A Dagger to the Heart and Other Tango Experiences

Oct 30, 2018

(l-r) Fernanda Ghi and Guillermo Merlo, 1999 World Tango Champions, also choreographed the popular "Forever Tango" on Broadway. They will perform in Iggy Jang's Tango Extravaganza on Maui, O'ahu and Hawai'i Island starting this Thursday 11/1/18.
Credit Deb Owen

Many know the history of the music and dance form called tango—how it grew out of the working class neighborhoods of Buenos Aires, Argentina and Montevideo, Uruguay in the 1700’s.  By the early 20th century, composer Astor Piazzola created Nuevo Tango by incorporating classical and jazz elements.  HPR’s Noe Tanigawa reports a muscular version of this celebrated music is coming to town.  With dancers.

Hawaii Symphony Concertmaster Iggy jang maintains a busy international concert schedule, and teaches at UH Manoa as well.
Credit Brad Goda

The Iggy Jang Tango Extravaganza plays the Maui Arts and Cultural Center Thursday, 11/1/18.  Then, the Honolulu Chamber Music Series presents the Extravaganza at the Orvis Auditorium at UH Mānoa on Saturday, 11/3/18.   There is a tango workshop at the Prince Hotel Friday night, information here.  Sunday, November 4th, it’s tango at the Kahilu Theatre in Waimea.  

If you’ve ever been to the Hawai‘i Symphony, Iggy Jang is the concertmaster, the first violin. You’d never guess he’s a tango kinda guy.  Of course, he knows the checkered history, the musical influences, and he knows you can google that.

(l-r) Tango dancers Guillermo Merlo and Fernanda Ghi.

Jang:  I just want to keep things simple.  Maybe I feel very deeply about it, but I’m not sure if my intellectual knowledge matters.

Jang says Alfredo Minetti, tango pianist, recounts this telling anecdote:  Americans take heart thinking that “Tomorrow is another day…” we figure things will get better.  Minetti says Argentinians feel, “Today is bad, tomorrow will be worse.”

Jang:  There’s a layer of despair.  To me it’s like taking a dagger, and just taking it into your guts.  That’s how I feel about tango.  There’s a sadness that’s also intoxicating.  You don’t want to get out of this sadness.  Because there’s always a glimmer of hope somewhere in the melodies.

For the extravaganza, Jang has put together Piazzola’s original quintet elements:  bandoneon (accordion), piano, violin, bass and guitar.  They will be tackling authentic arrangements, not the often watered down arrangements we usually hear.  With this group, Jang hopes to attain the primal feeling, the pulse, and intensity of tango.  His goal is to experience hard core tango, not just the elegant virtuosity musicians are normally encouraged to portray.

Asked why he brought tango dancers to town, Jang says it’s “inevitable.”    

Tango at the Urania milonga in Budapest, Hungary.
Credit Peter Stefanics / hu.Wikipedia.org

Jang:  I’ve been traveling a lot lately, and when you’re in places where they have really old civilizations, you feel like people have gone through a lot.  I wouldn’t say they’ve suffered more than If you live in a new continent, but the sort of weight that bears on you from old civilizations and wars, and struggles, you sense that.  My colleague musicians sometimes they play, and they play like there’s no tomorrow, like you’re not sure that you’ll have another opportunity to play, even just at home.  That’s one of the things I like about tango, you have to play it like there’s no tomorrow. 

If you’d like to refresh your memory on that scene from Scent of a Woman, click here.

May I also recommend this scene from Wong Kar Wai’s Happy Together.