TAKES THREE TO TANGO

Top Ar­gen­tine mu­si­cians will present tra­di­tional Tango mu­sic with a twist this week­end »

Mid Day - - Front Page - SNIGDHA HASAN snigdha.hasan@mid-day.com

THE spec­ta­cle of tango, with its vi­brant, play­ful and pas­sion­ate moves, is im­pos­si­ble to imag­ine with­out the ac­com­pa­ny­ing mu­sic, tra­di­tion­ally cre­ated with a sex­tet of two vi­o­lins, piano, dou­ble bass and two ban­do­neons. But while the dance form is known to and even learnt by many ur­ban In­di­ans, the av­enues to learn more about its rich mu­sic tra­di­tion are few.

With the ar­rival of Ar­gen­tinian com­poser and pi­anist mae­stro Martin Palmeri and mu­si­cian Darío Polonara, who will be join­ing con­duc­tor Dr San­ti­ago Lusardi Girelli for three days of per­for­mance in the city, Mum­baikars are in for a rare mu­si­cal treat. In­vited by the Con­sulate Gen­eral of Ar­gentina in Mum­bai, the artistes will present an ar­ray of con­certs — from the works of As­tor Pi­az­zolla, con­sid­ered the fore­most com­poser of tango mu­sic, to Misa­tango, a unique work com­posed by Palmeri, which blends el­e­ments of the tra­di­tional Mass form with those of Ar­gen­tinean tango. The mu­sic con­certs will be pre­sented to­gether with the Sym­phony Or­ches­tra of In­dia, Goa Univer­sity Choir and The Ban­ga­lore Men, an all-male voice en­sem­ble from Bengaluru. Dance will find its way into the reper­toire, too, when Polonara, known for his magic with the ban­do­neon (a square-shaped vari­ant of the ac­cor­dion and the con­certina, and in­trin­sic to tango), and Palmeri cre­ate the mi­longa ex­pe­ri­ence, where the best tango dancers from Mum­bai will teach par­tic­i­pants the dance form.

“Pi­az­zolla added dif­fer­ent tech­niques [el­e­ments of jazz and clas­si­cal mu­sic] to tango — and made it grow. His mu­sic was ac­cepted the world over. He is the most per­formed com­poser from Ar­gentina. The idea was to show­case his mu­sic to the peo­ple of Mum­bai,” says Palmeri, on a phone call from Goa, where he joined Dr Girelli to con­duct a four-day work­shop for the univer­sity choir mem­bers. Dr Girelli, who holds the West­ern Mu­sic chair, one of the five chairs that are part of Goa Univer­sity’s Vis­it­ing Re­search Pro­fes­sor Pro­gramme, con­ducts the choir. He di­vides his time be­tween Panaji and Barcelona.

“I have known Mae­stro Palmeri since I was very young. In­dia does not have a big choir tra­di­tion and ours is an am­a­teur choir. So, it is a won­der­ful op­por­tu­nity for us to learn from him and join him in the per­for­mances in Mum­bai,” says Dr Girelli, who by train­ing stu­dents, fac­ulty mem­bers and Goan mu­sic lovers, is try­ing to re­vive the Por­tuguese cho­ral tra­di­tion in the state. A keen mu­si­col­o­gist, he has con­ducted re­search on Hin­duism, Chris­tian and Bud­dhist phe­nomenol­ogy, re­lat­ing the­ol­ogy, arts and mu­sic. Apart from per­form­ing west­ern clas­si­cal com­po­si­tions, the univer­sity’s choir has col­lab­o­rated with In­dian mu­si­cians, in­clud­ing Rakesh Chaura­sia and De­bashish Bhat­tacharya, and reg­u­larly hosts com­posers from Spain, France and Por­tu­gal who write orig­i­nal mu­sic for the choir.

Con­sul Gen­eral Ale­jan­dro Zoth­ner Meyer is par­tic­u­larly happy about the In­dian pre­miere of Misa­tango. In keep­ing with the Ar­gen­tinian tra­di­tion of let­ting tango evolve with new mu­si­cal in­ter­ven­tions, Palmeri grew in­ter­ested in the con­nec­tion be­tween tango and choir. The re­sult was his work Misa­tango, which was pre­miered by the Na­tional Sym­phony Or­ches­tra of Cuba in 1996.

“The sound of the choir is typ­i­cal Eu­ro­pean sound, and in South Amer­ica, like in In­dia, cho­ral mu­sic is not a big tra­di­tion. We don’t have much reper­toire for orig­i­nal mu­sic for choir. Be­sides, tango mu­sic is writ­ten for soloists, and when you want to sing it with 15 so­pra­nos, it’s al­most im­pos­si­ble. So, I tried dif­fer­ent kinds of ar­range­ments — a cap­pella, with in­stru­ments — but the re­sult was not good,” re­calls Palmeri about the chal­lenges of bring­ing to­gether the two gen­res. “Then, I de­cided to try it with orig­i­nal mu­sic writ­ten for choir and or­ches­tra, in­stead of tra­di­tional mu­sic and I used the Latin text of tra­di­tional Mass. So you can say that the struc­ture of my work is of Eu­ro­pean Mass, but the bricks are from Ar­gentina. And the in­stru­ments, har­monies and melodic lines are more in a tango style,” he adds.

With a com­po­si­tion tran­scend­ing gen­res, it was only nat­u­ral that it tran­scended geo­graph­i­cal bound­aries, too. Since its pre­miere, the work has been widely pre­sented in Europe, the US and South Amer­ica, with over 200 per­for­mances an­nu­ally across the globe.

‘Tango mu­sic is writ­ten for soloists, and when you want to sing it with 15 so­pra­nos, it’s al­most im­pos­si­ble. So, I tried dif­fer­ent ar­range­ments’ Martin Palmer

(Left) Dr San­ti­ago Lusardi Girelli con­ducts with the Goa Univer­sity choir; (right) Martin Palmeri at a per­for­mance of his Misa­tango com­po­si­tion

Martin Palmer (left) with Dr San­ti­ago Lusardi Girelli and mem­bers of the Goa Univer­sity Choir in the back­ground

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