POLIN Music Festival: Jewish tango

Ariel Ebestein

At the end of the 19th century, European immigrants sought a better destination in the Rio de la Plata. Italians, Spaniards, Poles, among others, brought their smells, tastes and customs to South America. But there was an element that assimilated all that cultural richness: the Tango!

The bandoneon was a contribution of the Germans, the Spanish brought the guitar and the Italians the lyric in the singing. The Tango was the fusion style par excellence! But what was the contribution of the Jews to Tango? What "Jewish" elements can we distinguish today in the music of Buenos Aires? These elements are the basis of our concert.

The contribution that perhaps is recognized the most to the Jews is to introduce the violin in the Tango! Szymsia Bajour (1928, Nasierowo Górne - 2005 Buenos Aires) was the most important violinist of tango. He was the one who inspired Astor Piazzolla in works such as: “Escualo”, “Revirado”, “Triunfal”. The tango also has points in common with the phrasing of the Klezmer. These elements appear in the work “S. P. de Nada” by Antonio Agri.

The suffering, the emotional charge, the melancholy so present in Judaism; undoubtedly they are reflected in works like ”Zeide” by Andres Linetsky and ADIOS NONINO by Astor Piazzolla. But tango is not only melancholy, the humor so present in Jewish tradition is also used in POBRE GALLO BATARAZ arranged by Horacio Salgan.

The influence was not in one direction. Tango also influenced many European Jewish musicians. It came to countries like Poland in the 1920s through recordings. The polish Tango established his own style away from the River Plate model. One of the most detailed figures was Jerzy Petersburski (1895 - 1979), with works such as TO OSTATNIA NIEDZIELA (in an arrangement by Alexander Gurning). In the '60s After the Anglo-Saxon cultural invasion, the tango tried to survive including elements of jazz and rock. The great tango orchestras disappeared and the musicians had to reduce their formations to trios, quartets and quintets. At the end of the '70s, despite the worldwide success of Astor Piazzolla, Tango began to disappear…

Like Judaism, Tango is returning to its roots ... Young people in Europe study tango in conservatories, in the most important halls of London, Paris or Berlin tango is programmed year after year. It seems that this is a round trip!

Ariel Eberstein