This week's tanda is calm, rhythmic tanda by Francisco Canaro with Roberto Maida singing. It starts with the very popular "Invierno." It is such a sweet and smooth song. Click here for a great translation of the lyrics from the Poesía de Gotán blog.
You might notice that there are 5 songs here. No, this is not a 5 song tanda... but rather, I could not decide which song to end the tanda with. I think "Viejo Tiempo" is probably the best fit, but I also love "Paciencia." So, I put both on here so that you could listen and decide. "Viejo Tiempo / Old Time" makes sense because all of these songs have more in common with the "Guardia Viejo / Old Guard" period (1910 to 1925) than the Guardia Nueva or Golden Age period. To give a super brief and over-simplified explanation, the songs of the Guardia Viejo period would have focused more on the underlying rhythm while the music of the Guaria Nueva would have focused more on melody and harmony. Canaro is working with both here.
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Here is one of my favorite all-time favorite performances by Pablo Rodriguez and Noelia Hurtado. It is such a sweet and tender performance. To me, nothing says tango quite like this performance. It also demonstrates the statement that "Tango is a sad thought that can be danced." You might notice how emotional they are after the performance. I do not know the details, but it is my understanding that this was their last performance together after many years of teaching and dancing with one another.
In Part I of this article, we looked at the basic structure of tango which consists of 5 distinct parts: A (verse) -- B (chorus) -- A (verse) -- B (chorus) -- A (versue. It was mentioned that not all tangos, fit neatly into this structure, but that this simple structure is usually present.
Let's start with an older tango "Caminito" performed by Francisco Canaro from 1926. This song has several variations to the basic structure, but as you will see, that basic structure is still there. This song structure goes:
"Caminito" has a cute little 8 second introduction, before the first verse begins. This is very common and happens often in tangos. Dancer's Note: This introduction actually does have a strong beat, but usually they will not, so we rarely dance to an introduction. In fact, we usually don't start dancing until the first beat of the second phrase of a typical tango song, so if the song has an introduction, we might begin dancing on the first beat of the first verse.
After before each chorus in "Caminito," there is a pre-chorus that lasts for about 8 seconds which consists of a bandoneón solo and then a piano solo. Sometimes you can also have pre-versus which work the same way, but before the each verse. Dancer's note: This is a good time to execute a corté (break) or parada (stop) and for women to embellish. It might also be a good time for a calesita. Basically, something which keeps us from progressing.
Humming and Whistling
One other interesting note about this song, is that during the first chorus you can hear the band members humming or moaning the chorus and during the second chorus someone is whistling the chorus. This song was recorded in 1926 and singers were not added to dance orchestras until 1927, when Canaro recorded "Así es el Mundo," featuring Roberto Díaz, as a chorus singer. See my article on "The Role of the Orchestra Singer" for more information on this subject.
"Poema" is a very popular tango which was recorded in 1935 by Francisco Canaro with Roberto Maida singing. It has a very distinct variation on the basic structure, while still keeping the verse -- chorus -- verse -- chorus -- verse structure. Listen to the song and then see if you can hear what it is.
Poema (The Whole Song)
Poema (Verse 1)
Poema (Chorus 1)
Poema (Verse 2)
Poema (Chorus 2)
Poema (Verse 3)
The first verse is 32 single-time beats, as we would expect, but then the chorus is only 16. Then the second verse is a whole 64, instead of the usual 32. Then the chorus is only 16 again and the final verse is 64.
Also, listen to verse 1 and then verse 2, there is no better example of a singer performing as an instrument of the orchestra. In the 2nd verse, notice that Maida imitates the violin of the 1st verse. The singer and the violin accent almost the same notes.
Dancer's note: "Poema" is also a great example of the choruses being more rhythmic than the verses. The tempo is the same, but notice how the energy goes up. There is actually a strong beat during the verses, but the melodic rhythm is equal if not dominant. During the verses, you have an option to dance to the beat or to the melody or switch between phrases. There is less option during the chorus, there is little melody and the beat is very dominant. Below is a performance of "Poema" by Murat and Michelle Erdemsel. It includes a painting of his which visually represents the different sections of "Poema." You will see the melodic sections represented as blue circles and the more ryhtmic sections represented by a rectangle with sharper lines and deeper colors.
Below are two great performances to "Poema" by Pablo Rodriguez and Noelia Hurtado and Javier Rodriguez and Geraldine Rojas. See you can see how they shift in energy between the choruses and verses. Also, notice that they both begin with a step on the fist beat of the 2nd phrase, this is not at all necessary, but is very common.
Great version of this tango by Osvaldo Pugliese with Roberto Chanel. The title is "The men are forming the circle (la ronda)." La ronda refers to the dance floor or line of dance.
The original title was "Muchachos se armó la milonga," which uses lunfardo (street slang of Buenos Aires), but the title was changed along with many other tangos in 1943, because of "le ley seca (the dry law)" a policy by the ruling military and the Catholic church to "purify" the language of Argentina. They also wanted to protect the youth from the corrupting influence of tango.
Other examples of famous tangos with name changes are:
Muchachos se armó la milonga
Muchachos Comienza La Ronda
La concha de la lora
La cara de la luna
Con Los Amigos
A Mí Madre
Comme il faut
El Morocho y El Oriental**
* This tango was composed by Rafael Iriarte and Eduardo Arolas. They both registered the song separately under different names, Iriarte "Comparsa Criolla" and Arolas "Comme il Faut."
** It is hard to tell if "Gardel-Razzano" is a true second title or just a subtitle or there for clarification. Carlos Gardel’s nickname was “El Morocho del Albasto (The dark haired boy of the Albasto district)” and José Razzano’s nickname was “El Oriental (person from the Eastern bank of the Rio de la Plata or Uruguayan)” The nicknames could have been considered inapproriate slang and so the song could have been renamed in the 1940s.
"Shusheta" which was changed to "El Aristocrata" and "Chique" was changed to "El Elegante." The best translation that I found for chique is that in lunfardo it meant to be fake. Susheta was similar in that it meant to be a backstabber or someone who would rat you out. "La Maleva (The Bad Girl)", meant bad as in evil or criminal, but was simplified to "La Mala", which was just bad. "Milonguero Viejo" was changed to "Balarín Antiguo."
I think most went back to their original names after 1947 or 1948.
Words in the lyrics were also changed, "vieja" meant "old lady" but was often changed to madre or madrecita, which were less disrespectful. Pibeta became muchacha.
I have also read that there was some censorship and name changes after the coup of General Uriburu in 1930.
Some song titles and lyrics were changed because the originals were so vulgar. "Concha Sucia" was a traditional song believed to have been composed by 'El Negro' Casimiro Alcorta, a black violin player from the earliest days of tango. The title literally translates to "Dirty Shell," but concha (shell) was a common, obscene term for vagina. Canaro registered this tango, under his own name, and changed the song title to "Cara Sucia" in 1916. Canaro is believed to have done this with several of the old tangos. The name change was probably to conform to the changing audience of tango, which was including more women and the middle class.
"La cara de la luna" was originally "La concha de la lora." Lora was lunfardo for parrot, which meant a prostitute from Europe.
This week's traditional tanda is a popular set by Francisco Canaro with Roberto Maida singing. This tanda features the super popular song Poema. These songs fall at the end of the Guardia Nueva Period (1925 to 1935), when tango was transitioning from the sound of the Guardia Vieja sound to the more modern sound of the Golden Age. These songs still have that old sound, with some touches of the new. Poema has the beat or rhythm of the guardia vieja period which has sort of a dropping feeling (at least to me), but then it also has the elegant strings and smooth singing. Also, notice the strings in the first part and then how the singer almost imitates the strings in the second part.
Here are 3 different versions of Poema. It was originally written on a bus trip by several musicians including Eduardo Bianco. I have also included a Greek version and a French version.
Live Perfomances: I like that most of the performers use the changes in the music. Poema is generally a very calm and slow song, but it has bursts of energy. One of the complexities of Poema is handling those transitions betweenthe calm and steady and the more energetic segments.
This weeks tanda is a collection of milongas by Francisco Canaro. These three milongas are very spirited. Somtimes you might start with a slower tempo milonga and then build, but in this set I start out right away with a fast milonga. So, if people don't like fast milongas, they will know not to dance this tanda.
This weeks tanda is an upbeat collection of songs by Francisco Canaro. This is a mixed set, in that two are instrumentals and two are with Roberto Maida singing. All the songs are playful and fun and have an older Guardia Vieja feel.