Traditional Tango Singer Vayo Talks About His New Release Tango Legends

On his third album, Vayo takes the increasingly popular Argentine tango to its authentic roots. Vayo ‘s dramatic interpretations of classic tangos in Spanish, their original language, are framed only by the acoustic instruments (bandoneon, guitar and bass) that are typical of the genre since the early times. Vayo is originally from Uruguay where he returned to make this recording with the country’s finest tango musicians.

Following the tango tradition in which the music is played for listening as well as for dancing, Vayo makes tangos intimate, personal, poetic, and dramatic. “Although we are always sensitive to the authenticity of our sound,” he says, “we are of this time, we live in a much larger and complex world than that of the musicians of the past, and we cannot help but bring the influences of international culture as well as a contemporary consciousness to our music.”

Vayo explains, “The feeling and mood of these pieces are what is important whether you understand the lyrics or not. The phrasing, inflections, tempo, and musical accompaniment are all consistent with the expression of the lyrics. In my singing I direct my voice to a listener who is near me. There must be enough dramatic power in the voice, and in the music itself, without reliance on volume for expression.”

Tango Legends honors Toto Damario, his friend and mentor, who died after this recording and who is regarded as one of the finest bandoneonists ever.

Also legendary are the carefully-selected themes in this album, mostly from the “Golden Era of Tangos” (the mid-1930s and mid-1940s). The bandoneon, the essential instrument for tango, is a type of reed accordion with buttons for both hands and without a keyboard. Toto Damario contributed to the tango scene during seven decades and was considered a bandoneon virtuoso. Guitarist Mario Nunez, a premier tango interpreter, has worked in a variety of musical genres and has also been Vayo ‘s accompanist for more than two decades. The acoustic bassist Miguel Pose, the inspiring friend of Vayo ‘s new music, is also a true tanguero.

Miguel is the director of the Symphonic Band and conductor of the Montevideo Symphony Orchestra. These tangos, as well as the material on Vayo ‘s other releases (I Am a Tango and At the Edge of Night) were recorded with the spontaneity of improvisation. In the mid-1980s Vayo went back to Uruguay in search of the music of his youth, and he found Toto and Mario. He brought them together and the three of them developed a musical friendship.

To create tango interpretations together, the three of them would stand facing one another in a triangle. “We would read each other’s expressions, the fingering of the guitar, the pace and expansion of the bellows, the breathing within the vocals. After I took a few moments and found within myself the persona and the color of the voice for the poetic message and mood embodied in the work, we embarked on several full-out interpretations to block the structure and the arrangement. Then we began recording without stops, like a live performance. The music flowed freely and we got what we wanted in the first or second take while the theme was still fresh to us.”

In Buenos Aires and Montevideo, the cities where tango originated, this music has become timeless like the classics and opera, although tango is tempered with the spontaneity of jazz and folk music. First created in the barrios and bordellos and in marginal areas of these urban centers, tango was a shared cultural bond.

Both urban communities were an international ethnic melting pot for European immigrants at the start of the Twentieth Century, and tango emerged from the energy of the multicultural scene. From the beginning, the music and dance were virtually inseparable. However the famous tango singers of the 1920s, such as Carlos Gardel and Ignacio Corsini, were so respected that the audiences would stop dancing to just listen to them. Even today, there is no dancing when Gardel recordings are played (and he died 70 years ago).

Unlike his previous recordings, Vayo includes seven instrumental themes in Tango Legends in order to fully spotlight the musicians. Most of the tracks span the era from the early 1930s (“Amargura” and “Soledad”) to the mid-1940s (“Trenzas” and “Yuyo Verde”). Vayo also sings “Acquaforte” which was made famous by the legendary Ignacio Corsini, Vayo ‘s favorite tango singer. “My style, while guided by the power and drama of the lyrics, is inspired by the early vocalists who sang with elegant musicianship.”

The subject matter covered by tango lyrics is enormous. Of course, many tangos are about love. But “Tinta Roja” is about missing the old neighborhood that no longer exists. “Corrientes y Esmeralda” is an ode to two intersecting streets in the heart of Buenos Aires.

Tangos can be about anything and any experience or state of mind. A classic example is the first track of the album Tango Legends, Gardel’s “Por Una Cabeza.” It has become famous all over the world as an instrumental piece danced by movie stars – Al Pacino in “Scent of a Woman” and Arnold Schwarzenegger in “True Lies.” Vayo , however, sings the authentic version which is not a romantic cafe tune, but the tale of a chronic gambler whose horse loses a race “by a head.

Also included in Tango Legends are love themes, such as the sensitive “Trenzas” in which the image of a woman’s braided hair brings memories of lost love, or the uplifting serenade “Tu Vieja Ventana” which focuses on the woman behind an old window. “Rencor” is an intense address directed to an entity, “rancor,” as if it were a living creature, resulting in the admission that “rancor” is really “love.” In describing this album, Vayo says, “I want these authentic performances of classic tangos to honor the rich musical legacy ofToto Damario, who is featured in the company of his friends, Mario Nunez, Miguel Pose, and myself. Our work aims to preserve the intimacy and lyrical poetry of tango as it was in the old days while, guided by the lyrics, we shape our own dramatic performance.”

Buy Tango Legends.