What makes Tango in the Buenos Aires society, 1880 -1920 unique is that it is a non stop debunking machine that eats and spits just about every white lie, tall tale, and stereotype that have passed as “tango history in every book ever written on the subject since the beginning of the twentieth century. Including the tales about the mythical tango of the Afro Argentines. And the dancing at the bordellos, and the men dancing with each other…
The book was first published on November 1, 1998 and it almost immediately disappeared from the book shelves. Hugo Lamas is the pseudonym of Hugo Alberto Vainikoff. He was a teacher and a historical researcher. With his wife, Julia Navarro and a group of friends founded in 1970 the magazine “Tango Buenos Aires.” He passed away in 1999, one year after the book’s first publication. Norberto Enrique Binda (1946) is a civil engineer but is strongly associated with the tango. He’s a collector of original 78 rpm records prior to 1935, a researcher and a historian. He has contributed articles in various publications and Internet forums on the subject. Since 1970 he is Member of the National Academy of Tango and its Board of Directors.
We became aware of the book during our Katrina exile in Buenos Aires in 2005 reading old issues of B.A. Tango. In one editorial Tito Palumbo had written about the book and predicted how it was going to shake up the tango establishment bringing down many statues built with mud pedestals. The expression conveys its message of exposing false prophets and snake oil salesmen better in the original jargon.
When Katrina hit New Orleans on August 29, 2005, we were teaching in Tallahassee,FL and ended up teaching our way around the country and finally in Buenos Aires for four months before we could return to find out what was left of our lives. The aftermath of the hurricane, the breaching of the levees, and the flooding of the city altered the plans we had to shoot the video for the DVD of our book Gotta Tango.
A friend gave us an old Dell laptop and the publisher emailed us the manuscript of the book so we could continue working on minor details before publication. That was the state of things when I read Palumbo’s review of the book that was relaunched on Saturday, July 30, 2011 at “La Manufactura Papelera.”
We’ve always found great fortune in knowing people in low places, so after verifying the no availability of the book, we called on upon some people who called some people who asked us to meet some people at an apartment on Calle Parana. I still feel the tingling that I experienced when I found a single copy buried deep in the bottom of a shelf. That night I didn’t sleep pouring over the pages of a very complicated book to read because of its plain narrative style. The authors use verbal language, almost conversational, presenting documentation and researching their parts in the most exhaustive way. In developing the work related to the central theme emerge sociological, theatrical, literary, musical, biographical, aesthetic, and testimonial connotations, revealing of that time.
They write that in tango circles there is a need to clarify confusing aspects and periods, particularly prior to the nineteen twenties. But since to do that requires laborious work nobody wants to do the required investigation, at least seriously. The existing literature does not answer to any aspect of the matter, and it is not based on verifiable documentation. It pretends to teach about unlikely events, repeated at will by the authors because of a lack of rigorous and methodical investigation of the subject matter.
All scientific work must contain a body of verifiable documentary. In the absence of that, not only it loses its purpose, but it becomes suspect of copying from others: such is the case of the infamous “book from books.”
That is what we had done in the first three chapters of our manuscript. Like everyone else who has written about tango in the last fifteen years, we had repeated like fairground parrots the same old cliches, tall tales, and exotic lies that has percolated around the tango lore. What Katrina did to New Orleans and our four months in exile played a fundamental role in the way our book went through an epiphany of sorts. We had to start all over again, we decided. Our publisher agreed grudgingly, and the rewrite of Gotta Tango began in earnest.
When Gotta Tango finally was released for publication in November of 2007, we were very proud of being the first ones to have written about tango history with honesty, accuracy, and verifiable information.
We acknowledged our deepest gratitude and respect to Hugo Lamas and Enrique Binda for their formidable and well-researched book El Tango en la Sociedad Porteña, which put within our reach a verifiable and contemporary documentation that narrates a period of the history of tango from 1880 to 1920 where bibliography did not exist before.
As another anniversary of Katrina approaches, we count our blessings for the many things that have guided our destinies, thank the thousand of anonymous readers of our book, and join the celebration of the Lamas and Binda families for having gotten a second chance to set people free with the truth.