighborhood.  Ciao from Buenos Aires!!

Ben y Willow

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One thought on “the Tango Zone

  1. So interesting to know that there is still raw and fresh music happening. Guess its always there but I admit the dedication of musicians and dancers to evolve a craft is inspirational. So thanks for keeping me fresh.

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