Saturday, December 1, 2007

Cumbia, Tango, Manu Chao, and a Drumline

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La Mona Jimenez is to Argentine cumbia what James Brown is to funk - so they say. Wednesday night I went to Luna Park for the first time(where Evita is fabled to have met Juan Peron) and witnessed the man, the myth, in action.
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Luna Park is a stadium venue and it was full of sweaty folks dancing, jumping and yelling for La Mona. La Mona is a man in his fifties who struts his way across the stage accompanied by a band of over ten musicians including horns, drums, bass, guitar, percussion, and accordion. His name is a play on el mono - Spanish for "the monkey." He's pretty wild looking; with a mane that looked like a Geri-curl and three costume changes - each of them more Captain Eo than the next. La Mona did have some soul happening, despite the cumbia/quarteto strut, but I saw more Neil Diamond going on than James Brown. This photo is pure Ricardo Simmons: Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

La Mona put on a great show with special guests, crowd surfing, dancing with chicas from the crowd, TV cameras and all. The show gave me new insight as to how Ricky Martin stays popular as a mainstream sex symbol in Argentina - the whole show wasn't very hetero and the audience ate it up. The crowd was great - mostly on the grimier side and singing along and dancing with La Mona. Outside of Palermo you see the plebian side of this city and it's cool. The crowd didn't feel unlike that of a soccer game at the Sports Arena in South Central LA. (For more La Mona coverage peep me at www.argentinastravel.com)
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Friday night La Chicana played at El Tasso. It was a gorgeous, dinner theater set up at a tango venue where the band plays when its not on tour. They're my favorite - a live, modern, female-fronted tango band. Dolores sings and her husband plays fancy acoustic guitar. They're accompanied by accordion, percussion, violin, and bass. The singer is in her mid-forties, gorgeous, and sounds great. The couple have excellent chemistry on stage - she's saucy and smart and he's smitten and sarcastic. The lyrics tell stories of love, life, and struggle with a nostalgic tone. There's even a tango written for their dogs.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketThere was a rumor that Manu Chao was going to play a free concert near San Telmo. We made our way to the spot - a psychiatric hospital on the industrial side of the town center. We walked back past the main ward and other buildings to an outdoor ampitheater and smaller buildings that resembled summer camp. There was Manu surrounded by patients - doing a live radio broadcast with the inhabitants of the compound. It was a big turnout full of dreadlocks and super Manu fans as well as residents of the hospital. It went on for hours while patients performed spoken word, sang songs, performed stand-up, and freestyled. Manu played between bits. The show culminated in a video with a full band including horns and percussion. It was an inspiring show and the rain held off just until it was finished. Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
We made our way back to San Telmo and caught a parade of drumlines and dancers two blocks from our house, all along the park. There were drumlines/marching bands representing different neighborhoods with dancers in costume and off the street. I finally got to see some indigenous drums and dancers up close and enjoy the local flavor.


Snoop Dogg and B-Real of Cypress Hill were here for Personal Fest, Buenos Aires' Coachella (not even close but not a bad festival for a place where you have to use a match to light your stove). Snoop made it happen and made me so proud! His Uncle Junebug was the other star of the show, dancing his way down the outdoor stage runway, so fresh.
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Tego Calderon played too and I got to have an NYC reggaeton moment. His dancers were hotter than Uncle Junebug and you wouldn't know if from the pic but that's saying something, yo. For more on the show and the rest of the musical happenings click: www.argentinastravel.com and scroll through this past week. Peep the Argentinas Travel Guide for the low down on the city - beyond personal thoughts and cat photos!

This weekend is the house warming party - I'll try to get plenty of pix for you folks. Next up is a retrospect of the visit and shows in NYC...

1 comment:

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