In November 2020, El Muro Tango and singer Omar Mollo, both based in northern Europe, made a tour through Norway in which they shared over 15 days, stages, dinners, and more than 2,000 kilometers of route.
What follows is a sample of that encounter, on the words of pianist – and now also interviewer – Juan Pablo de Lucca and Mollo. A review of the history of the singer and guitarist with his beginnings in Pergamino, his arrival in Buenos Aires, rock music, his landing in tango, and his learning and the “joys of a normal life”.
How does your singing story begin?
-I remember having a great time when I was a kid with a family that lived on the corner of my house, folklorists: the Sarlinga brothers. Tatín Sarlinga was Antonio Tormo’s guitarist, and they had a guitar trio. They taught me to dance malambo, zamba, and chacarera. They would take me on weekends with a bus to all the towns around Pergamino and we would do a peña (traditional folklore dancing place).
-When I was 6 years old, I started to learn guitar. That’s when my enthusiasm for this instrument began. My mother wanted me to learn piano, but I didn’t like it very much. So I spent all my childhood in Pergamino and at the age of 12, we formed the group “Los Romanceros de Achalay”, led by Pepe Motta.
-When I was 12 years old, we moved to Buenos Aires and I started to listen to other music, still, folklore and tango were always there. I got to know people and places, and the music of that time: ballads, Santana. Then I switched to rock and formed the band “Años bisiestos”. At the end of ’69, I was called to do the compulsory military service and came to Buenos Aires leaving everything behind.
And after the military service?
-I wanted to start a rock band. I was listening to Zeppelin and Deep Purple. I started to teach my brother how to bend notes and so on. I would do the background for him to solo on top. With a bass player and a drummer from our neighborhood – El Palomar – we started to rehearse. Five years of rigorous rehearsals, without going out. We were very sharp. Gossip travels, and people came to see us from the Capital. They all came: Grinbank, Oscar López, Jorge Álvarez. They presented us with contracts to record and I was totally crazy and told them no: “we don’t have to negotiate with them because music is a gift from God”, and I could not profit from it. It was nonsense I had in my head. We had a couple of very good concerts with Lito Nebbia, Moris, and others. Until the day we played at Luna Park, and the drummer, I don’t know what happened to him, he didn’t play his solo, he finished the concert and said: “I don’t play anymore”. He went to Brazil with a circus.
“All the rockers -except Pappo- wanted to do tango.”
-That’s when the problems with the drummers started. They all passed through the band, from Juan Rodríguez of Sui Generis to Claudio Martínez. To our basement came “el flaco” Alambre, Pappo, Moro, a lot of people. Between comings and goings, I went to Brazil for a long weekend, for four days. It was just my fucking luck that I ended up staying for 6 months and started to build my path. I called my brother and the other musicians to come, but they didn’t want to join me. After 6 months the visa expired, I came back and my brother and the other musicians had already started other projects. Arnedo was called to Sumo and Ricardo (Mollo) went too. At that time I was 30 years old. For 12 years I gave up guitar, singing, everything. I got angry with music. I put together the group, I built the rehearsal room, everything, and then the kids kicked me out. And I never got involved in the commercial side.
When did you start making music again?
-In 2000 I came back to reassemble M.A.M.. We did the Cosquín festival every year and we got calls from everywhere. But the producers told me: “no, Divididos is already doing this sound”, we had a similar vibe. “It’s bullshit,” I thought then. We were signed to DBN and had to present an album at La Trastienda, but we had problems with our manager and so I called Graciela Minervino. We knew each other from when we were kids, through mutual friends. Since that day when I visited her on the radio, we have produced many things together, to the point that this is what you see today: we are no longer separated.
Rock and Tango genes
Where did the idea of doing tango come from?
-In all the meetings with rockers, I always talked about tango. And that’s when Graciela was convinced to get me to do tango. All the rockers -except Pappo- wanted to do tango.
Any other rocker who did tango?
-Iorio, Ciro, el pelado Cordera, Celeste Carballo. We made many tributes to tango under Colángeo´s musical direction. With Melingo, Gabi Epumer, Iván Noble. All of them listened to tango, and that’s how Melingo made the program “Mala Yunta” where all the rockers went to sing tango. Albistur saw me on that program and called me to make a record. I was reluctant to sing tango, but Graciela insisted and told me “in this country you will not be able to live from rock music. Do tango and you will be able to do whatever you want”. Then I fell in love with how the environment of the people who came to see me changed. I soon had a beautiful response from the audience, although to this day I still find it difficult to learn the lyrics.
“Argentine rock is very tango-oriented, IF NOT just look at Miguel Cantilo.”
For a rocker, where does the tango come from?
-My father was such a fan of Gardel that I ended up hating tango. But there has always been a tendency within rockers to sing tango. Argentine rock is very tango-oriented, just look at Miguel Cantilo.
What is the difference between tango and rock?
It is not about rock or tango, but about the people that play it. In rock music, there is a lot of energy that is needed. I used to end up exhausted after marathon concerts. Until I told myself that that wasn’t for me anymore.
The tango way
When did you record your first tango?
-In 2003. I made a beautiful record with Carlos Buono and that’s when I hit the dance floor. Then the awards and all of that. I could have been a member of SADAIC in the 70s, but I was a mess. And nobody helped me either. Life and responsibility came to me at that age, when I met the woman with whom we made a life project together. We talked a lot before getting together
Do you listen to current music? Any singers you like?
-No, I don’t listen much. When you listen to a lot of things, they stick to you. Among today’s singers, the one that touches me the most is Chino Laborde.
“Today I am motivated to live a lot.
To make the most of it, because the days are getting shorter.”
How do you approach the interpretation of a new tango?
-I approach interpretation by listening to Polaco Goyeneche, from there I take what I have to take. I listen to it a thousand times until I make it mine, then I start doing what I do. I satirize the tangos, I act them out, I get into the story and I do it in a very accentuated way until it makes you laugh, or you cry with emotion. I’ve done it in so many albums that now it’s natural. I only take the tangos that touch my heart.
-To build an album, I listen a lot. Besides, when I was a kid I heard so much of folklore and tango, that you already have the DNA of this music inside.
What did tango give you?
-Everything, to tell you the truth, tango gave me everything. Rock didn’t give it to me because I didn’t know how to face it. That’s why I always blame myself. When I started to work, I got results; but I was late.
At 70 years old and with so much experience, what do you want to do now?
-Today I am motivated to live a lot. To make the most of it, because the days are getting shorter. Enjoying the little things in the life you have chosen, good food and walks. Without those little things, you don’t get to any big thing. Every year is a stepping stone. Don’t believe you are the best, even if you’ve played in the best theater in the world, the next day you may have to do the dishes and do what you have to. Cooking, cleaning, these are the joys of ordinary life.
Before we arrive
We are in the van coming back from our concert in Flekkefjord, the last one of this tour. We come with instruments and suitcases. In a few days, all this will be just a memory, one more tour, and I never tire of resurrecting old rock and tango stories, those that I only get to live through the stories of those who have lived them. One last Q&A before arriving home.
The most tanguero of the rockers?
The most rocker of the tangueros?
Naranjo en flor
The greatest joy music has given you?
To be today with material stability and in full love.
The stage of kindness, unselfishness, light, happiness, and companionship.
Following our video release of Pugliese´ s´”Recuerdo”, we had a talk with Juampy about how they approach their performances, the evolution of tango as a dance form, and the Berlin scene.
How does your story begin with tango?
In our beginnings, we wanted to be able to dance in milongas and make exhibitions. We took classes with different teachers, researched, and went out to milongas. We studied the structure as thoroughly as possible, the technique and what tango implies as a social dance, past and present.
“We seek to convey the desire to dance.”
Does tango change?
Tango is a social dance and a reflection of society itself. It evolves, develops and transforms. It is reconstructed according to the social changes that take place. We base our dance in those changes and show and share them.
What things do you seek to transmit when you dance?
We seek to transmit the desire to dance. To show who we are, with sincerity and without repeating stereotypes. The challenge is to transmit this while respecting the essence.
Where does the inspiration come from for your performances?
First of all, from our emotions and desires, from “being”, and not trying to appear. We play with what we are. To be women, to be men, to be free beings who dance and express themselves. To enhance this, we nourish our ideas with different aesthetic resources: fashion, make-up, cabaret shows, circus, opera, ballet, contemporary dance, drag queens, clowns, and old movies.
What questions do you want to ask the audience that follows you?
We are interested in making certain topics visible, for example: Do I feel free or am I doing what I am somehow “told” to do? Do I dare to leave the structures? Our tango is always connected to our life and experiences.
Are you looking for a new tango?
More than looking for a new tango, we want to expand and show the infinity of the tango universe, with the respect and knowledge that this implies towards its essence and its structure. Only having a firm base of knowledge we can play with this structure. You cannot break something without first understanding how it is crafted. We seek to create something original equally or more powerful than the above.
Do you find that the traditional environment limits you?
The traditional environment limits itself. People limit themselves. They think they respect something that should be one way. Out of fear and ego, because they don’t dare to discover, or because they feel safe in the structure of a formula that works.
“Beyond the heels and the eyelashes,
what we do is tango”.
What is the value of tango today?
It is our language of expression and the axis of our life as artists. Tango is freedom, be it in an exhibition or in a milonga.
How is tango different in Europe compared to Argentina?
Tango develops on a social structure, and European society is different from Argentinian society. They are different sensibilities, but there is a shared pleasure that we have been able to find all over the planet, of not believing.
What differentiates you from other tango dancers of today?
I think that is in plain sight, ha! I could mention several things: the aesthetics, the make-up, the costumes, that we are two gay guys, two boys/girls playing, feeling like goddesses, having fun, daring, making people laugh. Or at least that’s what we try to do. Since our beginnings, we made a strong bet, and we always took care to keep growing artistically.
What’s the worst thing that happened to you during a performance? And the best?
More than worst, I’d say funny, at least for me. We were to perform at Milonga La Bruja, in Villa Malcom, for a Halloween show. We had these costumes with huge necks, super empresses, with a certain dark style, according to the night of terror. More or less in the middle of the show, it was time for the expected change of shoes. But I, who was doing it first, confused the chair where my heels were, and I never realized that they were not my shoes, I just thought that the buckle opened, for some reason, and I went out without lifting my feet too much, so that I wouldn’t feel my shoes slack. So, before I started dancing, I said to Dani: “…my shoes feel big, let’s dance more to the floor please… And so we danced, pretty well I’d say for a 42 in a 39 foot.
The show went on and it was time for Dani to change his shoes. After she changed, she came closer and came with a strange energy. When I had him in front of me, I saw his face in a rage and I couldn’t believe what was happening, he mumbled to me: “…you have my shoes on and I had to put on yours…” And we danced. I burst out laughing. He was annoying. But a beautiful show came out. After that, we started wearing different colored shoes.
What I enjoy most about our shows is that something new always comes along, there’s always adrenaline. We change something, maybe small, or a whole part, and 90% of our dances are improvised.
“Tango is freedom”
Have you been to Berlin before? What do you think of the city?
I’ve been there several times, but I remember the first time: it was very strange. The silence in its streets, the parks, the tranquility, the river, the subway and the precision of its times, and the amount of different people, from countries I had never known.
The second time was different. I realized that I understood it, that I knew it, and I enjoyed it even more. And so each time. I also meet old friends every time I return. I’m attracted to its diversity, the bohemia and sensitivity, the drama and the joy.
How do you see the tango scene in Berlin?
It is a city with a lot of different proposals, spanning from a more popular and relaxed tango to something more traditional and conservative. There is milonga 7 days a week and when we talk about connection, sensations and embrace, we can see that there is an emotional understanding similar to what we feel those of us who travel from Buenos Aires. Tango in Berlin has its own life, far from trying to imitate the porteño ways, as it happens in other places.
What was it like to film “Recuerdo” in Berlin?
In Berlin you cannot escape from the sensations generated by history, past and present. There is a freedom that is breathed in the air, which offers the possibility to play and create from various aspects: aesthetic, musical, dance. Our proposal was undoubtedly enhanced by the setting of the city, as it happened to David Bowie!
What are the challenges for you at this stage of your career?
To express and share what we keep discovering about us and about life, and to transform it into tango, into art. The challenge is with ourselves. We try each show to surpass indance and creativity what we have already done.
Luego de nuestro lanzamiento en video del “Recuerdo” de Pugliese, tuvimos una charla con Juampy y Dani sobre cómo enfocan sus actuaciones, la evolución del tango como forma de baile y la escena de Berlín.
Cómo empieza su historia con la danza tango?
En nuestros inicios queríamos poder bailar en milongas y realizar exhibiciones. Tomamos clases con diferentes maestros, investigamos y salimos a milonguear. Estudiamos la estructura lo más a fondo posible, la técnica y lo que implica el tango como baile social, pasado y presented.
El tango, ¿cambia?
El tango es una danza social, y un reflejo de la sociedad misma. Evoluciona, se desarrolla y se transforma. Se reconstruye de acuerdo a los cambios sociales que se producen. Nosotros nos apoyamos en esos cambios y salimos a mostrarlos y a compartirlos.
“Buscamos transmitir el deseo de bailar”.
¿Qué cosas buscan transmitir cuando bailan?
Buscamos transmitir el deseo de bailar. Mostrar quiénes somos, con sinceridad y sin repetir estereotipos. El desafío es transmitir esto respetando la esencia.
De donde sale la inspiración para sus puestas y búsquedas?
En primer lugar, de nuestras emociones y deseos, del “ser”, y no tratar de parecer. Jugamos con lo que somos. Ser mujeres, ser hombres, ser seres libres que bailan y se expresan. Para potenciar esto, nutrimos nuestras ideas con diferentes recursos estéticos: desfiles de moda, maquillaje, espectáculos de cabaret, circo, ópera, ballet, danza contemporánea, performances de drag queens, clowns y películas antiguas.
¿Qué preguntas les interesa plantear al público que los sigue?
Nos interesa visibilizar ciertos temas, por ejemplo: ¿Me siento libre o estoy haciendo lo que de alguna manera “me dicen” que hay que hacer? ¿Me animo a salir de las estructuras? Nuestro tango siempre está ligado a nuestra vida y experiencia.
¿Buscan un nuevo tango?
Más que buscar un tango nuevo, queremos ampliar y mostrar lo infinito del universo del tango, con el respeto y el conocimiento que esto implica hacia su esencia y su estructura. Solo teniendo una base firme de conocimientos podemos jugar con esta estructura. No se puede romper algo sin antes entender cómo está armado. Buscamos crear algo original que sea tanto o más potente que lo anterior.
“Más allá del taco y las pestañas, lo que hacemos es tango”.
¿Encuentran que el ambiente tradicional los limita?
Creemos que el ambiente tradicional se limita a sí mismo. Las personas se limitan solas. Creen que respetan algo que debe ser de un modo, por miedo, por no animarse a descubrir, por ego, o por sentirse seguros en la estructura de una fórmula que funciona.
¿Qué valor tiene el tango hoy en día?
Es nuestro lenguaje de expresión y el eje de nuestra vida como artistas. El tango es libertad, ya sea en una exhibición o en la milonga.
¿Cómo es el tango diferente en Europa comparado con Argentina?
El tango es un baile que se desarrolla sobre una estructura social, y la sociedad europea es diferente a la sociedad latina. Son diferentes sensibilidades, pero hay un placer compartido que hemos podido encontrar en todo el planeta, de no creer.
¿Qué los diferencia a ustedes de otros bailarines de tango de hoy?
Creo que esta a la vista, ja! Podría mencionar varias cosas: la estética, el maquillaje, el vestuario, que somos dos chicos gays, dos niños/niñas jugando, sintiéndonos unas diosas, divirtiéndonos, atreviendonos, haciendo reír. O al menos eso intentamos.
Desde nuestros comienzos hicimos una apuesta fuerte, y siempre nos ocupamos de seguir creciendo artísticamente.
¿Qué es lo peor que te pasó durante una actuación? ¿Y lo mejor?
Más que peor, diría gracioso, al menos para mi. Estábamos en una performance en Milonga La Bruja, en Villa Malcom. Habíamos preparado un show para Halloween. Teníamos esos vestuarios con unos cuellos enormes, de súper emperatrices, con cierto estilo dark, acorde a la noche de terror. Más o menos a mitad del show, llegaba el momento en que hacíamos el esperado cambio de zapatos. Pero yo que lo hacía primero, me confundí la silla donde estaban mis tacos, y nunca me di cuenta que no eran mis zapatos, simplemente pensé que se abrió la hebilla, por algún motivo, y salí sin levantar demasiado los pies, para no sentir flojos los zapatos. Así, antes de comenzar a bailar, le dije a Dani: “… siento grande los zapatos, bailemos más al piso please…”. Y así bailamos, bastante bien diría para tener unos zapatos 42 en un pie de 39.
El show continuó y llegó el momento en que Dani se cambiaba los zapatos. Luego de cambiarse, se acercó y venía con una energía rara. Cuando lo tuve frente a mí, vi su cara entre bronca y no poder creer lo que estaba pasando, me dice entre dientes: “… tenes puestos mis zapatos y me tuve que poner los tuyos…”. Y bailamos. Yo explotado de la risa. Él molesto. Pero salió un hermoso show.
Después de eso, comenzamos a usar zapatos de diferente color.
Lo que más disfruto de nuestros shows es que siempre aparece algo nuevo, siempre hay adrenalina. Cambiamos algo, quizás pequeño, o un cuadro entero, y el 90% de los bailes de tango los improvisamos.
“El tango es libertad”
¿Estuviste en otras ocasiones en Berlín? ¿Qué te parece la ciudad?
Estuve varias veces, pero recuerdo la primera vez: me resultó muy extraña. El silencio en sus calles, los parques, la tranquilidad, el río, el metro y la exactitud de sus tiempos, y la cantidad de gente diferente, de países que nunca había conocido.
La segunda vez fue diferente. Me di cuenta que la entendía, que la conocía, y la disfrute más aún. Y así cada vez. Uno también se reencuentra con viejos amigos cada vez que regresa. Me atrae su diversidad, su bohemia y sensibilidad, el drama y la alegría.
¿Cómo ves la escena tanguera en Berlín?
Es una ciudad con una gran cantidad de propuestas diferentes, desde un tango más popular y relajado, a algo más tradicional y conservador. Hay milonga los 7 días de la semana y cuando se habla de conexión, de sensaciones y de abrazo, se puede observar que hay una comprensión emocional parecida a lo que sentimos quienes viajamos desde BsAs. El tango en Berlín tiene su propia vida, lejos de tratar de imitar los modos porteños, como sucede en otros lugares.
“En Berlín no se puede escapar de las sensaciones que genera la historia, pasado y presente.”
¿Cómo fue filmar “Recuerdo” en Berlín?
En Berlín no se puede escapar de las sensaciones que genera la historia, pasado y presente. Hay una libertad que se respira en el aire, lo que brinda la posibilidad de jugar y crear desde varios aspectos: estético, musical, dancístico. Nuestra propuesta sin dudas fue potenciada por el marco de la ciudad, como le pasó a David Bowie!
¿Cuáles son los desafíos para ustedes en esta etapa de su carrera?
Expresar y compartir lo que seguimos descubriendo sobre nosotros y sobre la vida, y transformarlo en tango, en arte. El desafío es para con nosotros mismos. Tratamos que cada propuesta a nivel danza y creatividad supere lo que ya hicimos.
Nach unserer Video-Veröffentlichung von Puglieses “Recuerdo” hatten wir ein Gespräch mit Juampy und Dani über ihre Herangehensweise an ihre Performances, die Entwicklung des Tangos als Tanzform und die Berliner Szene.
Wie beginnt eure Geschichte mit Tango?
In unseren Anfängen wollten wir auf Milongas tanzen und Auftritte machen können. Wir nahmen Unterricht bei verschiedenen Lehrern, recherchierten und gingen auf Milongas. Wir studierten die Struktur so gründlich wie möglich, die Technik und was Tango als Gesellschaftstanz bedeutet, in der Vergangenheit und der Gegenwart.
Verändert sich der Tango?
Der Tango ist ein Gesellschaftstanz und ein Spiegelbild der Gesellschaft selbst. Er entwickelt sich, entfaltet und verwandelt sich. Er wird entsprechend den gesellschaftlichen Veränderungen, die stattfinden, rekonstruiert. Wir gründen unseren Tanz auf diesen Veränderungen und zeigen und teilen sie mit anderen.
“Wir versuchen, die Lust am Tanzen zu vermitteln.“
Welche Dinge versucht ihr zu vermitteln, wann tanzt ihr?
Wir versuchen, den Wunsch zu tanzen zu vermitteln. Wir wollen zeigen, wer wir sind, mit Aufrichtigkeit und ohne Wiederholung von Stereotypen. Die Herausforderung besteht darin, dies zu vermitteln und gleichzeitig das Wesentliche zu respektieren.
Woher kommt die Inspiration für eure Auftritte?
Zunächst einmal von unseren Emotionen und Wünschen, von unserem “Sein” und nicht vom Versuch. Wir spielen mit dem, was wir sind: Frausein, Mannsein, freie Individuen sein, die tanzen und sich ausdrücken.
Um dies zu fördern, nähren wir unsere Ideen mit verschiedenen ästhetischen Mitteln: Mode, Make-up, Kabarettshows, Zirkus, Oper, Ballett, zeitgenössischen Tanz, Drag Queens, Clowns und alte Filme.
Welche Fragen möchtet ihr dem Publikum, das euch folgt, stellen?
Wir sind zum Beispiel daran interessiert, bestimmte Themen anschaulich zu machen: Fühle ich mich frei oder tue ich irgendwie das, was man mir “sagt”? Traue ich mich, die Strukturen zu verlassen? Unser Tango ist immer mit unserem Leben und unseren Erfahrungen verbunden.
Seid ihr auf der Suche nach einem neuen Tango?
Mehr als auf der Suche nach einem neuen Tango wollen wir die Unendlichkeit des Universums des Tango erweitern und mit Respekt und Wissen zeigen, dass dies in Bezug zu seinem Wesen und seine Struktur steht. Nur mit einer festen Wissensbasis können wir mit dieser Struktur spielen. Man kann nicht etwas zerbrechen, ohne vorher zu verstehen, wie es aufgebaut ist. Wir streben danach, etwas Originelles zu schaffen, das genauso oder noch kraftvoller als das oben genannte ist.
“Jenseits der Absätze und Wimpern ist das, was wir tun, Tango.“
Findet ihr, dass die traditionelle Umgebung euch einschränkt?
Die traditionelle Umgebung schränkt sich selbst ein. Die Menschen schränken sich selbst ein. Sie denken, dass sie etwas respektieren, das ein Weg sein sollte. Aus Angst und Ego, weil sie sich nicht trauen, etwas zu entdecken, oder weil sie sich sicher fühlen in der Struktur, einer Formel, die funktioniert.
Welchen Wert hat der Tango heute?
Er ist unsere Ausdruckssprache und die Achse unseres Lebens als Künstler. Tango ist Freiheit, sei es in einer Show / einer Aufführung oder in einer Milonga.
Wie unterscheidet sich für euch der Tango in Europa von Argentinien?
Der Tango entwickelt sich auf einer sozialen Struktur und die europäische Gesellschaft ist anders als die argentinische. Es sind unterschiedliche Sensibilitäten, aber es gibt eine gemeinsame Freude, die wir überall auf dem Planeten finden konnten.
Was unterscheidet euch von anderen Tangotänzerinnen und Tangotänzern von heute?
Ich denke, das liegt auf der Hand, ha! Ich könnte mehrere Dinge nennen: die Ästhetik, das Make-up, die Kostüme, dass wir zwei schwule Jungs sind, zwei Jungen/Mädchen, die spielen, sich wie Göttinnen fühlen, Spaß haben, wagen, die Leute zum Lachen zu bringen. Oder zumindest ist es das, was wir zu tun versuchen.
Seit unseren Anfängen haben wir eine starke Wette abgeschlossen und wir haben immer darauf geachtet, künstlerisch weiter zu wachsen.
Was ist das Schlimmste, was euch während einer Aufführung passiert ist? Und das Beste?
Mehr als schlimm, würde ich sagen, lustig, zumindest für mich. Wir sollten in der Milonga La Bruja, in der Villa Malcom, für eine Halloween-Show auftreten. Wir hatten diese Kostüme mit riesigen Nacken, Superkaiserinnen, mit einem gewissen dunklen Stil, entsprechend der Nacht des Horrors. Mehr oder weniger in der Mitte der Show war es Zeit für den erwarteten Wechsel der Schuhe. Aber ich, der ich es zuerst tat, verwechselte den Stuhl, wo meine Highheels waren, und ich habe nie bemerkt, dass es nicht meine Schuhe waren. Ich dachte nur, dass die Schnalle sich aus irgendeinem Grund öffnete und ich ging hinaus, ohne meine Füße zu sehr zu heben, damit ich nicht das Gefühl hatte, dass meine Schuhe locker waren. Bevor ich also zu tanzen begann, sagte ich zu Dani: “…meine Schuhe fühlen sich groß an, lass uns bitte mehr auf den Boden tanzen… Und so tanzten wir, ziemlich gut würde ich sagen, für Größe 39 in 42er Schuhen.“
Die Show ging weiter und es war Zeit für Dani, seine Schuhe zu wechseln. Nachdem er sich umgezogen hatte, kam er näher – mit einer seltsamen Energie. Als ich ihn vor mir hatte, sah ich sein wütendes Gesicht und ich konnte nicht glauben, was da passiert war. Er murmelte zu mir: “…du hast meine Schuhe an und ich musste deine anziehen…” Und wir tanzten. Ich brach in Gelächter aus. Er war sehr genervt. Aber es kam eine schöne Vorstellung dabei heraus.
“Tango ist Freiheit”.
Danach fingen wir an, verschiedenfarbige Schuhe zu tragen.
Was mir an unseren Shows am meisten gefällt, ist, dass immer etwas Neues entsteht, es gibt immer Adrenalin. Wir ändern etwas, vielleicht etwas Kleines oder einen ganzen Teil und 90% unserer Tänze sind improvisiert.
Warst du schon einmal in Berlin, was hältst du von der Stadt?
Ich war schon einige Male dort, aber ich erinnere mich an das erste Mal: Es war sehr seltsam für mich. Die Stille in Berlins Straßen, den Parks, die Ruhe, der Fluss, die U-Bahn und die Pünktlichkeit und die Menge der verschiedenen Menschen aus Ländern, die ich nie kennen gelernt hatte.
Das zweite Mal war anders. Ich merkte, dass ich es verstand, dass ich es kannte und es machte mir noch mehr Spaß. Und so ist es nun jedes Mal. Bei jeder Rückkehr trifft man auch alte Freunde wieder. Ich fühle mich von ihrer Vielfalt, ihrer Boheme und Sensibilität, dem Drama und der Freude angezogen.
Wie seht ihr die Tangoszene in Berlin?
Es ist eine Stadt mit vielen verschiedenen Möglichkeiten, von einem eher populären und entspannten Tango bis hin zu einem etwas traditionelleren und konservativem. Es gibt Milongas an 7 Tagen in der Woche. Und wenn wir über Verbindung, Empfindungen und Umarmung sprechen, können wir sehen, dass es ein emotionales Verständnis gibt, das dem ähnlich ist, was wir, die von Buenos Aires stammen, empfinden. Der Tango in Berlin hat sein eigenes Leben, weit entfernt von dem Versuch, die porteño-Weisen zu imitieren, wie es an anderen Orten geschieht.
Wie war es, “Recuerdo” in Berlin zu filmen?
In Berlin kann man sich den Empfindungen der Geschichte, der Vergangenheit und der Gegenwart nicht entziehen. Es gibt eine Freiheit, die eingeatmet wird, die die Möglichkeit bietet, unter verschiedenen Aspekten zu spielen und zu kreieren: ästhetisch, musikalisch, tänzerisch. Unser Vorschlag wurde zweifellos durch die Lage der Stadt verbessert, wie es auch David Bowie passiert ist!
Was sind die Herausforderungen für euch in dieser Phase eurer Karriere?
Das auszudrücken und zu teilen, was wir immer wieder über uns und das Leben entdecken und es in Tango, in Kunst zu verwandeln. Die Herausforderung liegt bei uns selbst. Wir versuchen, dass jeder Vorschlag auf der Tanz- und Kreativitätsstufe über das hinausgeht, was wir bereits getan haben.
The story takes place in Berlin and follows two dancers from Buenos Aires, Juampy Ramirez and Daniel Arroyo, while exploring Berlin’s streets and backyards.
During the video, a transformation takes place where they put on makeup and dress in extravagant drag clothes.
The video is a personal and unconventional portrait of the two young artists playing with boundaries in an otherwise rather conservative tango environment, set to music by composer Osvaldo Pugliese. Behind the film is the Norwegian cinematographer Åsmund Hasli.
– The concept is to combine tango with androgyny and elements from drag shows, says band member Karl Espegard.
Art influenced by surroundings
Juan Pablo De Lucca, who is also a band member, comes from a well-known tango family in Buenos Aires. Currently, he lives in Berlin, a city with a lot of alternative culture.
– For us it was about artistic influence, and the willingness to explore the boundaries of the genre we play, says de Lucca.
– We heard the dancers were in Berlin, and listened to the idea. Then we saw the opportunity to make a video that could inspire thought and really challenge artistic boundaries, Espegard says.
El Muro Tango has made the music into a video that addresses gender expressions.
El Muro Tango has made the music to a video that addresses gender expressions. Photo: Iveta Rysava
Challenges artistic consensus
Espegard considers it important to break away from boundaries within the genre.
– Tango is a classic genre with a traditional formula that gives commercial success. We see that new bands are copying the same formula from the 30s and 40s. That in itself is fine, while we also believe it is important to bring in new impulses. In El Muro Tango, we think that tango is live music, not just something static.
– By making this video we have reached an audience that does not usually listen to tango. We envision tango going out to the people, says De Lucca.
People should be themselves
– Do you want to create something new in tango?
– Not really. It is about sending a message, that it is important to challenge oneself and one’s own boundaries. And not least, to be allowed to be oneself.
In Argentina, the home of tango, expressions related to gender expression and alternative sexuality are practically absent in the tango tradition.
– Such aesthetics are thus not very common, although there are also social changes. We would like to provoke, preferably with some humor in making such a video. If one cannot challenge one’s own genre, you tie yourself up as an artist.
The streets of an empty Berlin, in black and white, confuse with the Buenos Aires that saw the birth of the dance that conquered the world. With the desire to return to the tango to its place of transgression, Juan Pablo de Lucca proposes this original version of the classic of “La chicharra de Villa Crespo.
The international band El Muro Tango has just published what they consider “a love letter to tango, to the city of Berlin and to the fans”: a video in the form of a film set to their interpretation of Recuerdo, a classic by the master Osvaldo Pugliese with lyrics by Eduardo Moreno.
This tango was published in 1924 and premiered by the quartet of bandoneonist Juan Fava, at the Café Mitre, in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of Villa Crespo.
The first recording was made on December 9, 1926 by Julio De Caro’s orchestra. It was only instrumental: the following year Rosita Montemar recorded the sung version accompanied by musicians from the RCA Victor label.
Inspired by the origins of tango in the popular districts of Buenos Aires, the video marks new connections between the unbridled desire of the milongas and the rough margins of Berlin, one of the great contemporary melting pots of the world, a city of refuge for the queer community and a mecca for performers, musicians and artists.
The dancers of the novel staging are the Argentines Juampy Ramírez and Dani Arroyo who seek to convey the desire to dance and experience life with an intensity that only tango can offer. Their movements are relaxed, with marked pauses through which they tell a story and way of freedom of expression.
This musical proposal is the story a journey through the traditional boundaries of the genre and gender in search of a sound that represents the true nature of tango.
El Muro Tango presents the version of Recuerdo with the desire to immerse oneself deeply in the origins of tango and to establish itself as a defining influence of its as yet undefined identity in alternative Berlin.
The group’s pianist is Juan Pablo de Lucca, grandson of the legendary singer and actor Alberto Castillo. The musical accomplishments of their colleagues are no less impressive. Together, they seek to make tango “transgressive, extravagant and dangerous again,” they say.
As their instrumental interpretation accompanies the dancers – who reflect on what has been lost and what remains, hiding in plain sight on the margins of the city, in the beauty of empty urban spaces, in the transformation of two dancers into living emblems of defiant hope – the lyrical fragments hover like ghosts between the notes:
Yesterday they sang poets / in the soft nights of the atmosphere of pleasure / where bohemian and fragile youth / withered in the bar of the barrio sur dying of illusion / dying their song.
The result is a black and white film that moves and connects with great intensity as it speaks of the present moment. “It is clear that although COVID-19 does not discriminate, the impact of the virus still corresponds to the inequalities of society. Those on the margins are, once again, among the most vulnerable – and courageous. Like Dani and Juampy, they still wear make-up and dance,” say the members of the quartet.
El Muro Tango is an Argentine tango band that has reached the international scene of the genre, reaching all of Europe and South America. Their music consists of traditional Argentine tango with a fresh and modern harmonic language, incorporating elements of jazz and South American rhythms.
Since its debut in 2016, the group has toured all over the world and played to a full house at prestigious festivals and concert halls such as the Oslo Chamber Music Festival, the Innsbruck Tango Festival, the Royal Concertgebouw and the Usina del Arte.
In November 2018, El Muro Tango presented its first album, Nostalgic, at Galileo Music (DE) and received excellent reviews in the international press. Its music consists of traditional Argentine tango with a fresh and modern harmonic language, incorporating elements of jazz and South American rhythms.
The legendary Alberto Castillo already has an heir: his grandson triumphs in Europe playing modern tango
Juan Pablo De Lucca is proud of his grandfather. He plays modern tango and will soon give a recital at the most famous theater in the Netherlands, where Barenboim and Martha Argerich usually play. The most hilarious anecdotes and the memories of the great singer of tangos that in Argentina of the 50s led the biggest popular phenomenon.
By Julio Lagos
The young pianist Juan Pablo De Lucca is proud of his grandfather, but follows a different musical path. In August he will give a recital at the prestigious Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, where Barenboim and Marta Argerich usually play.
-I am part of my people and I owe them what I am … I speak with their words and sing with their voice !!!
This was the classic introductory phrase of Alberto Castillo (Alberto Salvador De Lucca, his real name) the popular “singer of the hundred Buenos Aires neighborhoods”. For three decades this modest quatrain (a type of stanza, or a complete poem, consisting of four lines) became an emotional safe-conduct that shook millions of Argentines.
At this point of the 21st century, it is necessary to say: in Argentina of the 1950s, Castillo was a popular phenomenon only surpassed by the massive political concentrations of the time.
The premiere of each of his films – there were twelve in all – caused clamorous crowds at the door of the cinemas, with traffic cuts, avalanches and useless police efforts to maintain order. His presentations in the clubs and dances of Carnival called crowds. And his performances in Radio Belgrano made the traffic collapse, with several blocks of line from the public that in its vast majority had to stay outside the building.
What was the reason for this phenomenon?
Castillo was different from all the singers. He broke with the traditional stereotype: he walked on the stage, he balanced his arms, he used his hands to accompany his gestures, he moved the microphone. And above all, he communicated with the public establishing a relationship of belonging. That’s why the crowds felt it as their own.
This overwhelming personality and exuberant style caused some critics – and not a few of his colleagues – to consider it vulgar and coarse.
However, I can offer two proofs that Alberto Castillo was an extraordinary artist. One, the testimony of Aníbal Troilo, who personally told me:
–Castillo is the only tango singer that I never heard out of tune.
No one else told me this. It was Pichuco who told me one day, when we left Radio Municipal.
And the other proof of what Alberto Castillo was as a singer arises from the testimony of Edmundo Rivero. Once I asked him:
-Leonel, why do you not include the tango “Ninguna” in your repertoire?
-No, that’s what Castillo sang. No one could do it better.
With the permission of the readers, we will give this chronicle the format of a musical show. That’s why I offer you this extract of the film “El tango vuelve a París”, from 1948, when Castillo -with Aníbal Troilo´s orchestra- sang “Ninguna” to Elvira Ríos:
(plays “Ninguna” – Alberto Castillo)
Castillo – father of three children – had eleven grandchildren. One of them is called Juan Pablo de Lucca. He is a pianist and from Berlin, where he lives alternating with other European capitals, he tells me:
-I started studying piano at the age of 8 with my maternal grandmother. And I left at 11 because I wanted to play the electric guitar. I got hooked on rock. Then, when I finished high school, I went to the UCA to study Composition, piano and classical music with Antonio Formaro and Federico Wiman. I learned orchestration, counterpoint, audio-perceptive and composition.
Juan Pablo De Lucca, grandson of the mythical Alberto Castillo, feels proud of his grandfather.
Born in 1986, Juan Pablo spent his adolescence listening to Guns n’Roses, Charly García and The Beatles. And also Mercedes Sosa:
-She is the female singer that impacts me the most, by far.
His musical preferences include Sui Generis and Pescado Rabioso and Bill Evans. And that amplitude was reflected in his contact with the instruments:
-Once I entered university, my range of musical options opened. I also started traveling and in each trip I brought back a new instrument. Charango, flutes, clarinet, drums. Obviously, I did not have time to study everything. When I started to dedicate myself to tango, I realized that I had to go deeper into the piano. And little by little I calmed down.
– And how did you get to tango, after so many musical experiences?
-After I started going to milongas, I wanted to investigate more seriously what tango was about. I called Jorge Dragone, who was my grandfather’s pianist for many years and he, with unparalleled generosity, invited me to his house and so it was that week after week I began to understand how was this music played. He showed me arrangements and how he played them. He taught me how to read a tango score. Then I continued my studies with Andrés Linetzky, Nicolás Ledesma, Pablo Fraguela and Julián Peralta. And for a while with Beba Pugliese.
All these stimuli led to a style in which his admiration for Osvaldo Pugliese is recognized:
– For the musicians of my age, Pugliese is the one that has greater connection with the rock harmonies. And he was the one who kept tango alive, so that it would reach my generation.
The group El Muro plays modern tango and triumphs in Europe.
One day, Juan Pablo went to Europe. He arrived in Norway and together with the bandoneon player Åsbjørg Ryeng, the violinist Karl Espegard and the bassist Sebastián Noya created the group El Muro Tango. They collaborated with dancers Cyrena Drusine (New York) and Steinar Refsdal (Oslo) and recently they recorded this version of “Nostálgico”, by Julián Plaza.
If the reader clicks below, our chronicle now becomes a show:
(plays “Nostalgico” / El Muro Tango)
It is reasonable, almost inevitable, for an Argentinean pianist to have a tango swing. But it strikes me that two young Norwegians have such a porteño sound. And when I mention it, Juan Pablo answers:
-Åsbjørg has played bandoneón since she was 10 years old, she had very good teachers and has also studied with Argentine bandoneon players. As for Karl, he lived for a long time in Buenos Aires and from there he took it. Besides, he has a great interest in our culture, expression and language. Being surrounded by Argentineans, sooner or later he ends up getting a hold of it.
-How did you meet them?
– Through Facebook I met Åsbjørg, who at that time was doing tango duets with Karl, bandoneon and violin. Karl had just returned from Buenos Aires and wanted to continue playing tango. I contacted them, there was a good vibe among the three of us and we decided to continue with the project. Now we are constantly looking for different ways to play the tangos we love. We treat the melodies with a more contrapunctual style, we expand the harmonic language and we combine the tuttis and the solos in more unusual ways.
-And the arrangements?
-Before I was more interested in capturing my vision and sound. Today I aim towards a result bearing the fruits of group collaboration. When each member brings their own vision, the result is infinitely richer and more complex. I am always surprised by the unexpected things that appear in a process of collective creation and the total is always greater than the sum of the parts. I am also more open to playing traditional tangos, although I am interested in always saying something of my own, something coherent with the way we live today, our way of understanding music, which is not the same as it was 50 years ago. Before, maybe I needed to distance myself from the traditional repertoire to find my voice. Today I think how my grandfather would say: tango is tango, it does not matter if it’s from yesterday or today.
The reference to Alberto Castillo opens the way for an almost obvious question:
-The European public, the listeners of your music, your own companions, do they have any idea who Alberto Castillo was?
-The milongueros and the people who know tango of course know who Castillo was. For European musicians, the reference is more Astor Piazzolla. But even those who know him are surprised at the magnitude of his figure when I show them audiovisual and documentary material of the time. Being the grandson of Castillo for me was always a blessing and a joy. Being able to meet such an artist and receive part of his legacy fills me with pride. And some of the tangos in our album are part of my grandfather’s repertoire.
In that catalog of songs, Castillo included “Así se baila el tango”, a tango that said “What do pitucos, lamidos and sushetas know, what do they know what tango is, what they know about the beat …”. It was like a challenge, that he sang with a provocative air, pointing to those who resisted his style. He achieved his goal to such a point that more than once the last measures had the echo of a noisy fight in the audience. Meanwhile, on stage, dominating the situation, Castillo broke the molds, loosening his tie, accompanying the modulation of his voice with the profile of his hands and moving the microphone as Elvis Presley would do years later.
Here you can see and hear, at 43 seconds, after a few bars of “El choclo”:
(Alberto Castillo plays – “Así se baila el tango”)
And now let´s enjoy the recording that, 70 years later, made his grandson playing piano with El Muro Tango:
I was lucky to meet Alberto Castillo. And I did a story, which was published in Gente magazine in October 1965. I remember it was a torrent. He talked, he stopped, he gesticulated, he sat down, he hit me in the hand while I took notes, he came back to stop. And he repeated a hose:
-I do not know if you understand me … I do not know if I explain myself …
It was perfectly explained, of course:
-I am necessary. I am not indispensable, because I am neither bread nor noodles.But I am necessary, I transmit. The public is going to see me looking for something and I give it to them. Something simple, easy. Mine is not stern. Do you realize what I’m telling you? I cause euphoria. Let’s see if I’m like those who play tango for themselves! Piazzolla? He went too far. You do not have to play for later, you have to play for now. Thrill. And he makes you think.
We were talking in his apartment on Riobamba street, but it was as if he were on stage. He went, he came, he moved his arms:
– I triumphed because I sing like you and how they want to sing when they are showering. They laughed at me a lot, they said I was a clown, no sir! If I do it, it’s because of something. I associate each word with a gesture, I coordinate the inflection of the voice and the muscular movement Or the hands do not speak? And what can I tell you about those of us who have the Italian spirit? I have an uncle who, if you tie his hands, cannot talk!
Alberto Castillo was a doctor and his artistic career forced him to leave medicine. Although that experience accompanied him throughout his artistic life:
-When I sing a tango I put everything, because I feel it. You can not talk about a drama if you never had it. And that they come to talk to me about dramas, when I spent five years as a general practitioner in the hospital.
Now, his grandson plays tangos in Norway. Everything is different: the environment, the weather, the language, the stage, the musical sound, the story.
However, Juan Pablo feels the same vibration as his grandfather when tango achieves the miracle of communication:
– Sometimes we play in very small towns and we are surprised by the warmth of the audience. There are tango clubs in totally unthinkable places and it is a great joy to be received with such expectation. Last summer we played in Senja, an island that is within the Arctic circle and people ended up dancing our music, without even knowing how to dance tango!
Surely, his grandfather would be very proud. Much more, if he knew what Juan Pablo has just told me:
-They invited us to play at the Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. It is one of the finest concert halls in Europe and usually hosts artists like Martha Argerich or Daniel Barenboim.
The event is already on the internet. On Sunday, August 4, at 8:00 pm, the band “El Muro Tango” will play at the Kleine Zaal of the most famous theater in the Netherlands.
We do not know if Queen Máxima will attend. Although taking into account that at her wedding she heard “Adiós Nonino”, she could suddenly be among the audience. Do you know why? Because that night Juan Pablo de Lucca and his group are going to play “Milonga del Ángel” by Astor Piazzolla.
Yes, definitely, grandfather Alberto would not take it badly.
Moreover, he would not be angry with me either because I close my chronicle-show with this fantastic version.
While some are currently working hard to build walls, others are light-footed. El Muro Tango not only lifts the boundaries between people and countries but also detaches the tango classics from their previously assigned role. The musicians seem to have devoted themselves to the fascination of opposites, whereby modernity and tradition, north and south, unconventionality and form awareness, passion and coolness are no longer contradictions.
By Doris Schumacher
The ensemble’s story is a modern music fairy tale: in 2012, the Norwegian violinist Karl Espegard attends a Spanish course in Buenos Aires and falls in love with tango: «Shortly after arriving I became friends with a group of tango dancers and students. Some of them were also musicians, and we took tango lessons together and started going out, exploring the bohemian life and underground culture of Buenos Aires. I did not bring my violin, so I went to the nearest music store and bought the cheapest violin I could find. I always had it with me and played at every opportunity, at private parties and spontaneous gatherings, in cafes, jam sessions and milongas. It was a very free and liberating moment with a lot of improvisation in music and life in general». Espegard decides to exchange the regulated life of Northern Europe for the freedom of artistic life in Buenos Aires. He moves to Argentina for one year and becomes a member of the tango ensemble Orquesta del Centenario, with whom he tours through Argentina and Europe.
In 2016, Argentine pianist Juan Pablo de Lucca, grandson of the prominent tango singer and actor Alberto Castillo, moves from Buenos Aires to Hamburg. In the search for other musicians, he contacts the Norwegian bandoneonist Åsbjørg Ryeng via Facebook. By then, she was playing duos with Karl Espegard, who had just moved back to Europe. Juan Pablo de Lucca: «I came to Oslo in November, we rehearsed and subsequently performed three concerts in Malmö and Oslo. The response from the audience was very good and on a personal level, it clicked really well. From there on we continued working together making El Muro Tango our main project, playing concerts all around Europe».
The initial trio was joined by the Argentinians Sebastián Noya (bass) and Juan Villarreal (vocals, guitar). The latter is a member of the well-known Orquesta El Arranque and is currently considered one of the most sought-after tango singers. This Argentine-Norwegian tango connection has already made a name for itself within and beyond the European and Latin American tango scene, capturing dancers and non-dancers alike with their contemporary arrangements. On the TV program Norway’s Got Talent 2018, the band performed together with the dance couple Cyrena Drusine and Steinar Refsdal in the final round. With «Nostálgico», the ensemble brings out a selection of tangos that in turn have made history.
«Some of the songs from the album are part of my grandfather´s repertoire», says Juan Pablo de Lucca. «I have heard them a lot and love the way he sings them. It is a way of homaging him. As for the other songs, we choose the ones we have a special connection to. If the tango has lyrics, it should be a theme that appeals to us and that we want to talk about». Tangos like «Regin» by Alfredo Rubin, «Recuerdo» by Osvaldo Pugliese, «EI Violin de Becho» by Alfredo Zitarrosa or the Candombe «Tamboriles» by Romeo Gavioli appear in El Muro Tango with a new but traditionally respectful outfit. «We constantly search for different ways to play the tangos we love. We treat the melodies in a more contrapuntal style, expand the harmonic language and combine the tuttis and solos in more unusual ways. Most of the tangos of the album are very well-known pieces and the listener will have no trouble in following, even if we stray away from the traditional path».
Not least to speak of the internationality of its members, El Muro Tango lives up to the great figures of tango in the 20s and 40s, composers and interpreters whose biographies tell stories of emigration and new arrivals. «One of the aspects that fascinate us the most about tango is its deep connection to its culture. When you hear tangos from the 40s you can see how it reflects the life of that time. The lyrics, the way of singing, the record artworks and the dance form are all depicting society. Society has rules and mechanisms. In 1940 women had a designated role within the family and men would work for 30 years in the same place until retirement. All of that has changed. The culture changes and popular culture is always the reflection of a society’s behavior».
El Muro Tango – Pasión Nórdica
Mientras que algunos trabajan actualmente para construir muros, otros son más ligeros. El Muro Tango no solo borra los límites entre las personas y los países, sino que también separa a los clásicos del tango de su rol tradicional. Los músicos parecen haberse dedicado a la fascinación de los opuestos, por lo que modernidad y tradición, norte y sur, conciencia de la forma y no convencionalidad, pasión y razón ya no son contradicciones.
Por Doris Schumacher
La historia del conjunto es un cuento de hadas de la música moderna: en 2012, el violinista noruego Karl Espegard asiste a un curso de español en Buenos Aires y se enamora del tango. «Poco después de llegar me hice amigo de un grupo de bailarines y estudiantes de tango. Algunos de ellos también eran músicos, tomamos clases de tango y comenzamos a salir y explorar la vida bohemia y la cultura under de Buenos Aires. Como no había llevado mi violín, fui a una tienda de música y me compré el más barato que encontré. Lo llevé conmigo a todas partes, desde fiestas privadas y reuniones hasta cafés, jams y milongas. Fue un momento de mucha liberación, con mucha improvisación en la música y en la vida en general». Espegard decide cambiar la vida regulada del norte de Europa por la libertad de la vida artística en Buenos Aires. Se muda a Argentina por un año y se convierte en miembro del conjunto de tango Orquesta del Centenario, con quien gira por Argentina y Europa.
En 2016, el pianista argentino Juan Pablo de Lucca, nieto del reconocido cantante y actor de tango Alberto Castillo, se muda de Buenos Aires a Hamburgo. En búsqueda de otros músicos, se pone en contacto a través de Facebook con la bandoneonista noruega Åsbjørg Ryeng. Por entonces, ella estaba tocando dúos con Karl Espegard, quién acababa de regresar a Europa. Juan Pablo de Lucca: «Vine a Oslo en noviembre, ensayamos y dimos tres conciertos en Malmö y Oslo. La respuesta de la audiencia fue muy buena y a nivel personal funcionó muy bien. A partir de ese momento seguimos trabajando juntos e hicimos de El Muro Tango nuestro proyecto principal, tocando conciertos por toda Europa».
A este trío inicial se le unieron los argentinos Sebastián Noya (bajo) y Juan Villarreal (voz, guitarra). Este último es miembro de la conocida Orquesta El Arranque y actualmente es considerado uno de los cantantes de tango más buscados. Esta conexión de tango argentino-noruega ya se ha hecho un nombre dentro y más allá de la escena del tango europeo y latinoamericano, capturando a bailarines y no bailarines por igual con sus arreglos contemporáneos. En el programa de televisión Noruega Tiene Talento 2018, la banda se presentó junto a la pareja de baile Cyrena Drusine y Steinar Refsdal en la final. Con «Nostálgico», el conjunto presenta una selección de tangos que a su vez han hecho historia.
«Algunas de los tangos del álbum son parte del repertorio de mi abuelo», dice Juan Pablo de Lucca. «Los he escuchado mucho y me encanta la forma en que los cantaba. Es una forma de homenajearlo. En cuanto a las otras músicas, elegimos aquellas con las que tenemos una conexión especial. Si el tango tiene letra, debería ser un tema que nos atraiga y del que quisiéramos hablar ». Tangos como «Regin» de Alfredo Rubin, «Recuerdo» de Osvaldo Pugliese, «EI Violín de Becho» de Alfredo Zitarrosa o el candombe «Tamboriles» de Romeo Gavioli aparecen en El Muro Tango con un traje nuevo pero tradicionalmente respetuoso. «Buscamos constantemente diferentes formas de tocar los tangos que amamos. Tratamos las melodías con un estilo más contrapuntístico, expandimos el lenguaje armónico y combinamos los tuttis y los solos de maneras más inusuales. La mayoría de los tangos del álbum son piezas conocidas que el oyente no tendrá problemas en seguir, incluso si nos alejamos del camino tradicional».
Además de la internacionalidad de sus miembros, El Muro Tango está a la altura de las gestas teatrales de los años 20 y 40, porque las propias biografías de los compositores e intérpretes cuentan historias de emigración y recién llegados. «Uno de los aspectos que más nos fascina del tango es su profunda conexión con su cultura. Cuando escuchás tangos de los años 40 podés ver cómo refleja la vida de la época. Las letras, la forma de cantar, el arte y la forma de baile es una representación de la sociedad. Una sociedad tiene reglas y mecanismos. En 1940 las mujeres tenían un rol asignado dentro de la familia y los hombres trabajaban durante 30 años en el mismo lugar hasta su jubilación. Todo eso ha cambiado. La cultura cambia y la cultura popular es siempre el reflejo de una sociedad».
Karl Espegard from Drammen has played violin since he was eight years old. In 2012, he traveled to Buenos Aires to study Spanish and literature and it did not take long before he started missing the violin.
– When I traveled to Argentina I became immersed in tango. I bought the cheapest violin I could find and started playing.
Espegard plays in a Norwegian-Argentine tango band called El Muro Tango. Together they travel and tour in Europe and South America. Recently they released their debut album “Nostálgico”.
The violin has been with him since he was eight years old and music has always been a part of his life. Espegard says his mother was very passionate about her children getting to learn an instrument. Why he ended up with the violin is, in his own opinion, a bit random.
– The man who was to become my first violin teacher came to my school with two of his students. We were allowed to try the violin. My sister and I wanted to start taking lessons. We started together, but she eventually dropped out. I come from a musical family but no one plays professionally.
At the age of 13, Espegard entered the Barratt Due Institute of Music, and for many years he was a member of the Buskerud Youth String Orchestra under the leadership of Thode Fagelund. In 2007 he worked as a teacher at Drammen School of Music and Culture.
– At that time I was also conducting the school string orchestra, and I had a few violin students. I quit my job because I moved to Northern Norway to work as a county musician. I taught and played concerts for the counties that lie a little further out in the countryside, he says.
Found a new genre
In 2012 he traveled to Buenos Aires and got acquainted with the tango. He got in touch with people in the community and decided to start playing.
– I had listened to tango before, but it was first when I traveled to Argentina that I was absorbed by it, he says. In 2016 he met the guys he now plays in a band with.
Don´t live in the same country
El Muro Tango was founded in Oslo, but the musicians now live in different countries.
– The singer of the band lives in Buenos Aires, the pianist lives in Berlin and the bassist lives in Switzerland. There are two of us who live in Norway.
Espegard says that there are, of course, a few challenges involved in playing with people who live in different countries, but rarely does it pass more than a month between meeting to play concerts.
– We plan things together, but it can, of course, be a challenge not to be in the same room or in the same country all the time. We travel a lot, however, and meet whenever we tour. We keep a lot of contact through social media, he explains.
Playing in Book of Mormon
Besides playing in a tango band, Espegard is also involved in the acclaimed musical Book of Mormon at The Norwegian Theater.
– I’m a part of the band so I don’t have a theatrical role, but I have previously worked in several theater productions at The Norwegian Theater, including Kvitebjørn Kong Valemon in 2016, he says.
On November 18, El Muro Tango gave a concert at Gummibaren in Drammen, and on November 23 they released their debut album. Espegard says that the band has traveled around the world and has received great recognition in both the European and South American tango communities.
– We have traveled in Argentina and performed in the well-known tango clubs. It has been a great experience to be able to travel around the country and play for people who not only like our music but also know the lyrics, says the musician.
– We work with some of the leading Argentine tango singers, including Martin Alvarado, Negro Falótico and Chino Laborde. Our music is a mix of Argentine traditional tango with elements of jazz and modern music, he adds.
Eager about Japan
Espegard tells Drammens Tidende that they have accomplished several goals recently, with tours and debut album to show for. Their next big goal is to travel to Japan, where there is a great interest in tango, both for dancers and tango orchestras, says Espegard.
– We already have some contacts who have traveled to Japan and introduced us to the music industry, but we are thinking of going there in 2020. Tango has been popular in Japan since the ’30s, and there are a lot of Japanese people who have emigrated to Argentina and live in Buenos Aires, says Espegard.
Playing with Norwegian-Argentine El Muro Tango, who is about to release their new album and gives a concert at Gummibaren on Sunday 18 November.
What will we hear?
– There will be Argentine tango, and we play a lot from our debut album, which will be released on November 23. By the way, we are bringing the physical record, which also has been launched in Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and now with a tour from the north to the south of Norway.
El Muro Tango has held a concert in Drammen earlier, among others at Union Scene during the Cultural Night (Kulturnatt) in 2017, how is it to play in your hometown?
– It’s great, the audience is very receptive. Our first concert in Drammen was also at Gummibaren, furthermore we played at a Tango Weekend in January, where there were instructors from Argentina and Finland, and where we gave a concert in the evening.
Tell me about El Muro, when did you start?
– We started El Muro Tango in 2016 as a trio, so we celebrate two years this year. Juan Pablo de Lucca plays piano, Åsbjørg Ryeng plays bandoneon, Sebastian Noya plays double bass and Juan Villarreal is the lead singer. Bandoneon is a kind of transportable church organ, made in Germany in the late 1800s, arriving to Argentina when people emigrated there. There the instrument was captured by the tango – we can say it went from the church in Europe to the brothels in Buenos Aires.
You are originally from Drammen, share a little about your background?
– I started playing violin when I was eight, and went to the local music school in Drammen with Thode Fagelund as a teacher. Later I moved to Oslo and entered the Barratt Due Institute of Music, before continuing my studies at Hochschule der Künste Bern and the Norwegian Academy of Music.
How did you get passionate about tango?
– It was a coincidence that I went to Argentina, I knew about Astor Piazzolla, he took the music out of the clubs and into the concert halls, but I only knew it superficially, tango is a world in itself. In Argentina, I learned about the styles and the different eras and everything that the tango music contains. I returned later and made friends and learned Spanish, I felt very at home there.
What is it about this music?
– Many things, tango is a bit like classical music, but it is still popular music. You think it’s improvised, but it’s not. Tango gives you a feeling of being alive, both from playing and listening. And it lives in the sense that in all over the world you can dance to tango. Tango is a separate language, a culture of its own. The music deals with universal themes, often about lost love. The tango culture had its peak in the 1930s and 40s. But then it went down, and the 1980s and 90s were dark times for the tango, after all the political difficulties in Latin America. Now, fortunately, it is in bloom again. In Argentina, there is a growing interest in preserving old recordings and manuscripts, and a few years ago, tango was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
What are the feedbacks you get?
– We get very positive feedback, people are taken on a journey, the music stirs emotions. We have received very good response during the whole tour, and good attendance. Several of the concerts have been sold out, I am a little surprised that people who have never heard of us actually show up.
What do you listen to yourself?
– I listen to a lot of different music, often within jazz and latin, and I am particularly fond of the Mexican singer Natalia Lafourcade. Also I listen to music released by friends and colleagues.
Which book has meant the most to you?
– Don’t know which one has meant the most, but one that I recently read, and which was very interesting is “Born a Crime” by Trevor Noah. He grew up during the apartheid regime in South Africa. The mother was African and the father Swiss – his mere existence was a crime during apartheid.
What makes you happy?
– Good food! Asado, Argentinian barbecue – there is no better. In addition, it is a very social thing.
Who is your childhood hero?
– Arve Tellefsen.
What do you dislike most about yourself?
– That I’m a little intense sometimes, I can’t let go of things. It has its good and bad sides.
What are you willing to go in demonstration for or against?
– Certainly for equal rights for everyone.
Is there anything you regret?
– Yes, but I rather think you can learn from your mistakes instead of regretting – you should not be afraid to make mistakes.
With whom would you get stuck in the elevator?
– Would be been fun to meet Diego El Cigala – a Spanish flamenco singer.
El Muro Tango released its debut album this autumn: Nostàlgico. In the recording we hear the Norwegian violinist Karl Espegard and Åsbjørg Ryeng on bandoneon, pianist and composer Juan Pablo de Lucca from Buenos Aires, and bassist Sebastian Noya, who lives in Switzerland. With them, they have the singer Juan Villarreal from Buenos Aires. The band has already been on tour in many countries for the past two years.
A bitter cold afternoon in December I meet Karl Espegard in Oslo. We seek refuge in the apartment he borrows from a friend (the globetrotter has not yet a place to call home) and start a Skype conversation with Juan Pablo de Lucca from Berlin and Juan Villarreal, who is having breakfast in Buenos Aires.
I’m looking at the small screen and thinking about all the amazing technological opportunities we have at the moment. But these guys create music and that is quite something else, isn´t it?
Fierce dance Recently, everyone was gathered in Norway for a small release tour, during which they were warming up Oslo and other smaller cities with their hefty tango rhythms. They are also known from the television show “Norway´s Got Talent” on TV2, where they accompanied the dancers Cyrena and Steinar. Lived life and longing for even more adventures vibrates in the air.
– It’s not easy to be a group when we live so far apart, says de Lucca.
– While it’s useful to be able to talk over the web, it’s something quite different to be in the same room and share and develop ideas. When we still are able to pull it off, it’s because we really want it. We are proud of what we have achieved so far. And when we get together, have concerts and notice how the audience gets carried along, it gives us a real kick, he continues.
Espegard nods and adds that it is the desire to live a life filled with music that keeps them going, despite the fact that the distances are cumbersome. For his part, he is also genuinely interested in tango after several long stays in Argentina.
– You Argentinians probably have tango in the blood, and have also played and sung together with many other groups, but how is it for you to work with two Norwegian musicians?
Villarreal takes the word:
– To me it is very nice to work with these Norwegians. They are good musicians. Nationality does not matter, but in the case of tango, it is an additional challenge because it is so closely linked to the culture.
– For us, having grown up with it, tango has been transmitted unnoticed into our life through our parents. But Karl has lived here in Argentina and has learned the language and ways of tango. It’s not about being able to play the right notes, but about the actual basic emotion. I feel he has grabbed it.
Straight from the spleen – Yes, what is tango really? On the record there are several different rythms, including waltz and something similar to samba … Can anything be tango if you just perform it in a certain way?
– To me, there is one word that defines tango: esplin, says Villarreal.
He speaks Spanish now, and both Espegard and I find that our language skills come a little short. But Villarreal explains:
– The songs can be about anything. It can be a love story, something about friendship, a story from the past – anything. Sometimes a happy song, but at the bottom you will always find stripes of melancholy and nostalgia. It’s the “party where sadness is danced,” as a friend of mine says. That’s how it is.
– Of course there are certain elements that belong: Syncopes, fermatas, rhythms – many elements – but ultimately, it is a state of mind. To me it is esplin. This is what carries it all, which speaks about everything you’ve lost or almost lost, and about death. Remember that tango is created by poor immigrants, slaves, indigenous people and gauchos – people who have lost their roots.
When I check the term, it appears that the word Villarreal uses to describe tango is a term for the organ “spleen”, and it is linked to an old idea that spleen is the organ in the body that produces “black bile” . People who were sad, melancholic or depressed had an excess of this fluid.
Lentil stew – It may be symptomatic that while I asked about counting bars in the music, you are more concerned with the inner life of music?
– Yes, you can make tango of many different kinds of rhythms, but if you do not understand the esplin, you do not play tango, confirms Villarreal.
From Berlin, de Lucca jumps in with a bit more music technological explanation:
– Tango is divided into three subcategories: Tango, Milonga and Waltz. Tango is at 4/4 pace, but it must be played with the right feeling. If not, it becomes carousel music.
– There are clearly defined rules, continues Espegard.
– These have been developed over the years. For example, you do not have percussion in the orchestra, but you use the instruments percussively. It’s typical for tango. You have the obvious difference between a legato, marcato and syncope, which are basic structural elements.
De Lucca illustrates: – Yes, this is the skeleton, but the most important reason to know it is to be able to free yourself from it. You can compare it with a mass-produced suit. You do not want it. Why would you like to have a suit that is identical to what everyone else has? You also don´t want to play tango like everyone else plays it. You want to create your own.
Espegard concludes that making your own version of a tango song is typical.
– The scores you get from the composer usually contain only the melody and the harmony, therefore the same song can sound very different, depending on which artist is performing it.
De Lucca rounds off by testifying to the relationship between jazz and tango, and continues enthusiastically into an explanation of food recipes. Although some dishes have certain elements that must be there, like lentils in a lentil soup, you can add a lot of different ingredients to your own liking.
Dense sound – What is the core of El Muro Tango?
– You ask about our recipe? Parallel fourths!
The boys are grinning, but de Lucca still reveals a few secrets from their cookbook:
– The sound is for a large part built by mine and Karls interaction. The sound of tango orchestras is almost always directed from the piano. Because of the fact that tango groups do not have any rhythm section, the piano leads through its bass lines and harmonizations. When there is an accelerando or ritardando, it’s always the piano that directs it. The piano also has a lot of volume, so the others must follow. You can say I control what’s going on, hehe.
Espegard says tango today has two distinct directions.
– On the one hand you have the traditional clubs where people go to dance, and it is quite common for the orchestras to faithfully copy the old, well-known artists and styles.
– On the other hand, you have concert tango, which largely flourishes in Europe. Here the main emphasis is on the legend Astor Piazzolla and other classically trained musicians. El Muro Tango finds itself in the middle of these. We want to keep it danceable, but also add some new subtleties, some harmonic explorations and create our own expression. It’s a demanding task, because if you get too experimental, it’s easy to get away from the danceable. It seems like we’ve managed to find our balance.
Woman with bandoneon Noticeable for the group is the fact that they have a female bandoneon player. Åsbjørg Ryeng is not present while I talk to the rest of the group, but afterwards she tells me about her random way into this particular choice of instrument:
– I was ten years old when I entered the local music school in Trondheim. Just then, Kåre Jostein Simonsen had been in Paris and learned to play bandoneon, and started teaching the instrument. It seemed like fun, so I signed up for the class.
Since then, Ryeng has continued to play the instrument, and several years later graduated with a masters degree from the Norwegian Academy of Music and has become a member of several tango bands. Even in the traditionally male chauvinist Argentina, she has only met positive response to the fact that, as a woman, she plays the instrument which until recently has only been played by men.
– Here we have, once again, the fact that tango relates to the culture, says de Lucca.
– In the typical local milongas (clubs, ed’s note), the women only went out with their family. If you wanted to dance with a women, you had to ask the father for permission. The women never went out alone. My mother, who is around 70 years old, always had to bring her aunt if she wanted to go out to dance while she was young. In the last ten years it is no longer the case, and there are also more women playing the bandoneon. Some of them are really good.
Controls the dance – Does the dance change as well? When you see people dancing tango, you see that there is a clear hierarchy – the man is the boss and the woman is being led?
– When I started dancing ten years ago I was not taught that the man is the boss, but someone has to lead the dance, and according to tradition it’s the man, says de Lucca.
– But first and foremost it has to do with the fact that he is looking in a forward direction. You cannot lead the dance while walking backwards. But the dance is something we do together. Today, if you dance with young women and try to lead them in a bossy way, they will quickly say thanks and leave the dance floor, he says.
Espegard has observed that in milongas, many couples are switching to take the leading role.
– It can happen both between man and woman, and between two of the same sex. But you can´t ignore the fact that in the dance there are two very distinct roles.
Controlling the fermatas – In the group, how do you manage to coordinate all the rhythmical and emotional changes that are used in tango? Long fermatas, syncopes or accelerandi – all this passion, how do you agree to when it should happen?
De Lucca explains:
– We make some kind of choreography when we practice. But how we do it is not as important as why we do it. If you only know how to do it, you can only do what the choreography directs. We also improvise. We can do that because we understand each other. It has something to do with the way we speak. There is a lot of singing in the language. We shout, whisper and gesticulate, and much is said with just the eyes.
– A couple of years ago when I arrived to Europe, I first lived in Hamburg, Oslo and Berlin. Then I arrived to Italy, and it struck me that as soon as I got out in the street, I felt that I understood everything that happened. The way people used their eyes, body posture, how they talked to each other … all the insignificant things in communication. It was almost like back home. We do not have a ‘clean’ and tidy communication as you guys in Northern Europe. It is much more dirty, messy and expressive with us.
De Lucca talks warmly about the way to express, and recites a few lines from one of their songs:
Cerrame el ventanal que arrastra el sol su lento caracol de sueño
He recites first softly and confidently, then hard and imperiously to illustrate how the musicians must follow carefully the expression of the soloist and adjust their playing accordingly. The poetic verses are so delicate that I will not try to translate, but we understand that it is a good idea to pay close attention.
– You simply just have to listen very carefully to each other?
– Yes, you should have a choreography at the core, but most interesting things happen when someone in the group strays off from the choreography. As if Juan suddenly discovers something in the text that he has not thought of before and sings it differently than usual, then we have to change the plan, says de Lucca, and emphasizes that they must respond to what the singer is trying to convey.
– When five people go together to tell a story, it’s so powerful that you can hardly stay untouched. You sometimes notice in concerts: Something is happening, you cannot describe it, and you cannot recreate it even if you tried, but it is a strong experience.
– This is not unique to tango, continues Espegard.
– It concerns art in general. The musicians respond to the circumstances and it affects what is happening on stage. However, it is noticable to what extent tango is related to the Argentinian style of life. Therefore, there is also a difference between tango played at club in Buenos Aires and in some German city.
Percussive game – You are a classically trained violinist. What is the biggest challenge for you as an instrumentalist when playing tango?
– I would rather answer to what’s the biggest benefit! What I like about playing tango is that although the music has certain rules, one is free. Free to experiment. Create your own versions. It is an essential reason to why I play tango.
– As for the technique, there are certain things to learn, such as the percussive way to play such squeaky sounds as one gets when playing with the bow placed behind the bridge. There are other percussive effects as well. I do not feel like I have mastered everything yet, but I have not focused strongly on it either. I’m not looking for cheap effects. The music consists of other things, says Espegard.
By Inger Gretasdatter published 19.10.2018 for Rana Blad
RANA: Karl Espegard has worked with both KammeRana and NordlandTeater. Now he is performing at Smeltedigelen with the band El Muro Tango.
El Muro Tango is a Norwegian-Argentine tango band and has been touring the world since 2016.
Karl Espegard, the violinist of the band, received his musical training from the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo. Six months after graduation, Espegard traveled to Rana to fulfil a one-year contract as a county musician in Rana municipality.
– This was completely by chance, since I have no connection to Northern Norway other than the fact that my mother lived in Finnsnes as a child, says Espegard.
He says that the year in Mo i Rana was a very positive experience, and he worked partly as a performing musician and partly as a music teacher at Rana Kulturskole.
– I worked a great deal with KammeRana and had a nice collaboration with Nordland Theater, and not least, I got to see the northern lights for the first time, he says.
– I had a lot of freedom to work creatively with different projects, and it was nice to travel around the county with KammeRana, says Espegard.
Since the age of 12-13 he has been a good friend of Alexander Rybak. They studied together at Barratt Due Institute of Music.
– I had a visit from Alexander when I lived at Mo, back then he was still quite unknown although he had won the Kjempesjansen competition at NRK (Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation) a year earlier. A few months after his visit to Mo, everything exploded and his career took off with a lightning speed, says Espegard.
He does not only play tango these days. Espegard is currently also playing in the musical Book of Mormon, and works with other artists such as Herborg Kråkevik and Ylvis.
– In November, El Muro Tango launches its first album, which we recorded for a German label last year, he says.
Now the band will embark on their first tour in Norway, and they will also appear in this year’s edition of Smeltedigelen Music Festival.
– El Muro Tango is a full-blooded tango band with both Norwegian and Argentine musicians, and neither of us lives in the same city. It becomes a bit project-based, but we have activity all year round, he says.
To Smeltedigelen, Espegard and the rest of the band are joined by Cyrena Drusine & Steinar Refsdal, with whom they performed in the finale of Norway’s Got Talent 2018.
– EL MURO TANGO: (FLTR) Juan Pablo de Lucca, Åsbjørg Ryeng,
Karl Espegard, Benjamin Groisman and Juan Villarreal will be serving
full-blooded tango at Smeltedigelen Musikkfestival. Photo: David Dollmann.
Volviendo a Rana con Tango.
RANA: Karl Espegard ha estado trabajando con KammeRana y NordlandTeater. Ahora se presentará en Smeltedegilen con su banda El Muro Tango.
El Muro Tango es un ensamble noruego-argentino que ha estado de gira por el mundo desde el 2016.
Karl Espegard, violinista de la banda, recibió su educación musical en la Academia de Música de Noruega, Oslo. Seis meses después de haber finalizado sus estudios, se mudó a Rana para trabajar durante un año como músico del condado en la municipalidad.
-Esto fue completamente aleatorio. Aparte de que mi madre haya vivido en Finnsnes de niña, no tengo ninguna conexión con el norte de Noruega, dice Karl Espegard.
Comenta que su año en Mo i Rana ha sido una experiencia positiva y que trabajó en parte como músico y en parte como docente en Rana Kulturshole.
-Trabajé mayormente con la KammeRana y colaboré con el Nordland Theater. Y finalmente, pude ver las auroras boreales por primera vez, agrega.
-Tenía mucha libertad para trabajar creativemente en varios proyectos, y fue muy lindo poder viajar y conocer la zona con la KammeRana.
Desde los 12 años, Karl Espegard es amigo con Alexander Rybak. Juntos han estudiado en Barratt Due Institute of Music.
-Recibí una visita de Alexander mientras yo vivía en Mo. En ese entonces aún no era conocido, aunque ya hacía un año había ganado la competición de Kjempesjansen en NRK. Unos meses después de esta visita su carrera despegó a una velocidad impresionante, agrega Espegard.
Actualmente, no toca solamente tango. Espegard es parte del elenco del musical Book of Mormon y trabaja junto a otros artistas como Herborg Kråkevik and Ylvis.
– En Noviembre, El Muro Tango presenta su primer disco, grabado durante el año pasado para un sello alemán, nos comenta.
Ahora la banda se lanza en su primer gira por Noruega y aparecerán en la edición de este año del Smeltedigelen Music Festival.
– El Muro Tango es un ensamble de tango compuesto por músicos argentinos y noruegos. Vivimos todos en ciudades diferentes. El trabajo se basa en proyectos puntuales, pero tenemos actividad todo el año, dice.
En Smeltedigelen, Espegard y el resto de la banda serán acompañados por Cyrena Drusine & Steinar Refsdal, junto a quiénes se han presentado en la final de Norway’s Got Talent 2018.