World Music Central‘s celebration of Hispanic Heritage month continues with the music of Argentina, one of the music powerhouses in South America. It’s the birthplace of the world renowned tango music genre. In 2009, UNESCO declared “Tango” Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. In addition to tango, Argentina has developed world class musicians in the areas of classical music, jazz and rock in Spanish.
Tango Nuevo, Neotango and Tango electrónico
Tango has evolved considerably throughout the past decades. Argentine musicians have combined tango with rock, jazz, classical music and electronica. Otros Aires is one of the essential current bands from Buenos Aires. Founded by Miguel Di Genova, it fuses passionate tango and milonga vocals with traditional bandoneon and electronic beats. Recordings include Otros Aires, Otros Aires Dos, Vivo En Otros Aires, and Tricota.
Another indispensable figure is multi-instrumentalist Acho Estol. He is one of the great new poets of tango. Estol incorporates global sounds, including Afro-Latin, flamenco, samba, rock and even European cabaret sounds. Albums: Buenosaurios: Leyendas de la Noche de los Tangos
Estol’s wife, Dolores Sola is another crucial artista in the hip tango scene. Her songs integrate 1930s sounds and even Portuguese fado. Dolores Solá, Acho Estol and Juan Valverde formed La Chicana, one of the greatest contemporary tango groups in recent years. La chicana discography: Ayer hoy era mañana (1997), Un giro extraño (2000), Tango agazapado (2003), Canción llorada (2005), Lejos (2006)
Bandoneon virtuoso Carlos Libedinsky leads Narcotango, a prominent act in the tango electrónico category. The band’s recordings have been nominated for numerous awards. Albums: the self-titled Narcotango (2003), Narcotango 2 (2006), Narcotango Live (DVD + CD, 2008) and Limanueva (2010).
One of the most famous international electronic tango acts is Bajofondo or Bajofondo Tango Club. The project brought together top Argentine and Uruguayan musicians and producers, including Gustavo Santaolalla, Juan Campodónico, Luciano Supervielle, Martín Ferrés, Verónica Loza, Javier Casalla, Gabriel Casacuberta, and Adrian Sosa. The band had great success in South America, Europe and North America with its fusion of tango and techno, house music, chill out and trip-hop. Discography: Bajofondo Tango Club (2002), Remixed ( 2005), Mar Dulce (2007).
Other well-known neotango artists include Tango Siempre, Tango Crash, and Fernado Samalea.
If you seek more electronic tango, check out Tanghetto, Ultratango, and San Telmo Lounge.
Composer and bandoneon maestro Astor Piazzolla introduced to the world an instrumental form of tango that incorporated jazz and classical music elements with the bandoneon squeezebox as its centerplace. Albums: Tango: Zero Hour, Adios Nonino, La Camorra, Libertango.
Some of the most notable bandoneon players include Dino Saluzzi, Nestor Marconi, Juan José Mosalini, Daniel Binelli, Aníbal Troilo, Pedro Maffia, Pedro Laurenz, Rodolfo Mederos, Julio Pane, Leopoldo Federico, Roberto Di Filippo.
Argentine singer Florencia Ruiz is known for her haunting and ethereal vocals. Light of the Night is her North American debut CD. It features Brazilian cellist Jacques Morelenbaum and legendary Uruguayan pianist Hugo Fattoruso.
Cecilia Gauna sometimes performs in striking body paint that was used by the indigenous Selk’nam tribe of Tierra del Fuego (Argentina). The Selk’nam used to wear the body paint for the Hain, an impressive and very complex ceremony of initiation. Cecilia Gauna uses a wide variety of Latin American rhythms, ranging from Argentina to Peru and Brazil, incorporating Argentine folk, tango, jazz, rock and electronic music elements. But it is her outstanding vocals that totally captivate the listener. Her most recent album is Aliento (STM030, 2011).
Mercedes Sosa deserves category of her own. She was a legendary folk singer, very popular throughout Latin America, Spain and even in non-Spanish speaking countries. She led a traditional music and dance movement with her husband called Nuevo Cancionero that declared the materialization of protest music across Argentina and Chile. She served as a political figure by speaking out for the poor Argentines against military dictatorship and oppressive conditions.
Sosa was searched and arrested on stage at a concert in La Plata in 1979. After receiving a series of death threats she was forced into exile seeking refuge in Paris and later in Madrid, where she finally settled. Sosa made a triumphant return to Argentina in 1982. Mercedes Sosa also won several Latin Grammy Awards in the Best Folk Album category: Misa Criolla (2000), Acustico (2003), and Corazon Libre (2006).
Argentine accordionist Chango Spasiuk has popularized Chamamé, a festive folk music style from northeastern Argentina that combines Spanish, indigenous Guaraní and Eastern European polkas, waltzes, and schottisches brought to Argentina by immigrants. Recordings: Pynandi: Los Descalzos, Charm of Chamame and Tarefero de mis Pagos, Chamame Crudo, Polcas De Mi Tierra, La Ponzoña.