Federico and tango
By Lydia Orsi
Beauty cannot be killed
Federico is a stream of waters and doves that is raised from language to carry the seeds of the unknown to all the human borders. (Pablo Neruda)
ou cannot kill the beauty that is in the shapes and color, that is in the words, that is in sound, you cannot kill the beauty that is hinted by an idea. But art is dangerous, metaphor is dangerous and that danger destroy lives: Picasso with his badly wounded and painful “Guernica” in France, Rafael Alberti’s exile (over 30 years outside Spain), Antonio Machado’s “dying far from home, was covered by the sky of a neighboring country”, Miguel Hernández, dead in prison, his oeuvre dead by concealment and Federico dragged and molten into lead at age thirty-eight when he was leading a fruitful creative life.
In his style of poet and musician will always appear Andalucía... Andalucía... Andalucía. In his stanzas and on the music staff we will find “cante jondo” with all it involves and in all the variations of the genre.
That special guitar that will join Federico and Manuel de Falla in his charm will play: “En la redonda encrucijada, seis doncellas bailan”... (at the round crossroads six maidens dance)
Empieza el llanto
An avant-gardist, he loves his roots and that birth scenery will be the axis of his poetry.
In 1929 the government of Primo de Rivera banned his theater play “Amor de don Perlimplín con Belisa en su jardín”. This event and other private circumstances led him to New York. Save for the important influence that Walt Whitman and the events connected with the world economic crisis had on him that made him pay more attention to social subjects, in the United States he was only attracted to the music played by Black people!
In 1930, when in Cuba, La Habana fascinated him with its art of Black and Spanish roots, with the warm tropical atmosphere and the warmth of its people (Nicolás Guillén), with its brightness, by its rites.
ARGENTINA: SEEDS OF THE UNKNOWN
Between October 1933 and March 1934 he lived in Buenos Aires and visited Montevideo where he lectured. He arrived at the time of the fraudulent democracy when the general Agustín P. Justo was president. Lola Membrives premiered his theater play “Bodas de sangre” and staged it for over 150 performances. Also on the billboard were “Mariana Pineda” and “La zapatera prodigiosa”. “La casa de Bernarda Alba” starring Margarita Xirgu will be on a future occasion. It will be premiered here in 1945 (by the end of World War II) and in Spain in 1964.
THE BEST IN THE INTELLECTUAL MILIEU
He met “La Argentinita”, a Spanish dancer, spent his evenings of fun and words with Oliverio Girondo, Norah Lange, Raúl González Tuñón, César Tiempo. At the house of Pablo Rojas Paz he started a close friendship with Pablo Neruda (then Chilean consul) that would go on in Spain until and after his death. The joyous temper of one and the taciturn features of the other were complementary.
Federico and Pablo, on November 20, 1933 at the Pen Club held an unforgettable original chat that they called “discurso al limón”. The bull fighting jargon defines with this term the situation of two bullfighters that can fight at the same time with the same bull with the same cape. Replacing bullfighters by writers, one word said by one would be continued by the other, putting together in such a way an improvised lecture.
QUEJAS DE BANDONEÓN (BANDONEON COMPLAINTS)
A legend says that César Tiempo, walking along with Federico, met by chance Carlos Gardel and so the former introduced each other. At the apartment of the singer, the latter touched the poet’s heart by singing “Caminito”. He would later write:
«Buenos Aires has something that is alive and personal: something full of a dramatic beating, something that is unmistakable and original amidst its thousand human races that appeals to us: TANGO. All Buenos Aires has the heartbeat of TANGO».
On January 4, 1934 when “Bodas de sangre” was premiered by the company led by Lola Membrives at the Teatro Avenida, thanking the applause by the audience, Federico said: «I look for the sharpest profile of Buenos Aires among its ships, its bandoneons, the asleep music of its soft Spanish and the homes of the people where Tango opens the twilight of its best ranges of tears».
And the bandoneon sound will amaze the poet... That instrument which during his stay was part of the Guardia Nueva del Tango, more precisely the “Decarian period” with the formula: “Tango is also music”...
Aníbal Troilo was beginning to appear with the orchestras led by Juan Maglio “Pacho”, Vardaro-Pugliese, Julio De Caro and Ciriaco Ortiz. Troilo’s bandoneon then stood out due to its gentle sound, its harmonic brightness and its octaves. In 1937 he would begin to lead his famous orchestra.
All the names are not given and they end with the great Elvino Vardaro who was highly successful in 1933 but quite evolved for his time. The recording companies did not regard him as a profitable element.
WATCHING THE STARS
from “Línea 9”
He also kept a close relationship with Enrique Santos Discépolo, another frequenter of the Buenos Aires nights. When the visitor arrived his ever-present tangos were already known: “Chorra”, “Esta noche me emborracho”, “Malevaje”, “Secreto”, “Soy un arlequín”, “Victoria”, “Qué vachaché”, “Qué sapa señor”, “Yira yira”.
In these, with the exception of the latter two, the excluding subject was woman. A woman who decides: deceives, wins the hearts of others, obsesses, displays her passion, is elusive, indifferent, and leaves when she wants. Man is an object that undergoes the situations... These writings pose the question if there is machismo in tango... What would have Federico thought?
The man of Granada found that tango, like his beloved “cante jondo” was a social creation, music of the people, anonymous in its beginnings. The true tango, the intimate one, the one he saw being danced at the Peña Signo, at the basement of the Hotel Castelar, with his sensitiveness of musician he compared it to the ceremony of true flamenco, dances of concentration with music that, even without shouting, keep inside a piercing ow!
When he returned to his hometown he wrote: «Nobody knows, far distant Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires open at the bottom of the stem of my voice, the interest and the colorful restlessness that overwhelms me when I recall your tragic vitality».
A HEART THAT WAS SHOT
Why a murder? Speculations: Because of pending affairs between families of Granada, because of his friendship with Fernando de los Ríos, an outstanding figure of the contemporary Spanish socialist ideas, because he was homosexual, because of his testimonial literature for the people, because he supported the Frente Popular...
In fact, they shot his artistry thinking that his murder would lead to oblivion, but his oeuvre grows bigger when dictators or tyrants try to conceal it, by staying, getting brighter and remaining in the mind and the feeling of the generations to come.
A la muerte del poeta Federico García Lorca
¡Qué muerte enamorada de su muerte!
Los menudos rumores de la muerte
¡Qué amor al que cayó por el acero
¡Qué aire de antigua voz de estatua rota