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Orquestra Tipica Imperial
July 16, 2008
By Ernest Barteldes

As the 10-piece ensemble prepared to perform, Americas Society musical director Sebastián Zubieta explained that tango is enjoying a revival in Argentina after having been considered “old” by younger generations thanks to the genre's association with the military dictatorship that ruled the country for over a decade (a phenomena similar to what is happening with fado in Portugal).

 

Formed by a group of young musicians in their own right, the 10-piece ensemble that is on their first North American tour  (and includes an outdoor performance at Lincoln Center)  began with “Percal,” a composition by Domingo Federico. The small room's acoustics contributed to the group's sound, which is rich to the ear thanks to the presence of three bandoneón players (one of whom came on wearing a Led Zeppelin t-shirt) in addition to piano, bass, cello, viola and violins.

 

After two instrumental numbers, vocalist Iván Espeche joined the group to sing “Nieblas del Riachuelo,” explaining that traditionally in Argentina, there is always a tango with vocals after a few instrumental tunes. The pace changed a bit with “Milonga Del Buru,” which had a more upbeat format. 

 

You cannot play a tango concert without featuring work by Astor Piazzola, and OTI did not disappoint, showcasing their arrangement to  “Verano Porteño,” one of his best-known tunes. Espeche returned to the stage for “Desencuentro,” a tune about two tragic lovers who meet a sad fate after missing a planned rendezvous.

 

One of the evening's highlights was the original “Tango Para Guevara,” which was introduced by Espeche with a poem by Julio Cortazar about an unseen brother. The song itself is highly emotional, paying a fitting tribute to the fallen Argentinean Marxist revolutionary.  Another memorable tune was “Cuesta Abajo,” a famous hit by Carlos Gardel, which Espeche sang with great emotion – followed by the voices of the other band members and some of the audience, who joined him during the chorus.

 

The ensemble does seem to have a political verve - at one moment, Espeche took the microphone to sing “Los Nadies,” another original tune with lyrics from Uruguay's Eduardo Galeano which speak of the poor and disenfranchised “who do not appear in history, except in local yellow press – the nobodies who cost less than the bullet that kills them.” The band also showcased yet another dedicated to a South American martyr – in this case being “A Salvador Allende,” written in memory of the Chilean martyr that died as the military coup led by General Augusto Pinochet took power in that country in 1973.

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