Sunday, December 25, 2016

Tango, mankind's most unusual heritage

A UNESCO image
Tango is an element of the intangible cultural heritage of the humanity. On October 2, 2009 UNESCO famously called for its preservation.What most of us don't know is how special is Tango's place on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. 

The goal is to safeguard living traditions in the communities: UNESCO inscribes local cultural practices and traditions on the List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity to give them better visibility, to boost self-esteem of the local communities, to foster the global dialogue and to encourage the authorities to do more to safeguard them.The UNESCO process takes special care to avoid excessive commercialization of culture for tourism and for export. UNESCO's goal is for the cultural riches to remain vested in the community, transmitted from generation to generation in the natural way, and continuously developing with the flow of time; it strongly opposes the danger of "folklorisation"(where a quest for "strict authenticity" smothers natural evolution and transmission of culture). UNESCO clearly recognizes the clash between safeguarding cultural traditions vs. protecting copyright or ownership. Verbatim: "Indeed, as intangible cultural heritage evolves thanks to its continuous recreation by the communities and groups that bear and practice it, protecting a specific manifestation like the performance of a dance, the recorded interpretation of a song or the patented use of a medicinal plant may lead to freezing this intangible cultural heritage and hinder its natural evolution. Moreover, as the communities are the ones who create, maintain and transmit intangible cultural heritage, it is difficult to determine the collective owner of such heritage."
Argentine legislators joining the 2008 petition

The "where" and the "how".... The UNESCO process begins from defining the geographic range of the cultural practice, and its traditional mode of transmission (family, teacher-apprentice, observation and imitation?). Tango's "where" and "how" are unparalleled in the Representative List! It's geographic range is defined as the entire world - then the declaration seeks to safeguard tango's place of birth in Montevideo and Buenos Aires. There isn't any other musical / poetic / dance art form in the whole list which is defined as distributed world-wide yet needs safeguarding in its birthplace. With tango, much credit should be given to the global communities for making Buenos Aires a place of pilgrimage, a center of study, and a source of inspiration. That's why a globalized cultural phenomenon was able to revitalize its cradle. Time and time again, when tango was in danger at its place of birth, the expat communities lent hand to sustain it ... as early in the 1900s, when tango was disallowed by the Catholic Church itself, and derided as an African-influenced, underclass subculture by the purists at home, and then in the "dark days" of tango in the 1960s and 1970s, when the foreign music fans didn't let the tradition lapse, and of course beginning in the 1990s with the social dance wave going global.
With the traditional mode of transmission, tango is just as unique. UNESCO simply refused to narrow it down to something specific. So tango has become the only cultural legacy which has lots of "right ways" to pass on the tradition!
UNESCO asks, then, about a nominated cultural practice: How does it adapt to modernity? Are the traditional ways endangered? Are there urgent safekeeping needs? Any cultural asset worth being protected by UNESCO must conform to the human rights. Importantly, sacred practices and oral arts may be safeguarded, but neither religions nor languages themselves qualify for protection. In these respects, tango isn't totally unique, but it's still very special.  Verbatim: 
- tango both embodies and encourages diversity and cultural dialogue
- it adapts to new environments and changing times
The UNESCO declaration makes it an honorable duty of Argentina to nurture its tango community in BsAs, while strongly speaking against exclusive "ownership of culture", and for broad global dialogue, change, and diversity."Inscription of the element on the Representative List would contribute to visibility of intangible cultural heritage and a deeper understanding of the Tango as a regional expression resulting from the fusion of several cultures" 

The petitioners: The UNESCO declaration was sought jointly by the municipalities of Buenos Aires and Montevideo. In Buenos Aires, Luciana Blasco, a cultural event organizer who then served on the city council, spearheaded the petition, citing the existing 1998 City Law 130 which already called for the city to help its tango community. Such luminaries as Horacio Arturo Ferrer (1933-2014), an Uruguayan-Argentine tango poet of "Balada para un loco" fame and the creator of Argentine National Tango Academy, Leopoldo Federico (1927-2014), bandoneonist of such classic orchestras as Di Sarli and Troilo's, composer, and tango orchestra leader, Raul Lavie, a contemporary tango singer, José Gobello (1919-2013), the patriarch lunfardo expert, and Laura, second wife of Astor Piazzolla and chairwoman of his memorial foundation, joined. Such famed dancers as Mora Godoy and Miguel Angel Zotto supported the project (Mora, who describes herself as the most important tango dancer in Argentina, once famously dragged reluctant Pres. Obama onto the dance floor). Zotto, who already starred in Tango Agentino on the Broadway in the mid-1980, famously said that nothing endangers tango in today's global culture. We see a broad list of tango innovators and modernizers signing up for a project to preserve the heritage, but it should come as no surprise, being one of those contradictions which are always woven into the fabric of tangoInterestingly also, among the preexisting conservation efforts, they also listed both Day of Tango, December 11, and the virtually unknown Uruguayan Day of Tango, October 5 (this date commemorated the creation of FUTANGO (Federation of Uruguayan Tango) in 2005, but it kind of dissolved in the broader festivities of Uruguayan Heritage Days, and never really caught on). 

So many facets! The petition strongly emphasized cultural diversity as the very core of tango, a central part of its essence and roots, and its continuous development in cross-cultural fertilization. There were many cool details in the petition which which didn't make the cut in the UNESCO declaration. For example, in addition to tango proper, milonga, and "so called vals criollo", the petition sought to include the sub-genre of the milonga candombeada, too. In addition to musicians, poets, and dancers, the petition originally sought to include playwrights, script writers, historians, journalists, editors, website operators etc. Language of tango was petitioned for (since Lunfardo Academy was one of the movers behind the project), but UNESCO rules specifically disallow as broad things as language from the lists of cultural heritage.The petition also sought to include tango-related handicrafts (later on, filete won a separate UNESCO heritage designation). I can only assume that the broad scope of the proposed protections was eventually found to be too wide for the UNESCO process, which is more geared towards community artists and craftsmen than to the big-city editors, producers, and web designers

Superficial foreign fans and enforced authenticity? Another sentiment which didn't make the cut was a kind of a familiar lament about shallow understanding of the tango culture abroad. The petitioners suggested, in particular, that "the Europeans understand Tango as music of the belle-époque", with exaggerated sensuality of a luxury cabaret, and don't appreciate tango's humble, underclass roots. ( Irony mode on - to see tango with all these supposed sins of exaggerated sensuality, with the woman thrown around exactly as the petition complained, one doesn't have to go any further than the cool promotional clip of one of its most famous signatories, Mora Godoy! :) ) 

Of course this kind of a broad-brush cultural suspicion didn't fly, and the UNESCO declaration carefully avoided blaming the "superficial foreigners" or calling for "proper authenticity". But one has to understand that it's so common for the locals to start fearing loss of identity just as their cultural heritage finally gains appreciation and popularity abroad. More on it below... 

Pledges and failures: The petitioners pledged to spend hundreds thousand dollars to support tango life in BsAs and Montevideo, including promoting historical venues, creating tango hostels for visiting trainees, a huge documentation and record center, an institute and a fund to support milongas ... even half a million dollars to establish a tango museum in Montevideo! But hardly anything has been delivered. When, in 2013, the governments reported on its progress, they had just one modest achievement to brag about, a newly organized Tango Research Center in Argentina. As we know, many traditional milongas in BsAs (both indoor and outdoor) are under a persistent bureaucratic attack, losing venues completely, experiencing temporary closures. The cradle of tango needs protection, and the UNESCO declaration continues to require action.

Is this a right way to balance the aspirations of the global vs. indigenous communities? The Convention on the Intangible Cultural Heritage is only 13 years old, although it has been informed by UNESCO's decades of cultural protection and community development experience. Its pros and cons have been recently reviewed by Farah and Tremolada (2014). The core issue is familiar to us, tango lovers: it is the issue of indigenous control of cultural heritage vs. globalized identity drawing from a variety of cross-fertilizing cultures. The global community may fear being robbed of its means of expression, while the indigenous community may fear an identity crisis.
Prof. Farah lectures on legal frameworks
of safeguarding cultural legacy

Intellectual property (IP) models, especially copyright, are also widely used for cultural assets. Importantly, copyright protects the asset only over the defined period of time; then it falls into public domain for all to use. IP protection is also narrowly focused on money rather than on community values / sacred values. IP = fair exchange of cultural assets for commercial value, at the expense of freedom of expression. SADAIC and AGADU have long followed the IP copyright model for aspects of tango culture, and tango music and poetry did become a commodity, which has also become targeted for export very early on. Because of this commodification and the global market focus, an alternative IP protection tool of "geographic indication", has become impossible to apply to the tango culture. 

But, as UNESCO uderscores, living cultural tradition isn't a mere reproduction or copying. It includes creativity and innovation and this makes it even harder to apply IP framework. Safeguarding cultural heritage is likewise more complicated than mere protection. It also includes an obligation to let the cultural practices develop and evolve in a continuous process of social involvement.

In 1982, World IP organization and UNESCO already tried drafting a new framework for national laws for regulating folklore (potentially including bans on fusion forms or distorted forms of traditional culture). In this framework, wherever money was at stake, practicing folklore would have required a license from the government. This idea was fundamentally at odds with the freedom of expression, and the proposal didn't go anywhere. But the experience of drafting the failed, overreaching model framework was seminal for UNESCO's subsequent fine-tuned efforts to safeguard cultural heritage of the humanity. As a result, UNESCO defined indigenous cultural heritage as a living, evolving form of expression practiced by the communities, rather than rigidly codified by the governments.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

DF milonga playlist, Dec 2 2016

It's primarily a "school milonga"although many people from the broader community show up. Still, I plan a list which is thicker on alternative and accessible music than usually. And I also reserve a special room for Pugliese, whose birthday falls on Dec. 2th, and on the composer Sebastan Piana, a later-November "birthday boy" whose life I've just reviewed. We are totally indebted to Piana for the music of milonga, but he also composed many great valses, and more than a few classic tangos.
01. Carlos di Sarli - Instrumental  "La trilla" 1940 2:21
02. Carlos di Sarli - Instrumental  "Catamarca" 1940 2:23
03. Carlos di Sarli - Instrumental  "Shusheta" 1940 2:24
04. Carrapicho  "Tic Tic Tac cortina 2" 2007, 2007 0:18
05. Francisco Canaro - Roberto Maida "Recuerdos De Paris" 1937 3:12
06. Francisco Canaro - Roberto Maida "Condena (S.O.S.)" 1937 2:39
07. Francisco Canaro - Roberto Maida  "Nada Más" 1938 3:02
08. Lidiya Ruslanova  "Valenki 4 (cortina)"  0:24
09. Ricardo Tanturi - Instrumental  "Comparsa criolla" 1941 2:51
10. Ricardo Tanturi - Instrumental  "Una noche de garufa" 1941 2:32
11. Ricardo Tanturi - Instrumental  "Argañaraz" 1940 2:21
12. Vitas  "7, the element cortina" 2012 0:23
The first Sebastian Piana's compositions for the night are his earliest trend-setting milongas:
13. Francisco Canaro - Ernesto Famá "Milonga Sentimental" 1933 3:12
14. Francisco Canaro - Ernesto Famá "Milonga Del 900" 1933 2:54
15. Francisco Canaro - Roberto Maida "Milonga criolla" 1936 3:05
16. Russian Folk  "Kalinka-Malinka 1 (cortina)"  0:25
17. Donato Racciatti - Olga Delgrossi "Hasta siempre amor" 1958 2:57
18. Donato Racciatti - Olga Delgrossi "Sus Ojos Se Cerraron" 1956 2:47
19. Donato Racciatti - Olga Delgrossi "Queriendote" 1955 2:49
20. Alla Pugacheva "Million Scarlet Roses" 1982 0:19
A mixed tanda sampler of the romantic wave which splashed all over tango with the Argentine Revolution of 1943
21. Lucio Demare - Raul Beron  "Que solo estoy" 1943 3:04
22. Orquesta Típica Víctor - Alberto Carol "Bajo El Cono Azul" 1944 2:43
23. Orquesta Típica Víctor - Ortega Del Cerro "Una Vez" 1943 3:22 3:24
Both  "Caseron De Tejas" & "Paisaje" are Sebastian Piana's compositions, and, in a typical Piana way, he loves diving into history. The tile-roofed house (Caseron de tejas) from the era when the first valses just started to reverberate in the old barrio of Belgrano...
24. Pedro Láurenz - Alberto Del Campo  "Caseron De Tejas" 1942 2:45
25. Pedro Láurenz - Alberto Podestá  "Paisaje" 1943 2:53
26. Pedro Láurenz - Juan Carlos Casas "Mascarita" 1940 2:53
27. Viktor Tsoy  "Good morning, last Hero cortina long" 1989 0:35
28. Enrique Rodriguez - Armando Moreno  "Tabernero" 1941 2:33
29. Enrique Rodriguez - Armando Moreno "Danza maligna" 1940 2:25
30. Enrique Rodriguez - Armando Moreno "Llorar por una mujer" 1941 2:47
31. Viktor Tsoy  "Red-Yellow Days cortina long 3"  0:33
32. Soha  "Mil Pasos" 2008 4:07
33. Alacran  "Reflejo De Luna" 2010 3:44
34. Fool's Garden  "Lemon tree" 1995 3:09
35. Stas Borsov  "Anyuta cortina" 2000 0:21
And "Milonga de los fortines" is one of the longest "time travels" we enjoy in Piana's compositions, with the bugle call of the desert camps ("fortines" or little forts) of Argentina's Indian wars.
36. Orquesta Tipica Victor - Mariano Balcarce  "Milonga De Los Fortines" 1937 2:55
37. Orquesta Tipica Victor - Carlos Lafuente "Cacareando" 1933 2:45
38. Emilio Pellejero - Enalmar De Maria "Mi Vieja Linda" 1941 2:26
39. Pink Floyd  "Goodbye Blue Sky cortina long 2"  0:29
The Chaif Russian rock classic, while quite danceable, turned out to be lower on energy - but still nicely supported by the bracketing tracks in this tanda:
40. 5Nizza "Soldat" 2003 3:13
41. Chaif "Nikto ne uslyshit (Oy-yO)" 1994 4:26
42. Paolo Conte  "Via Con Me" 1981 2:47
43.  "Nature doesn't have bad weather"  0:24
44. Edgardo Donato - Horacio Lagos, Romeo Gavioli, Lita Morales "Sinfonía De Arrabal" 1940 3:07
45. Edgardo Donato - Lita Morales, Romeo Gavioli "Mi Serenata" 1940 3:02
46. Edgardo Donato - Horacio Lagos "El Adios" 1938 3:09
47. Sting "Windmills Of Your Mind" 1999 0:24
Osvaldo Pugliese playing piano to an overflowing street.
From Historias & Canciones blog
We are celebrating the birthday of Osvaldo Pugliese tonight. Saint Pugliese has been so central to tango and indeed to Argentine culture that I hesitate writing about him. So much has been written, in so many places, there isn't anything I can add. Osvaldo, born on Dec. 2 1905, belonged to a family of the early tango musicians. His perhaps most famous composition, "Recuerdo", was created when Osvaldo was just 18, and registered jointly with his father (and with persistent rumors that Osvaldo's estranged brother contributed to the score). But Osvaldo Pugliese didn't convene the first orchestra with records until 2 decades later, and he started out quite faithfully following the stylistic path of his great teacher Julio de Caro. Yet it is Pugliese, and not De Caro, whom the tangueros are crazy about! Pugliese's wildly accelerating and decelerating beat has already made him a legend. Add to this his intense sincopation and arrastres. Overlay the music with politics and social justice ... with the orchestra which functioned as a workers' co-op, with his regular stints in jail, with blacklisting on the airwaves, with gangs of thugs battling the influence of Pugliese fans ... and you see how he is just a totally outsize figure in the Argentine culture. 
Oh, how I remember craving and at the same time fearing to dance to his complex and irresistibly driving music in my early tango years! Eventually I learned a simple but useful mnemonic rule about it, which goes like this: "Pugliese was a Communist -> Communist aesthetics glorifies the Factory Machine -> The unstoppable engine and the flywheel pick up speed and slow down, but their inertia dictates a nearly-uniform rate of acceleration and deceleration". I don't actually think that Pugliese's music has much to do with the industrial aesthetics, but his best tunes do accelerate and decelerate in a predictable, steady fashion! This forceful departure from the steady tango beat was quite revolutionary - but it also totally defied Pugliese in the genres of milonga and vals. Defied, I must add, until a further 35 years passed. It all changed in December 1979. Pugliese's orchestra toured Japan, month after month, city after city, overcome with homesickness. The director needed to revive a good memory of home to nurture his tired musicians, and he decided to make a new arrangement of a very old vals, "Desde el alma". They played it again and again afterwards! Because the breakthrough happened so late in tango history, it remained a one-of-a-kind modern vals gem, and it's a challenge to "tanda it up". Happy birthday, maestro!
48. Osvaldo Pugliese "Desde El Alma" 1979 2:58
49. Color Tango  "Ilusión de mi vida" 1997 3:00
50. The Alex Krebs Tango Sextet  "Romance de Barrio" 2011 2:41
51. Anzhelika Varum  "Autumn Jazz"  0:20
 "Sobre el pucho", the earliest of the acclaimed tangos of Piana's, composed when he was 19, and already with a story of a bygone barrio.
52. Juan D'Arienzo - Héctor Mauré  "Dime, mi amor" 1941 2:40
53. Juan D'Arienzo - Héctor Mauré  "Sobre el pucho" 1941 2:46
54. Juan D'Arienzo - Héctor Mauré  "Ya lo ves" 1941 2:39
55. Bravo - Zhanna Aguzarova  "Space Rock-n-Roll" 1993 0:12
56. Eendo  "Eshgh e Aasemaani" 2011 3:31
57. Goran Bregovic  "Maki Maki" 2009 3:33
58. Kevin Johansen "Sur O No Sur" 2002 4:53
59. "Na Pua O Hawaii - George Ku Trio" 1992 0:22
Silbando, "whistling", is another early composition of Sebastian Piana (1925), but IMHO it shines the best with the 1950s record of Fresedo.
60. Osvaldo Fresedo - Héctor Pacheco "Pero Yo Sé" 1952 3:05
61. Osvaldo Fresedo - Héctor Pacheco "Silbando" 1952 2:51
62. Osvaldo Fresedo - Héctor Pacheco"Pampero" 1950 2:54
63. Russian folk  "Murka"  0:20
This tanda is crowned with another Sebastian Piana's jewels full of nostalgia, "Tinta roja"
64. Aníbal Troilo - Francisco Fiorentino "El Bulín De La Calle Ayacucho" 1941 2:29
65. Aníbal Troilo - Francisco Fiorentino "Toda Mi Vida" 1941 2:55
66. Aníbal Troilo - Francisco Fiorentino "Tinta roja" 1941 2:59
67. Zhanna Aguzarova "Old Hotel" 1987 0:22

With "Estampa Federal", Sebastian Piana takes us even deeper into Argentina's history, traveling over a century back in time. The vals, about a love separated by exile, is set against the aftermath of the 1833 Revolution of the Restorers and the reign of the mazorquero death squads which followed.
68. Carlos Di Sarli - Alberto Podestá "Estampa Federal" 1942 2:42
69. Carlos Di Sarli - Roberto Rufino "Rosamel" 1940 2:32
70. Carlos Di Sarli - Roberto Rufino "Alma mía" 1940 2:23
71. Maya Kristalinskaya  "Nezhnost (Tenderness)"  0:17
72. Lucio Demare - Juan Carlos Miranda  "Sorbos amargos" 1942 3:22
73. Lucio Demare - Juan Carlos Miranda  "Manana zarpa un barco" 1942 3:22
74. Lucio Demare - Juan Carlos Miranda  "No te apures, Carablanca" 1942 3:29
75. Folk  "Shumel Kamysh "  0:23
76. Osvaldo Pugliese - Roberto Chanel  "Rondando tu esquina"  1945 2:49
77. Osvaldo Pugliese - Roberto Chanel "Corrientes Y Esmeralda" 1944 2:49
78. Osvaldo Pugliese - Jorge Maciel  "Remembranza" 1956 3:41
79. Juan D'Arienzo - Instrumental  "La cumparsita" 1951 3:49
80.   "silence"  0:31
81. The Klezmatics with Chava Alberstein  "Di krenitse"  4:11