Ricardo García Blaya

Algeri - A pleasant visit: Carla Algeri

he had sent us a brief outline that, for some reason, attracted our attention. Possibly, her being a woman-bandoneonist or the originality of the photos or her good style of writing, or all these things together made us get in touch with her and then we asked her more information. Her response came soon and one morning she arrived home, the place where we work for Todo Tango, and then a new story began.

Our idea was to publish an article about her career. Later, after nearly three hours time, charmed by her narration and her personality, we decided that rather a portrayal to be written there was an interview already made. The first one to a young, beautiful woman-bandoneonist who is as daring as talented.

«My first steps in tango were at age four by studying piano and guitar, encouraged by my father. Accompanied by him I began to go every Monday for a long time to the rehearsals of the orchestra led by someone that later would be my piano teacher and one of the most important names in the genre: don Osvaldo Pugliese.

«As I always say, tango has been my mother tongue. At home, each New Year at twelve pm the bars of “La yumba” were heard as an anthem, as a symbol of good omen for the year that was beginning. I always say that when I was born my father made the home record player reproduce the tango “Te quiero” in a rendition of the Pugliese orchestra with Abel Córdoba on vocals.

«At age five, one day in the music conservatory of my home town, Burzaco (province of Buenos Aires) I met a bandoneon player, with one of his legs resting on an old drinking fountain, playing that emblematic instrument that completely charmed me. Since then, the time when I had big eyes and was a few years old, for a long time my only childhood dream was playing bandoneon in a Paris subway. That is something I still have pending even though I have visited that beautiful city more than ten times but I have never played bandoneon there.

«I spent all my teen years unable to share the love for my music with any of my friends. I only enjoyed tango with my father and his friends. At my home backyard tango was present at every family event because it was customary to meet with guitars at hand to make music, sing and dance. My grandfather Sebastián was a pipe organ repairman and musician. He used to work in churches playing classical music and singing as baritone. In my family there had been guitarists and singers who were part of a childhood filled with popular chords.

«When my adolescence was over and I was fully focused in my engineering studies at the University of La Plata, I myself was on strike against tango as a rebel cry for I felt that it was a genre that inevitably was dying. My tango circle was gradually becoming smaller and I was beginning a feel a sort of discrimination for the fact of playing with my instrument that genre I loved so much.

«It is the bandoneonist Alejandro Barletta the one who introduced the first bandoneon at home back in 1986. Even though I was quite interested in learning to play it the issue was postponed for over ten years. Only in 1998, after I had developed another professional activity, I thought it was the time to reconcile with music and tango and I would do it by the hand of an instrument that had no history in my life: a bandoneon.

«My expectations were that my teacher had to be a composer, an arranger, a player, a bandleader, a soloist and besides all that, to have been involved with the music of Pugliese. Lidia, the maestro’s wife, gave me the phone number of the teacher that fulfilled all my expectations. He was the bandoneonist Rodolfo Mederos.

«After thinking and thinking it over one morning in May I made up my mind to call him. We arranged an appointment for the following Tuesday at eleven a.m. And it turned into a meeting that was repeated for three uninterrupted years. On that day the story of Carla Algeri as bandoneonist, arranger, leader, soloist and with a story alongside the greats of tango had started.

«To develop myself as professional I followed several roads. Some of them led me to my destination and others left me half way but all of them gave me experiences I keep at close sight. After I quit my previous activity, and having to care for two children, in order to afford my music studies I worked with Mederos: in classes of pre-musical language to children; as copyist; accompanist of singers at tango venues. It was something I had to learn painfully.

«When the opportunity of shooting the film El último bandoneón, directed by Alejandro Saderman with music by Mederos arrived, the need of putting together an orchestra sprang up. Then I, without embarrassment, told Rodolfo that he should have his own tango orchestra without thinking what all that meant. And he put it together. We made our debut at the San Miguel palace after the shooting of the movie and after recording some numbers for the compact disc.

«I played for a time in the orchestra until one day Mederos told me that I had to think about my own career. At that time I had thought that he had said that just for fun but finally he summoned me at the El Celta barroom, on Sarmiento and Rodríguez Peña, and told me without hesitation that I had to quit the aggregation and go on my career on my own. At that same place, twenty-five years before, I had witnessed a similar event at the table on the corner between Osvaldo Pugliese and Arturo Penón, his lead bandoneon.

«I walked out of El Celta without job, with no more experience than the one I had achieved until then and with two little kids to raise. A few days later, Juanjo Domínguez invited me to record three numbers for Gardel’s seventieth anniversary. That was for me a praise and a privilege. I will always be grateful for that. Furthermore I frequented tango venues for a job and to back up tango singers as much I was able to. I had to learn how to play a la parrilla (by ear) and start to learn the craft. Many buddies have helped me to walk along that hard road. Thanks again to each one of them.

«And one day I appeared at the first contest of tango orchestra in the city and, although I had never imagined the result, I won —along with my quartet partners— the first prize that consisted in recording a disc that later, for different reasons, was reduced to the recording of only two numbers: “Tiempos viejos” with Eduardo Pulis on vocals, and “Sur” with Miguel Pereiro (piano) and Facundo Benavídez (string bass).

«That same day while I was walking along plaza San Martín I saw an exhibition of photos. One of the photos was a portrait of mine. I talked to the photographer and the following day we met and talked about the story of that image at the Palais de Glace.

«The photographer had been awarded for that picture taken the day the orchestra had made its debut. The lead sheet of “La alegría de encontrarte” —the first tango that Mederos wrote for his own aggregation and that he gave me for my birthday when there was no orchestra yet— was seen on my music stand, the image of a woman at the foot of the stage and the lead violin hardly seen. There was so much of my life in that photo that today it is placed in the living room of my house.

«I made a musical: Buenos Aires de Tango that was billed for six months to wide acclaim. With it I went to Spain and later to Colombia where I put together the first tango orchestra of Medellín and thereafter a bandoneon school, a tango and a popular school-orchestra.

«In Buenos Aires along with my peer Julián Hasse in less than 12 hours we presented the work Tango Patrimonio for the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. We had received the requirements two days before the deadline.

«In 2010, thanks to the encouragement of my fellow players, I put together my own tango orchestra which made its debut at the Festival de Tango de la Ciudad in August. I am the leader and bandoneon player and the members are Eduardo Pulis (vocals), Sandra Arboleda (piano), Eduardo Tami (flute), Rubén Jurado (viola) and Facundo Benavídez (double bass). Our art patron is the beloved Roberto Mancini.

«Every day of my life when I wake up in the morning I know I have two certain things: my sons —Sebastián and Nicolás—, and music. I do not think of waking up in the morning without them and without tango».