Archive for the ‘Homero Manzi’ Tag

Nobody can take our tangos away   Leave a comment

Nobody can take our tangos away

Ever since I suffered a cardiac arrest on the way to Customs at the Calgary airport my memory of the time between getting to the Continental gate in New Orleans and waking up in a hospital bed three days later is totally blank. All I know so far I have been told and documented on video by my dearest Valorie, Gina and Alberto Jr.These days my heart is full of emotions as dreams and reality flash by in random order. Not just from the recent incidents, but for instance, right now I remember sitting at the controls of a radio station in 1991 in the middle of the night playing tangos for an invisible audience, and I’m haunted by three specific circumstances that led to the birth of El Firulete, The Argentine Tango magazine in 1994.

First, it was the phone call commenting on some sort of tango activity at Stanford University. Great, I thought, hoping that I would get more information. Wouldn’t it be great to have the only tango program in the United States being associated with the academic world?

Second, it was another phone call, this time announcing the unexpected death of Raul Dinzelbacher on the grounds of Stanford University. I had known Raul and his wife and dance partner Nora only briefly when we hired them to dance for a fund raising festival we had produced with a group of Argentinos in San Jose a year earlier.

Third, it was meeting Acho Manzi, son of the great Argentine tango poet Homero Manzi, who had walked into the radio station after somebody called him to tell him that some guy was doing a special segment dedicated to your father.

I never received any acknowledgment from Stanford University; I came to know Nora better when I hired her Argentina Folk Ballet for a couple of functions at the Patio Español dedicated to promote my radio program; Acho and I became very good friends and continue our friendship to this day. A check for $500 was waiting for me when I finally made back home from the hospital. And a message with a question, Did you see my father, and was he waiting for me?

When I decided to find out the nature of Stanford University Tango Week in 1994, I was part of the paying public who was allowed to participate only at the Thursday night concert and exhibition. By then, the radio program no longer existed and my life had been torn by a series of unfortunate bad choices in relationships. I remember how out of place I felt snoozing during a lengthy Piazzolla recital by an orchestra that the mild and mellow announcer kept calling a band.

On the way out, an old timer raised on the tough streets of Avellaneda in Argentina quipped, you should have broadcast this as the Prozac Tango Club. Shame on you, I said, at least these guys do something. What do we do but bitch and bitch from the sidelines?

Criticizing and bad mouthing had always been a pastime for the “superior” mind of some compatriots who allegedly knew better, but did nothing to contribute to the experiences of their cultural heritage in our adopted society. I was on my way to becoming one more of them: bitter, envious, excluded. That was when I put on my thinking hat and came up with the concept of not just a publication about tango, but The Argentine Tango Newsletter. Julio Sosa was singing on the stereo, who has told you kiddo that the times of the firulete are over… and the rest is history.

The San Francisco Bay Area was absorbed by the tango dance and I began to learn about tango dancing and in the process I learned about tango. In the end I learned about the effects of shining the light of knowledge and experience over the murky darkness of ignorance and deceit. It would be self-aggrandizing to say that I have made a major contribution in shaping the world of Argentine tango in this country, even it might be a fair thing to say. Many people have expressed their appreciation and their recognition in many different ways, and for that I’m grateful and proud we have crossed paths, although at times I have not looked at this as being the most important reward. Born and raised in a society where people need to be constantly proving that they are honest and continuously seeking the approval and validation of the figures of authority, I had trouble first, finally learned to live with, and eventually laughed at the reactions that the publication of El Firulete provoked on my perceived figures of authority in the tango community.

Who translates to English for you? was Acho Manzi’s first form of admiration for the material evidence of an unfulfilled dream he also had. What kind of computer, what kind program, what type of printer?, were the embarrassing questions of a long time tanguera who considered herself beaten to the finish line in her imaginary race in pursuit of her own literary ambitions. I’d love to help you with the design if you would come and stay with me, suggested another tanguera, unaware that by then esa gringa rubia as she later disdainfully called her, had relocated to the West coast. Rather than success, the wrath of a scorned woman bred one of El Firulete‘s several imitations.

I have always tried to look ahead and not give back handed forms of flattery any public recognition, but I remember that on the fifth year of El Firulete I had to publish a message sent by another friend.

Alberto, you have been in our thoughts for the last week or two. A student of ours showed us the crap some coward has been circulating about you. I am shocked and saddened how people misuse the power and anonymity of the Internet, well, maybe not shocked, not much shocks me anymore. What a cruel and cowardly thing to do. I would say not to take it too personally but that would be a light handed response to a very personal attack. But how else can you respond to such an anonymous attack. We also have learned how petty, vicious, and stupid some people will act, just not as publicly. I hope you can hold up your head and let the strength of your character get you through this. Hopefully knowing your friends are behind you and that this type of anonymous accusations don’t hold much water will help.

I read somewhere that there is a theory about human social evolution: life doesn’t progress much after high school, and the tango world and social networking are living proof of that.

Did you hear that there was a toad who half-sunken in mud, was trapping glow-worms that were flying by, and spitting them out? When asked why it was killing them, it answered, because they shine too much.

Posted January 9, 2011 by Alberto & Valorie in ESSAYS

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SHE WANTS TO MAKE IT TO 100   Leave a comment

She wants to live to be 100

By Gaspar Zimerman

Copyright (c) 2009, Clarin. All Rights Reserved

At 97 she still in full swing. A nature’s prodigy, the legendary singer recalls her intense life, talks about her love with Homero Manzi and her friendship with Evita, defends the Kirchners and refers to her relation with death. Shortly before her show at the Luna Park, she confesses a desire to have a boyfriend.

Nelly Omar sings “Desde el alma”

Nelly Omar is happy. It is a day for interviews: it is necessary to promote the Saturday recital at the Luna Park and the series of interviews, far from annoying her, seems to please her. Installed in the office of the recitals producer, she happily receives one journalist after another, proud for showing that time did not rust her mind nor her bones. It is necessary to follow her train of thought as she evokes her friendship with Evita, the 17 years of prohibition she endured after the 1955 military coup, the help offered by Tita Merello; she praises the (President Cristina and ex president Nestor) Kirchners, mentions (radio program) Palmolive on the air.” I do not know how you are not bored” , she lies, and smiles. At 97 years and with her voice intact she is, more than a tango living legend, a sort of a natural phenomenon, a prodigy who is about to step on a stage once again. “It troubles me a little,” she admits. “I am afraid of getting nervous and not remembering the lyrics. But I have faith: God is going to be by my side”.

Is this is a farewell recital?

No, the day I say good bye will be the day I’m dead. I have the support of the people, those who really love me. And not just the common folks: there are intellectuals, professionals who love me.

Where do you draw the strength to continue?

I love life, that’s why I’m alive. I dislike people who waste my time, I like people who are doing something. There are friends to whom I say: “You are boring. Go the hospital, to the square, take a walk: do not talk to me.” If I reached this age, it’s because I have to life to give. I have love which is what’s lacking in people. I want to get to be 100 and celebrate sparing no expense. To celebrate drinking a bottle of whiskey or champagne.

How do you imagine the recital?

Better not think about it, because if I do, I can’t sing. That’s what happened when they paid a tribute Guaminí. I broke down. I sang five songs and I could not continue. I was overcome by tears. I got sick, bah. They had given me, symbolically, the keys to the house where I lived when I was five: entering and seeing the rooms, the plaque they had put in the hall, and not finding relatives and friends once I knew…

Have you felt the loneliness of immortality?

Do you know what is like to get to be my age and not hear anymore from people who had been around? (singer Julio) Martel just left in July, a friend who used to call me almost every day.

How do you overcome the losses?

I believe in God. If He did it, may God have him in His glory. Recently another friend passed away. Tito Alberti had moved to Zárate. He invited me to visit, but I did not have time to go.

You must have a great capacity to make new friends.

Yes, absolutely. I have many friends. More men than women, because the women are very gossipy, and get into tangles and messes. But what I want to have is a partner who thinks like me, to find a partner who would not be embarrassed to be with a person like me. Then my happiness will be complete. But I do not know where are the men. Although first, they should give me a try, because they do not know how I am.

You must be tough.

Don’t believe that. I am a woman who knows how to be a woman. Who did Homero Manzi fall in love with? With Nelly Omar. And how many years he was in love? Since 1937, when I met him until 1951, when he died. But he did not want to follow through on his promise: get a divorce to marry me. And the one who suffered was him, not me. He composed many pieces dedicated to me, starting with Malena. Many people say that this is not true: I give a shit. That a man had fallen in love with me and dedicated tangos to me doesn’t change my way of being. It doesn’t put me in a higher or lower place . I’m the same Nelly.

Do you think about death?

No, not at all. The other day I was telling a friend: the only thing I regret when it’s time to go from this world is not having someone to grab me by the hand and say “you’re leaving, I love you a lot,” something like that. What I would not want to is suffer. I told my doctor: if you determine that I am not curable give me an injection of pentothal and say I had a cardiac arrest. I do not want them to open me, to remove the liver, a kidney, this, that. No, this is a martyrdom.

How would you like to be remembered?

Not as a singer but as a good person. I think I am. It hurts when I can’t help someone. But generally I can or do what is possible. And I do not expect retribution in return: when I give, I do it with my heart. If there is anybody who says I have a debt, let them come and I’ll pay it.

The conversation drifts. Nelly states that recently she was approached to run for a Senate seat but that she rejected the idea “because I do high level politics, not this kind of garbage”. She attacks the dissident Peronism (“It is a shame the scandal they make, they should unite and leave the current administration to finish its mandate”) and she remembers that she met Eva Perón in the Luna Park “during the aftermath of the San Juan’s earthquake. Eva still was an actress… She always helped me: when she found out that I had not worked for over a year she became furious… she said that I was the best Argentine singer”. “I root for Perón and Evita – she adds. What Evita did for the children, by the adolescents, does not have a price”.

She also it remembers her three husbands – Antonio Molina, the folklorist Aníbal Cufré and journalist Héctor Oviedo, whom she met when she was 82 years old and he 57 – and she regrets not having had children. She mentions that she wanted to be an aviatrix and pauses, reflective: “All this can go on a book”. But immediately she discards the idea. She does want to record two albums: one of folklore and another one of tangos, valses and milongas, with an orchestra. She tells that she exercises every mornings and that, when younger, a professor of lyrical song prophesied: “You, like Gardel, have a voice with a natural resonance. You are going to sing until you’re 90”.

Just when we are having the desire to adopt her as our grandmother, she bids us good bye: “I swear that everything I told you is true. I do not have anything to gain nor anything to lose. Bah: I only hope to gain in the Luna Park. Later, God will say what will be of me”.

Translation by Alberto Paz