Where is everybody?

March 20, 2020

Yesterday seemed like a normal day.  People were walking, buses had passengers, restaurants had customers, and grocery and health food stores had people lined up at the door to buy food.

Today was so different.

I needed to buy food at the organic fair and decided to walk there. It felt like I was walking in the Twilight Zone.  There were very few people walking on the streets.  Buses were almost empty.   The subte is closed.  All the furniture stores on Belgrano were closed.  Obviously, President Fernandez told everyone to stay home.  Only food shops and pharmacies are open today.  The city is almost a ghost town at midday.

There are important posters along the streets urging citizens how to take care in this pandemic.  I saw one that warned people not to share mate, drinking cups, or utensils.  Sharing mate with the same bombilla is a cultural standard for Argentinians.  I hope they can make the adjustment quickly.

I walked from my apartment to Corrientes and Callao, where I decided it was time to return.  It was a lovely walk on a beautiful sunny day with quiet streets and almost no traffic.  I wasn’t going to find the organic fair at the plaza near Teatro Colon open as usual.  Tomorrow there is another organic fair a block from my apartment where I can buy most of what I need for the week.

 

When I arrived at my block, I immediately thought about my neighbors, the Taylor family who live two doors away.  Albert and his wife Ngozi were born in Nigeria. Their three daughters were born in Buenos Aires.  Albert drives a taxi which is their only source of income.   I didn’t see one taxi on the streets today, so that means Albert has no work to provide for his family.  The girls are studying at home this week since all schools are closed.  I haven’t seen them for a week and miss them all.  The girls started in the school orchestra program two years ago and practice in my apartment.  For the meantime, even our daily walks are suspended.

Felicitas plays the cello, and Emanuela plays the violin. This is the music studio for their practice sessions.  I turned the living room into a yoga studio for them.

Zero Milongas in Buenos Aires

March 18, 2020

Months ago I decided I would compare the number of milongas in March 2000 with those in March 2020.  I posted the March 2000 list three years ago.  I certainly never thought I’d be comparing the old list with zero milongas today.  But that is a fact.  The milongas listed on Hoy-Milonga.com are cancelled until further notice.  Organizers met and decided that closure was the right decision during the pandemic of Coronavirus which has reached Argentina.

The city government has closed all concert venues, museums, and schools, so it is necessary for the milongas to stay closed as well where so many seniors are at risk.  Tango is a close contact sport and an easy opportunity for passing the virus.  I understand that Italian tourists were dancing in the milongas this month.  The virus  has changed life as we knew it on the planet.  It’s a wake-up call that we must hear.

There are 138 milongas on the March 2000 list above.  I referred to Hoy-Milonga to determine there are 118 milongas in the capital federal, not including the provincial milongas or practicas.  I have to admit this is more than I expected.  A few years ago there were around 75, seriously low for Buenos Aires.  What is also amazing is that many of the milonga venues in 2000 are still operating in 2020: Salon Canning, Club Armenia, Salon Rodriguez, Salon El Pial, Club Gricel, Salon Marabu, Salon Region Leonesa, Club Pedro Echague, Club Glorias Argentinas, and Club Fulgor de Villa Crespo.  All the venues were built as social venues for dancing, so tango continues in them.

In March 2000, a weekend had 96 milongas, versus only 52 today.

He said, she said

February 27, 2020

During my morning walk, I had another milonguero sighting. Roque lives at the corner of Av. Belgrano and Av. Entre Rios, but I hadn’t seen him for several weeks at La Continental where he goes regularly for meals.

He:  Oh how I want to go to dance, but I can’t.

She:  I can dance, but I don’t want to go.

We laughed.  Then I helped him cross the street.  He’s frail and walks with a cane.

Bandonegro in Buenos Aires

January 22, 2020

These four talented tango musicians from Poland were in Buenos Aires a year ago, sponsored by the Argentine Embassy in Poland.  I heard them and became an instant fan, following them wherever they played.

Today they release a movie of their tour in Buenos Aires.

They are scheduled at tango festivals in Germany, France, Norway, Finland, Belgium, Italy, Netherlands, Switzerland, Denmark, and Poland throughout 2020.  I don’t know of another tango ensemble that performs traditional tango, nuevo tango, and Piazzolla.  They are masters of every style.

Edificio El Molino

January 12, 2020

Restoration work on the landmark Edificio El Molino across from the national congress has been ongoing for years.  For the last year, the work appears more serious than before.

There is a beautiful salon de baile on the first floor.  During my first visit to Buenos Aires in March 1996, I went one night to the milonga organized by Juan Fabbri of Solo Tango TV. The entrada was $8 pesos/dollars — the highest entrada of all the milongas at that time.

The restoration process is far from complete, but I have hopes there is a milonguero/a ready, willing, and able to host a new milonga in the salon of this historic 1916 building.

Buenos Aires is the tango center of the world.

Were there milongas in 1943?

January 11, 2020

newspaper

I received this page of a Buenos Aires newspaper April 17, 1943, with the comment — the word “milonga” is not mentioned — from a reader in India.

First, I tried imagining what it was like in those days when one opened the newspaper and read the list of tango orquestas appearing that Saturday night in the clubs.  Miguel Angel Balbi showed me newspapers from the 1940s years ago, so I am familiar with the advertising.  Was it a difficult deciding where to go?  How did people choose one among the list of orquestas in the Golden Age of tango? The page features the top nine orquestas of the Golden Age, missing only Pugliese to complete the top ten.

Based on my conversations with several milongueros viejos, the reason that “milonga” isn’t mentioned in the advertisements is because these dances with orquestas were held in neighborhood clubs on Saturday.  The “milongas” started around 1948 in nine confiterias bailables downtown with recorded music every day of the week.  The milongueros didn’t like the competition from the singers on stage who distracted the women from dancing.  The women focused on dancing with the milongueros when Raul Beron or Roberto Chanel weren’t around.  Hence the dances in the downtown confiterias were known as milongas where milongueros went to milonguear.  The confiterias bailables were small venues where the dancing changed.

With computer assistance, I enlarged the page to read the details in the ads.

Miguel Calo played in Asoc. S. F. Apolo at Boulogne sur Mer 547 (El Once).  The location is now the IFT Theater, a venue for alternative theater productions.

Juan D’Arienzo was announced to play on Sunday with L’Orchestre Lewis Varona (mambo) at Club Atletico Independiente, Av. Mitre 450, Avellaneda, from 19-23,30 hs. Entrada was 2 pesos.

Angel D’Agostino played at Racing Club, Av. Mitre 934, Avellaneda from 22-4 hs.  Male members paid 1.50, women paid 50 centavos; male nonmembers 5 pesos, female nonmembers 1 peso.

Anibal Troilo with singers Francisco Fiorentino and Alberto Marino, plus a jazz orchestra, were at Club Atletico Velez Sarsfield, Rivadavia 7855-67, in Liniers.  There were limited streetcar lines in those days and few buses, so people had to rely on a friend with a car for transportation. Ladies paid 50 centavos to enter.  Liniers is near the city limit.

Pedro Laurenz with Alberto Podesta performed downtown at Ocean Dancing at 25 de Mayo 279 that had another entrance on L. H. Alem, from 22-1 hs.

Ricardo Tanturi kept two groups of musicians working.  One played at Tribu Social Club at Sarmiento 1374 and another with Alberto Castillo plus a jazz orchestra in Circulo General Urquiza, F. D. Roosevelt 5345, a neighborhood sports club.

Lucio Demare was the headliner at Palermo Palace, Godoy Cruz and Santa Fe in Palermo, where men paid one peso and women entered free.

Carlos Di Sarli with Roberto Rufino appeared at Club Boca Juniors, Brandsen 805, Boca, from 22-4 hs.  This would have been my choice, even if I had to walk there.

Rodolfo Biaggi and two singers were at Club Miraflores at Boyacá 652, Flores, alternating sets with a jazz band from 22 hs.  Entrada was 2 pesos for men, 50 centavos for women.

Milonguera sighting

January 10, 2020

I saw Marta yesterday while walking in our neighborhood.  We live only five blocks from one another.  We had several long chats in her apartment years ago.  Now neither of us goes to the milongas.  She probably went many more years than I did.  She admitted her age (82) to me for the first time.  Marta is the only one I know who talks with milonguero Beto Ayala.  I haven’t seen or heard from him in years.  She gave me good news.

Salon La Argentina

January 9, 2020

While checking recent posts on Facebook, I discovered an  announcement of a new milonga opening next month in one of the oldest dance venues in Buenos Aires.  Seven years ago I had a peek inside Palacio Rodriguez Pena to see the beautiful dance salon.

At a time when tango venues in the city are closing or being turned into a health club like Nuevo Salon La Argentina was (isn’t a milonga also a health club?), it’s incredible that Salon La Argentina will host a weekly milonga after decades without public social dances.  I wish the organizers much success in their endeavor.  During the 1950s, La Argentina was on the list of venues for the 18-35 year olds, who frequented the confiterias bailables along Corrientes from Avenida Callao to Avenida Florida.

Salon La Argentina in the early days

Milonguero sightings

January 2, 2020

The only place you are certain to find milongueros viejos is at certain traditional milongas in Buenos Aires.  I have written for a few years how their numbers are declining, because of poor health or death.  Three left us in the last weeks of 2019.

I am no longer going to the milongas after 20 years, so it is rare that I see a milonguero.  Recently, I had two milonguero sightings on the street.  Buenos Aires is a big city, but it’s amazing how small it seems with surprise encounters.

I was on my way home one day just before Christmas, walking down Avenida Belgrano, when I noticed a milonguero going in the opposite direction.  I decided to approach him, even though we had never spoken or danced before.  My first question was, don’t know you from the milongas?  I had to ask his name, since this was the first time talking with him.  He walks with a cane and doesn’t go to the milongas.  He lives at the intersection of Belgrano and Entre Rios and goes to La Continental restaurant on the corner where he’s a regular customer for lunch and dinner; I saw him another day seated outside while taking my morning walk.  Roque Iaria may be a familiar face to some of you who come regularly to Buenos Aires.  Juan Lencina was a good friend that he was sad to lose.

Then two days after Christmas, while on my way to an informal music session by several guitarists, I had yet another milonguero sighting along Rivadavia, across from Plaza Congreso.  I was so happy to notice Antonio and went up to talk with him.  He said he didn’t know me, although we had danced many times together at Lo de Celia.  He was dressed in a suit and tie as always for the milonga, so I asked if he was going to dance.  His wife died a few years ago, so Antonio lives alone in La Boca.  The milongas get him out of his apartment and provide the social contact he needs.  He asked me to join him for coffee, but I had to decline.  It’s been about two years since I last spoke with Antonio Ignacio Cejas, now 85.

Eduardo Roberto Masci

December 15, 2019

April 13, 1941 – December 14, 2019