Dinner on Todo Tango’s Day, May 19, 2003
ll the habitués of this site know the RCA-Victor’s logo and its popular slogan: «His master’s voice». As for this particular, I want to highlight that the director of the Todo Tango site, boasting a true democratic feeling, with no preamble told me: «You have to write a chronicle about this dinner», to what I, soberly and in full command of my consciousness, answered: «No». However... and even though you can’t believe it, finally I have to write the note and it is as follows:
It had stopped raining and the weather was not so cold now. The streets with trees in El Abasto were almost ready to nestle the neighbors’ sleep as if it were a usual night. But it wouldn’t be. The northeastern corner of Jean Jaures and San Luis showed grocer’s lights, strange for a Monday night while an elf haunted the area as if foreseeing that something unusual was about to happen.
Just arrived from Spain, José María Escudero was unable to control his desire and came to the appointment before the time. Soon other silhouettes that stealthily crossed the threshold of Il Vero Arturito were arriving with an anxiety reflected in their eyes. Little by little the place was filling its emptiness and those that destiny had united by means of an optic fiber were hugging each other. The tables that soon before had been lacking in warmth and memories were being occupied by people who spoke low and cautiously about the present and a nostalgic past. From the doorway the elf counted fifty diners.
All that spirituality was, in a way, disturbed by some empanadas (meat pies) that helped to accompany the wine resting in the glasses. Later the traditional picada was served, later gnocchi and when food turned into remains, it was the time to add music to the party.
In the air of Il Vero Arturito anxiety was floating. Some were getting their throats ready to sing and others, their ears not to miss any detail of what was yet to come. In the meantime, Jorge Finkielman was playing back some gems he has restored. Collectors’ items performed by the Orquesta Típica Flores and the duo comprised by Roberto Firpo and his son. Subsequently, as if to increase the tension, Ricardo Val opened the gate to a CD with Carlos Gardel’s voice, and he made us listen to two numbers: “Amurado” and “Almagro”.
With decision and with a suggestive resignation, Jorge told us about his “future abduction” which shall be carried out by his girlfriend who soon will come from North America to take him to those lands. The announcement was thrilling and produced a short silence, a situation that I took advantage of to speak about the importance of this fourth dinner with my suggestive “Oscar Casco”-like voice and all my nerves on edge: our group of friends was celebrating the first anniversary of the decision of choosing May 16 as the Todo Tango Day.
I read some messages and mentioned many friends who, due to different reasons, were unable to come but anyhow were accompanying us with their thoughts and their wish that each of these meetings would help to make the friendship born through Todo Tango stronger.
Later Chiche Val said a few words to remember Pichuco and thereafter maestro Antonio Pisano began with two bandoneon solos: “Rodríguez Peña” and “Comme il faut” while, on the other side of the street, the elf of The Abasto repeated the names of Vicente Greco and Eduardo Arolas.
A restless flash light began to cross the local, I tried to discover where it came from and it didn’t take me much time to see El_boa disguised as Kikuchi, that well-remembered photographer of El Gráfico magazine. Our friend Oscar was jumping on the tables and the waiters were ready to takes pictures to be remembered or to be forgotten —as you wish— of all the people present with their digital cameras and their ready smiles. No one missed a shot!
The environment was perspiring tango, wines flowed into thirsty mouths and some other non-alcoholic drink or mineral water confirmed that the reason for the meeting not only was to pay homage to the god Bacchus.
The eyes were directed towards the limited space of the floor that was used as stage. It was then that, to calm down anxieties, a dark-haired man with trimmed moustaches known as Jorge Dobalo, hidden behind a music stand just assembled and accompanied by maestro Pisano, started the round of Grandes Valores. First he sang “Corrientes y Esmeralda”, later “Recuerdo malevo” and he ended his gig with a tango full of reminiscences titled “Argañaraz (Aquellas farras)”.
Some dishes with chicken and potatoes were beginning to «walk» from the kitchen to the tables when doctor Ricardo García Blaya approached the microphone to thank the attendance of so many friends to a celebration so close to him and he introduced —in Cafieri's style— a duo of young tango singers: Agustín Fuertes and Ariel Varnerin accompanied by three guitarists of similar age. They performed before a demanding audience, and began with “Pregonera” and later “Pastora”. Thereafter the boys sang individually: Ariel sang the waltz “La pulpera de Santa Lucía”, and Agustín gave us his rendition of “Melodía de arrabal”. By then the elf of The Abasto had his ear close to the window of San Luis Street and seemed to be uneasy but happy.
After the applauses for the Fuertes-Varnerín duo came the awaited moment of witnessing the debut, on vocals, of Mario Pino. He started with Oscar Laiguera's tango: “¿De dónde sos?” and after it he did “Farolito de papel”.
The show continued with Claudio Amitrano who was introduced by Néstor Pinsón, author of many notes published in Todo Tango. Accompanying himself with a guitar, Claudio sang “Mentira”, “De puro guapo” and the waltz “Romance de barrio”. It was then when I clearly heard the elf saying: «Great! Once again Celedonio and Pracánico together and as well Carlos Olmedo and Abel Aznar are present». Then he caught a piece of brick that was left on the street and on the white wall, like a graffiti, he wrote this: «Aníbal Troilo + Homero Manzi= game over». The tricky rain that was in ambush, after reading it, ran away and some timid stars began to twinkle in a sky of a night of fun and happiness.
Mario Bosco, seated and pensive, seemed to be absent, but he wasn't; he was waiting for the time of being able to communicate with everybody simultaneously and that time came when I called him together with the always young and beloved Ben Molar. Coco del Abasto thanked the attendance of so many friends and especially he highlighted the presence of the ladies that embellished the evening. Maestro Ben Molar recalled his dear friend Marcos Zucker and emphasized what we always say with enough reason: «A great person never dies, because they shall go on living among us forever».
Beside me, Roberto Mancini nodded with his head while he continued expressing his great admiration for Carlos Gardel and said: «Carlos taught all of us to sing. But who taught him?»
No one dared to leave his place, they were all waiting for more, much more and what was good was that that more was present. So, while we were eating the ice cream, our friend Adolfo Sozzi gave us his already famous renditions of tango pieces with their lyrics backwards. This time he performed “Noma a Noma” (“Mano a mano”) and his classic “La Nalafu” (“La fulana”) and, as usual, his saying was striking. When he was singing, quite possibly, some of the present ones may have wondered: «Where does this fool come from?»
We were nearing the end and the clock was going fast while we were waiting for the champagne. However, there was space to hear two well-known inhabitants of the Buenos Aires night, Alfredo Pereyra and Soledad del Valle. They sang some pieces of their long repertory backed by maestro Antonio Pisano while the elf, undisturbed, with a smile continued leaning on the window.
With his usual pleasantness, Ben Molar went to the microphone and asked to all the vocalists that, in order to best defend our tango, they have to always mention together with the title of the numbers that they are going to sing, the composers and authors of the pieces, because without them tango would not have survived.
The finale was in charge of our friend Dobalo who sang “La cumparsita” so that we all were able to sing along with him.
Some began to leave the place but, besides stories, music stands, instruments and tango voices, something seemed to be lacking. Till then dancing had not appeared yet, so inadvertedly, all of a sudden the tables were moved, the chairs were taken aside and Coco del Abasto with Castillo's wife caressed the floor tiles with the interplay of their dancing steps. After the initial shyness was broken, Orlando and his wife followed the game of dancing without repeating figures and her high-heeled shoes with straps and his shining shoes, rivalled in the effort of keeping with the beat, both tied to the memory of many other evenings lived in Pompeya.
Together with the last patron that left Il Vero Arturito, the elf of the Abasto, that maybe for some was unnoticed, put on his hat and went away murmuring: «Come back, Felipe, come back soon, because without you nothing is recorded and these times of dreams that we have enjoyed someday will be lost into oblivion».