[Marxism] American cultural penetration and Piazzolla

Nestor Gorojovsky nestorgoro at fibertel.com.ar
Mon Feb 16 10:23:19 MST 2004

Lou on Marxmail:

"The overthrow of Peron coincided with the rise of rock-and-roll, which crowded Tango to the margins just as US capital was doing to the local economy."

In fact, some executives in the music record business openly decided to crush tango. They even went as far as to intentionally destroy priceless master records of the 30s and 40s...

The worst in all this is that the kind of "rock-and-roll" they tried to impose (and in a way were succesful) was a hollow product, an important gadget without meaning at all, the first step towards degradation of popular taste in Argentina, a coarse commercial product for mass consumption.  

They had a great ally in this battle in a former Cuban worm, Goar Mestre, who was awarded a TV channel by the gorilla authorities of those times (early 60s). This TV channel (Channel 13) operated in close relation with CBS.  As a part of the campaign against truly Argentinean music, Goar Mestre invented the "El Club del Clan" music show, where a whole generation of bad musicians (save for a couple of token tango singers) threw on all of us Argentineans a bucketful of musical production that made one look on the 
San Remo festival as if it were a Great Performance at the Paris Opera House.  

Some of these musicians, more businesspeople than musicians, made a carreer later on under Menemism -Ramón "Palito" Ortega, a boy of very humble Tucumanian origin, reached the highest peaks when he became Governor of his province under Menem-; the most succesful ones established themselves as gusano-loving residents in Miami. Ortega's life up to the late 60s was represented in a classic of good Argentinean cinema, David Kohon's "Pajarito Gómez".

[As a revenge, Argentineans created our own "rock-and-roll" music when great popular artists like Pajarito Zaguri, Lito Nebbia, León Gieco, Antonio del Guercio, "Tanguito", Luis Alberto Spinetta, Javier Martínez and others invented the "blues in Spanish" and "rock in Spanish", an urban music movement that has been growing since the late 60s and early 70s, and has been getting mixed with tango and folklore for a decade already. But this is an entirely different story]

So that when Lou writes:

"It was up to Astor Piazzolla to effect a revival. He received his original training as a classical musician and studied with Argentina's Alberto Ginastera and with Nadia Boulanger in Paris."

This is not wholly accurate, because this revival was never a popular revival. Astor is now commonplace tango, but his music has never been able (nor was it intended) to become massive and plebeian. 

Lou's comparison of Piazzolla's work with the "student left" of the 60s is quite adequate, thus, and in more senses than one, indeed. Back "in the 60s", even "conservatized Peronista labor bureaucrats" had better links with flesh-and-bones Argentinean proletarians than "student lefts":

"He had the idea that tango could be a serious music, not just for dancing. The old guard, however, felt threatened in the same fashion that a conservatized Peronista labor bureaucrat might have felt threatened by the student left in the 1960s. Piazzolla recounts:

"Musicians hated me. I was taking the old tango away from them. The old tango, the one they loved, was dying. And they hated me, they threatened my life hundreds of times. They waited for hours outside my house, two or three of them, and gave me a good beating. They even put a gun at my head once. I was in a radio station during an interview, and all of a sudden the door opens and in comes this tango singer with a gun. That's how it was.""

Not every musician hated Piazzolla. Good musicians didn't. But most traditional tango singers and musicians felt his "modernization" of tango (a) was a part of the generalized "unrooting" of Argentinean culture by American imperialism (the British had been smart enough not to bother to generate a "British" plebeian mass culture: their style was to pass unnoticed), and (b) made all of them obsolete. 

The latter had happened before. For example: during the 20s, the "Guardia Vieja" of elementary musicians of the 1900s was replaced by the "Guardia Nueva", which already requested virtuoso abilities absolutely alien to the  homespun performers of the old tango.  The virtuoso requirements of later tango orchestras made it so hard for a bad fiddle player to play at them, that many of these fiddlers ended their carreers as excellent classical music musicians in Philarmonic and Symphonic orchestras.  By the mid 50s, 
Osmar Maderna and Horacio Sal
gán were beginning to bring tango to a completely new dimension.  And in a sense -though I hate him as an orchestra director- Mariano Mores, with his attempt to blend musical forms originated in the opera with tango, had also tried to turn tango into something new.

What really made Piazzolla's attempt a matter of rage and fury was the simultaneous introduction of "American-sponsored", so to say, musical garbage into the up to then quite high-level popular music in Argentina.  This is a difference with Brazil.  In Brazil, the blend of samba with jazz brought about bossa nova, nothing less. Nothing like that could happen in Argentina in those times. 


"Tango has had enormous influence worldwide, even though it has often been appropriated as a kind of kitsch, like Carmen Miranda. For example, Rudolf Valentino stormed Hollywood as a Tango dancing gaucho, even though the cowboys of Argentina were not known to have danced this essentially urban art-form."

And they certainly did not look a dram like Valentino... Nor did Valentino's tango show what it really was like. It was more of a caricature of French style tango than anything else.

Again, Louis:

"To a very great extent, the nostalgia of the Tango evokes the "Ostalgie" of former East Germans for a time when things were better. Although it is altogether unlikely that the heyday of Peronism and the Tango will return any time soon in an unmediated fashion, the popularity of Tango does suggest a belief that "a better world is possible"."

Tango has born again in Buenos Aires lately. Same happens with folklore. And the blend between both these currents with our "rock en español" is a taste of things to come. As from its current production, I find it has a good future, indeed.

Of all the websites recommended by Lou, I STRONGLY recommend the "Todo Tango" website.  The "Gotán Project" website uses the local slang, where words are uttered "al vesre", that is " in inverse order". Thus, from "Tan-go" you obtain "Go-tán". "Al vesrre" itself means "al re-vés" (in inverse order), pronounced in inverse order!

Todo Tango: <http://www.todotango.com/>http://www.todotango.com/ 

But I find the "history of Argentine Tango" site lacking, particularly as regards the origins of tango

A history of Argentine Tango: 

Now, if you want to listen to extremely good modern, young tango musicians playing tango in the "traditional" way, get hold of things by "El Arranque", a great band of our days.

Néstor Miguel Gorojovsky
nestorgoro at fibertel.com.ar

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 
"Sí, una sola debe ser la patria de los sudamericanos".
Simón Bolívar al gobierno secesionista y disgregador de 
Buenos Aires, 1822
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