Tango ’til you’re sore

Various Artists

The Rough Guide to the Music of Argentina (World Music Network RGNET1119CD, 2004)

When it comes to Latin music, tango ranks number one for me. And if I had the money and good health to travel, a journey to Argentina would be at the top of my agenda. The story of tango is one of rags to riches or from working class to high society. This global music export found its humble and saucy beginnings in brothels and bars during the late nineteenth century. By the 1920s tango grew to
an international sensation while losing its seedy association. However, it hasn’t lost its sensuality or passion since tango still ranks there at the top of seductive dances as anyone that has witnessed tango dancers tangled in an embrace will attest.

Many of the early tango innovators and composers appear on The Rough Guide to the Music of Argentina as do pioneers such as Astor Piazzolla, the superstar Carlos Gardel and contemporary artists, La Chicana, Adriana Varela, Barbara Luna, Lorena Astudillo and Cuarto Almagro. Many vocalists sweep listeners off of their feet, and musicians perform music that sets passion loose in the bloodstream. And Hugo Diaz delivers a heartfelt Volver on his harmonica. However, other styles of music appear on this CD, including, Chacarera which is typically performed with guitar, vocals and the Argentine traditional drum, (bombo) and Chamame, one of Argentina’s popular folk styles, driven by wild accordion.

This compilation lays out a vast musical landscape by exploring the various facets of tango and Argentina’s other styles of traditional music. Jaime Torres, a master of the Andean string instrument, charango, Beatriz Pichi Malen who explores Argentina’s indigenous side with her love song, Poyenekayan, bombo virtuoso Domingo Cura, folkloric guitarist Alberto Rojo and Chamame accordion
virtuoso Chango Spasiuk (rancheras, polkas, jazz and waltzes) share the spotlight.

I am delighted with the music that appears on this compilation. Once again, Dan Rosenberg (Rough Guide to the Music of Canada) lends his talent as a compiler to the series. While I find myself enjoying all the tracks, my favorite is Astor Piazzolla’s iconoclastic Verano Porteño. He of course, deserves a CD all to himself and is responsible for introducing me to tango and Argentina. Many years ago, I discovered one of his CDs on a rainy day and one listen to that CD changed my life. And now as I listen to The Rough Guide to the Music of Argentina I am swept up in the whirl and madness, passion and melancholy. What more could anyone ask for?