Saturday, December 17, 2011

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Today is the birthday of Carlos Gardel (1890 –1935), the legendary tango composer, singer, and charismatic, international film star, whom the world mourned when his plane crashed after a concert in Medellin, Colombia.  Argentina celebrates Gardel's birthday as a national holiday, called "El Dia del Tango".  What a voice, huh? 

For my readers who are not yet familiar with Carlos Gardel, and for other Gardel fans like me, here is a 3-minute Youtube homage to him, featuring one of his best loved songs, "El Dia Que Mi Quieras":

Gardel did not write and perform dance music, but was rather one of the key creators of the early form "tango-cancion", or tango-song.  A Wikipedia article on the history of tango music states: "Carlos Gardel became especially associated with [tango's] transition from a lower-class "gangster" music to a respectable middle-class dance. He helped develop tango-canción in the 1920s and became one of the most popular tango artists of all time." 

Gardel wrote the music, and sang, often accompanying himself on guitar, and his close collaborator, the poet/songwriter Alfredo Le Pera, wrote the lyrics to most of Gardel's songs. Gardel's repertoire naturally included many other tango songs, and he made tango popular in respectable society, because as his career as composer and singer began to take off, the western world was enjoying greater distribution of the new technology - the radio!

Tango lovers rarely tire of listening to the great songs of Gardel, but we'll put them aside when it's time to dance!  We don't find Gardel's music danceable, and so our dj's don't play his music in milongas.  However, there is this one anomaly:  the Golden Age (1940s/50's), and therefore, post-Gardelian, dance orchestra of Alfredo De Angelis that was still active decades later, recorded several albums in 1973 in which De Angelis took some vintage recordings of Gardel's, had the guitar tracks stripped off, and arranged orchestrations to accompany the maestro's voice!  So today a dj with a sense of humor, or of pure affection for our beloved Gardel, might play 3-4 of these hybrid recordings of Gardel with De Angelis!  Here's an example, accompanied by some charming tango paintings: You might enjoy following the lyrics on the screen.

Another Wikipedia article summarizes the degree to which the world appreciates Gardel, even today:  "Gardel is still revered from Tokyo to Buenos Aires. A popular saying in Latin America, which serves as a testimony to his long-lived popularity, claims, 'Gardel sings better every day.' The fingers of his life-sized tuxedo-clad statue on his tomb nearly always hold a burning cigarette left by an admirer."  And I'll attest to the article's claim that in Argentina, when someone wants to say, "You're great!", they'll often say "You are Gardel!"  (Argentinos are also known to say "I am Gardel." LOL!)

If you'd like to know more, hosts a comprehensive collection of fascinating articles about Gardel's work and life, plus discography, recordings of his music, and clips from his films.  It's worth a visit, or many visits:

Wow.  I just checked my Facebook page, and dozens of my Argentine friends and acquaintances are posting "Feliz Dia del Tango", and birthday wishes and homages to Carlos Gardel.  One just posted a Gardel recording and wrote, "Cada dia canta mejor!!!" ("He sings better every day!!!")

Feliz cumple, Carlitos!!  You've never really left us! 

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To help wind up your weekend in a celebratory mood, I offer you this video, which just made its appearance on Youtube yesterday, It features two of my favorite contemporary tango artists, Javier Rodriguez and Andrea Misse', performaing at Club Sunderland in Buenos Aires last Thursday!  

They're dancing to "Si Sos Brujo", recorded by Osvaldo Pugliese's orchestra.

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