Monday, 22 December 2008

Rain, and a dance in the street

Last night it was warm and humid, Sunday morning there's a bit of rain. I walk over to San Telmo as planned, but it's cold, and the rain is getting heavier with a bit of thunder. The orquesta tipica is there, the young musicians sheltering with their instruments, a sheet of plastic over the piano. I go into the square to look through the tango lithos, original sheet music piano scores from the 20s and 30s, with artwork covers of the time. The vendor looks approvingly at what I buy: it's a score by Firpo, with a dedication to Pedro Maffia. He's interested I know something about the music, and friendly. With a bit more Castellano I could have some interesting conversations here. I understand, but too slowly

I'm cold and it's pouring down. The nearby restaurants are all packed. Searching wider I come across the San Telmo market, a covered marketplace with fruit and veg stalls. At last! The local mini-supermarkets don't have much. Good peaches and cherries. The vendors are short, round, dark, S. American Indian, friendly: I haven't met anyone here who isn't. Next door is a restaurant without aircon, and even the fans are turned off so I warm up and eat heavy ravioli. The alternative, BsAs style, is heavy meat. Outside the rain has eased off, but the orquesta typica has disappeared, along with their precious piano. But further down the road is this lively group dance. I'm fascinated by the speed and energy of it, and wonder what its origin could be. Is it Andean? European? The music sounds early European, but European music was probably absorbed into local traditions. In a dark moment I thought it looked a lot more fun than tango. Circular dances seem to be world-wide; people everywhere join hands and dance around in circles but this one is really elaborate, with changes between facing inwards and outwards, quick hopping, and backsteps. If anyone watching this knows anything I'd love to know more.

It was live, in the street. I couldn't shout: "Clear the set! Silence please!"

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