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Various Artists

Think Global Tango

(World Music Network; US: 3 Apr 2007; UK: 16 Apr 2007)

Something like 40 cents US per copy of this CD sold goes to OXFAM, the international anti-hunger/anti-horror charity whose British shops seem these days to have gone a little upmarket in their sales of donated second-hand goods.


Will this CD be on sale in such shops, or specialist OXFAM music shops in bigger cities? How good a donation is forty cents in relation to the economics of CD production? Of course you can always give more, independently, and this reviewer’s collection of CDs and books has benefited a great deal, put on some valuable weight, as a result of visits to OXFAM and other charity shops in the United Kingdom.


This set might well be a decent sampling of what tango music amounts to today, and Chris Moss, its editor, seems to know his stuff, this stuff. A survey of any such field can, of course, include things as representative that don’t exactly match up as music. Nobody has to like it all, and of course with CDs there’s no compulsion to always listen to everything. I leapt to Gustavo Beytelmann’s solo piano, with a range of colour and dynamics that would be amazing in a jazz pianist. Beytelmann’s “Corraler” keeps returning to passages like classic Joplin ragtime, suggesting not necessarily influence from North America, but a common African ancestry, which Mr. Moss reports (for listeners not fluent in Spanish) is a leading theme of the singer-pianist Juan Carlos Caceres’s “Cumtango”, with bongos and bandoneón


It seems ungrateful when anyone actually takes sides on the issue of whether a music or pair of musics (in Louisiana, cajun and zydeco) derives from African rather than European, or European rather than African sources. When one side accuses the other of getting the music wrong or corrupting it, and being entirely wrong about its origins, somebody’s probably missing out on the music’s present characteristics, the detail.


An Argentenian music resistant to recent African influences can well be argued for, on strictly musical grounds and without dogmatic and potentially dubious notions of its earlier origins.


Much more dubious is what Chris Moss calls “the confident sound of the new tango”, as represented here by Otros Aires on a track where the utter beginner might for the first time hear the voice of the long-dead Carlos Gardel, recorded in 1922, dubbed with other sounds including what I’d call an anti-tango thwack-slap metronomic mechanical drum-noise: the wondrous variety of rhythm deadened by something like the intra-uterine background of soontobeMummy’s heartbeat. Carlos Libedinsky has more of that, as do Tanghetto.


I far prefer Hugo Diaz’s virtuoso harmonica (who needs bandoneòn!) accompanied by piano and guitar; or the earthy Daniel Melingo’s vocal and guitar, with bandoneón in accompaniment. Or Osvaldo Montes’s front-line bandoneón, or the vocally lyrical violin of Suni Paz and his wife’s lyrical vocal. Horacio Molina sings Jorge Luis Borges’ words to Piazzolla’s tune, and there’s a good range of singing styles, Chris Moss being as attentive in his selection as in his notes to the rural and folksong modes in which tango existed. An instructive and rewarding set that should enable some donations of attention to the musicians brought to wider notice.

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