Montenegro - A chat with Norma Montenegro
am linked to this criolla born in General Lavalle (province of Buenos Aires) in a strange relationship of affection and amazement because, as nearly always happens, the choice is on women and, in this case, she chose me —who knows why— to write the introductory text of her disc without any previous acquaintance.
Female intuition they call it. Then it made me listen to her numbers and read carefully their lyrics. I did it but I was somewhat alert because of my likings about tango which are rather archeological. The result was auspicious. I liked the melodies and their lyrics surprised me. Below is the virtual dialogue we have had since then and that portrays the personality and career of the artist.
«I settled in Buenos Aires at age thirteen and, when I was fourteen, I began to write my early poems which had to do with my dreams of love and family bonds.
«Later, inspiration switched towards nostalgia by remembering the years spent in my hometown. So the first pieces were born in which with popular or telluric images I tried to describe the rustic landscape and its environment. It was a stage in which I wrote a large number of poems in ten-line stanzas. Several of these lyrics were picked up to be sung as milongas. I also wrote zambas, gatos and triunfos.
Mi General Lavalle pueblito centenario
perfuma mi recuerdo el aroma de tu greda,
cercos de madreselva, jazmín de primavera
añosos tamarindos, la ría y la ribera.
(“Cercos de madreselva”, waltz with music by Javier Bravo)
«I was charmed by Buenos Aires and its music by the time I arrived in the city but only much later I decided to devote myself to tango poetry. So in the waltz “Señora Buenos Aires” I make a description, it may be regarded as feminine, of my first relationship with the city and its river:
Ahí estabas sonriendo seductora
recostada tu espalda sobre el río,
con un tango nostálgico en los labios
confidente de amores que se han ido.
Con un gesto cordial me recibiste
al abrir tu regazo a mis delirios.
Alcancé tu secreto embelesada
en la espera del beso conmovido.
(“Señora Buenos Aires”, waltz with music by Quique Rassetto)
«Among the great poets in tango I like Homero Manzi, Cátulo Castillo, Enrique Santos Discépolo, Celedonio Flores and, among the contemporary ones, Horacio Ferrer, Eladia Blázquez and Héctor Negro.
«My lyrics were lucky to be backed by inspired artists. Such is the case of maestro Jorge Dragone, Javier Bravo, Quique Rassetto, Celia Saia, Silvina Paulela, Rodrigo Flores, Osvaldo Estrella, Miguel Ángel Córdoba, Héctor Vennera, Lilian Papasso.
«And in that disc, entitled Nueva Música Popular Argentina, for which I asked the Todo Tango director to write the introduction in the cover, are featured the vocalists Celia Saia, Beatriz Ambró, Liliana Soler, Miguel Ángel Córdoba, Alejandro D’Angelo and Lilian Papasso.
«As for other aspects of my activity, I take part of several associations of poets: Asociación Literaria La Besana (of Villa Luzuriaga), Grupo Literario Reencuentro (at La Academia Porteña del Lunfardo), Asociación de Escritores Tradicionalistas de La Plata. Furthermore I am proof-reader at the Literature Workshop Los Lápices de Madero (in Ciudad Madero) and I am member of Las Perlas del Tango.»
Up to this point we have had the words by the poet and our virtual dialogue which I won’t finish before adding other data that sprang up in our conversation and some definitions of my own.
In the Norma’s oeuvre there is neither a display of extravagance nor far-fetched metaphors, she is smartly simple. Undoubtedly, her style reflects a natural, plain, daily language that expresses the popular feeling, in some way, the traditional mood of the classic tangos of the forties and fifties.
Her feminine view but which at the same time is a testimony of the social context does not evade the political commitment and shows a balance that allows her to subtly blend reality, the epic genre and poetry.
Por cada joven que abrace
la justicia como opción,
habrá una revolución
y un anhelo que renace.
(“Alas rojas”, milonga with music by Osvaldo Estrella)
Her ideological tango message clearly appears in one of the stanzas when she says:
Un tango que me cuente tus calladas quimeras
esas que al concretarse te permitan soñar
con el festín del pobre que en justa algarabía
lleva a su humilde mesa el logro de su afán.
(“Cantame un tango hermano”, with music by Quique Rassetto)
Daniel Tadey asked us to include here this stanza of his milonga dedicated to Norma Montenegro:
En ese sutil enjambre
de talento y humildad
tiene como prioridad
oír a su corazón,
volcando en cada canción
sus sentires más profundos,
dando golpes furibundos
al dolor y la injusticia,
mostrándonos, con pericia,
las vanidades del mundo.
In one of her tangos, one of my choices, she expresses with delicate romanticism her hopeful autumnal vision when she admits to the city her deepest feelings and her utopias.
Aquí estoy Buenos Aires con mis sueños a cuestas
con un verso en los labios persiguiendo quimeras
sentidas melodías que en sus notas expresan
el íntimo murmullo de musa arrabalera.
(“Aquí estoy Buenos Aires”, tango with music by Jorge Dragone)
But the one I like most was the one awarded the fist prize at the Certamen Hugo del Carril 2008:
Tus acordes me traen la cadencia
envolvente, sensual del bandoneón
el fuelle en su embeleso canta versos
con alma de suburbio y de malvón.
(“Decile que regrese”, tango with music by Héctor Vennera)
She has two unpublished books: Bajo la cruz del sur and Travesía en tango. She has received numerous honors and awards: Premio Hugo del Carril (2007) for “Señora Buenos Aires”; the same award the following year for “Decile que regrese”, with music by Héctor Vennera; Premio Certamen de la Canción Surera (Dolores 2008) for “Cercos de madreselva”, with music by Javier Bravo; similar award in 2010 for “Torcacita enamorada”, dedicated to Tamara Castro, co-written with Osvaldo Estrella.
And to end this note, there is one more evidence of her devotion for her adopted city in her sonnet “Te quiero Buenos Aires”.
Te quiero Buenos Aires y a tu cielo
que trasnocha jugando en cada esquina
tras la bruma la noche se adivina,
cubierto el adoquín de terciopelo.
En tus calles abiertas al desvelo
desmaya una farola mortecina
apuesta con sus rayos de opalina
a cubrirme los hombros con su velo.
No sé si vos y yo somos iguales
o tu luna me clava el aguijón,
cuesta arriba trepando los umbrales
yo sigo por su luz encandilada,
igual que cuando estaba enamorada
de aquél beso fatal del metejón.