Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Nocturno a mi Barrio

I came across another pre-golden era tango to add to the above (below, actually) list: it's here, and dated 1920.  I was curious who the Orquesta Típica Select might be – and it turns out to be led by a bandoneonista called Osvaldo Fresedo, who must have been about 23. The regular, repetitive habanera rhythm of the two earlier recordings is being replaced by a kind of syncopation: it's just three years after the first recordings of jazz, and it sounds as if Fresedo had already heard this recently recorded North American music and is working hard to incorporate syncopation into tango.

I also came across a TV performance by Troilo from the 1960s, which I find very poignant. By this time, the great Troilo of the golden era can no longer afford to perform with an orquesta: it's the time of the quartet. It's also the era when his recording company destroys all the masters of his great recordings to free up space for the new music: tango is just an outdated product. So here he is in a carefully staged TV performance, a cultural relic performing an old music, surrounded by solemn young faces who listen sympathetically to a song about an era that has long gone, their parents' background, not theirs. This is their cultural heritage and is treated with respect: perhaps they are briefly moved, but it's not their world and they are probably looking forward to an evening of rock and roll. Then Troilo snaps shut his bandoneon and stands up, towering over them. Troilo himself wrote these words and music in the mid-1950s when tango was already in decline. The tango of the golden age was often nostalgic, but Nocturno a mi Barrio is doubly so: that era when the radio was always tuned to tango, when dancing was a family activity and everyone's social life, is largely over. I can't help wondering if any of those young faces now sit at milongas, thinking 'Yes, I saw Troilo perform once'.

There's an excellent page in English in Todotango about the song and its creation. The words of the song are still in Spanish: thanks to Ozan Bulut for pointing out that much of the song is translated in the text. 'It's said that I left my barrio... When? But... when? I'm constantly returning'.

These five clips effectively bookend the tango of the golden age.

P.S. Enrique Binda, an engineer and tango researcher, has suggested that early '78s' were almost certainly not recorded at 78rpm. Early recordings were made at between 70 and 80 rpm, and the versions we hear these days may well be played too fast. Interesting to think that the jaunty, upbeat feel of some of these early recordings may be an illusion based on a technical error. The music may well have sounded more melancholic. His essay, At what speed were 78s recorded? is here.


Preen and Ogle said...

Nice post, Tango Commuter. Thanks.

Tangocommuter said...

Thanks, P&O. & I think the clip also shows what an amazing performer Troilo was, even with very reduced means. He's a bit like a Miles Davis of tango; he could instantly command your attention with a couple of very quiet notes. Magic.