Tango: Not Just Dance
Buenos Aires, Argentina
It’s 11:30 a.m. and we are surprised to be awake. It will be our last night in Buenos Aires and we decide to tackle it solo. We have relied on the staff of our hotel to make reservations for us on the previous few nights as my high school Spanish, which I performed poorly in, is dwindling. We are in Palermo Viejo, and there will be no cabs for us tonight. There is a place a few blocks down the street from our hotel that has live music, Cafe Homero.
There is someone chatting through a cracked door into the venue, we have no idea about what. After about ten minutes the conversation is done and it’s our turn. The man inside Cafe Homero is shirtless and looks to have just woken up. We realize just how early 11:30 a.m. can be. I do not remember exactly how we asked if they had shows that night, but we did. I’m pretty good with numbers, so I realize that there is a show at 21:00, and one at around midnight. We are on BA time so get reservations for midnight. The great thing that we noticed in Buenos Aires was that reservations are almost always needed at good places, but they are almost always attainable the day of.
Of course, we’d like to know what we are getting ourselves into. We try and find out what show we will be seeing, and fail. We nod and “si” and pretend to understand. We think we are seeing music, we hope so. One thing that our “host” continually insists on is there is no, absolutely no something. That’s right, no something. Okay, is there food? Yes. Is there wine? God yes. But, there most certainly is no something. Okay, we can deal with that.
We spent most of the day trying to figure out what something was, cursing our virtually non-existent spanish. The “Comida” and “vino” were very clear. We dwelt upon whether maybe it was a spoken word performance, and maybe he was trying to tell us there were no instruments. Clearly that would have been a bummer for us as we couldn’t even figure out what “something” was. Maybe he meant there was no dancing? That would have been okay. I have dwelt on this enough, but I can summarize by saying that we never figured out what there was nothing of.
At around 11:45 we show up to the door, but the previous show is still wrapping up. We stand around looking, no doubt, completely clueless. Eventually around midnight or so we get seated. There are not that many seats, and we end up in a table in the second “row”. The cafe is dimly lit, and very cozy. Smoke clings to the ceiling and in the next half an hour or so the place fills in. We find out that though there is food, the food is not exactly dinner. Meats and cheeses, which suffices. The wine is cheap, and good.
The stage we are a few feet away from is tiny, and tango dancers perform a dance to recorded music, deftly dodging around the instruments that are now set up though lifeless. After this prelude the band takes the stage. We really have no idea who they are, but there is a piano, bandoneon, bass, and guitar. During breaks in the music stories are told. We believe one of them is the piano player asking if anyone there does not speak Spanish, and when no one answers affirmatively he sighs in relief. We duck down in our table hoping he doesn’t notice us, and it works. He then tells a story about how he met Maria (we think), and it’s very sweet, even if I only understand a few words.
The music is relentless. We watched music performed that we had never heard before, and were enthralled by every note. Tango dancers may be passionate, but these musicians made love to their instruments. The way they played brought water swelling to my eyes, and it was all I could do to stop from bawling as Maria Viviana sang “Patio mio”. I might as well have been watching La Boheme in Italy with front row seats.
The group wrapped up at about 3:30 a.m., and we bought a CD from the Nicolas Ledesma Cuarteto. Originally we were planning on going to a club afterwards, but instead we walked around somewhat dazed by what we had just witnessed. Yes it was late, but I think we were exhausted by more than just the time. You can definitely go wrong taking a chance, but on this particular night, things could not have gone more right.