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Who was Max Glücksmann and how did he influence tango? Part 2

by Terence Clarke, journalist, novelist and Alma del Tango board member

Argentine tango singer, Carlos Gardel

Carlos Gardel, signed to an early recording contract by Max Glücksmann.

 

We learned last month about the beginnings of the Argentine recording and film industries, principally through the efforts of Max Glücksmann. Eventually he was to build those industries into a business powerhouse. But Glücksmann also had extraordinary taste when it came to popular music, and he knew he was onto something when he first heard the singing voice of Carlos Gardel.

A former street singer, Gardel had made an early reputation as half of the Razzani-Gardel duo that was popular on the Buenos Aires music scene before and during World War I. Eventually the two split up, and Gardel continued on as a single, signed to an early recording contract by Max Glücksmann. Gardel was still a criollo singer whose music had a country flavor heavily influenced by the music of the Argentine pampas and the gauchos.

But he was an urban kid.

As in many great cities, there were populations in Buenos Aires that had been forced to emigrate from other countries by war or economic difficulties. There was chaotic urban noise and emotional dissociation, the alienation that comes from the break-up of families, the loss of community and the anger and rage that can result.

Gardel was no stranger to this, and his first solo recording, in 1917, was a tango entitled “Mi noche triste,” about a man sitting alone in his Buenos Aires room, crushed because his lover has just left him.

The first such recording ever made

Tango had existed for years before this, but more as a folkloric music and country dance. What Gardel was singing was urban, new, and instantly popular. Gardel went on to become the biggest-selling music star in the Spanish-speaking world, an international phenomenon of enormous proportions.

Ateneo Grand Splendid bookstore in Buenos Aires

Ateneo Grand Splendid bookstore located in Glucksmann’s former “special” concert theater in Buenos Aires.

On October 12, 1924, Gardel made one of the first live radio broadcasts to be produced from the studio of “Lo Grand Splendid,” Glücksmann’s new headquarters housed on the upper floor of his new “splendid” concert theater. (Now transformed into the most beautiful bookstore I’ve ever seen, the Ateneo Grand Splendid is located at Avenida Santa Fe 1860 in Buenos Aires.)

Gardel became a movie star so well thought of by Hollywood that by 1934 he was being prepared by Paramount Studios to become the next Maurice Chevalier. On March 5, 1934, Glücksmann arranged for a short wave radio hook-up, broadcast by Radio Splendid in Argentina –- from a studio in the Grand Splendid — and NBC in the United States.

The artists were Carlos Gardel and his long-time guitarists Guillermo Desiderio Barbieri and Angel Domingo Riverol. This occasion was memorable for a unique reason, since in fact Gardel was singing in New York while the guitarists were playing in Buenos Aires. It was one of the first such international broadcasts ever made.

Glücksmann had essentially gained control of the Argentine record industry. He did it while nonetheless becoming a hero to musicians through his practice of paying them royalties. He was the first in Argentina to suggest this, and in so doing made Carlos Gardel a world-class star and a multi-millionaire. Other Argentine musicians may not have climbed to Gardel’s heights of fame, but they all benefited from Glücksmann’s careful protection of their artistic rights.

Max Glücksmann died on October 20, 1946.

Terence Clarke’s new novel, The Splendid City, with Pablo Neruda as the main character, will be published in January 2019. A translation to Spanish by the noted Chilean novelist Jaime Collyer will appear later in the year.

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Slip on your tango shoes and join the celebration…

22 years of Alma del Tango in Marin and 11 years in San Anselmo

Dance Studio sign Alma del Tango

by Lanny Udell

Time flies when you’re busy dancing, teaching and building a community around Argentine Tango. Just ask Debbie Goodwin and John Campbell.

This month they are celebrating 22 years of Alma del Tango, and 11 years in San Anselmo. Join the festivities on Friday, September 28,  with a class, milonga, performance (by them) and live music by Seth Asarnow y su Sexteto Tipico. .

How it all began
You may know the story of how John and Debbie met at Stanford Tango Week back in 1996. It was love at first cabeceo, and since then the pair has been devoting their lives to each other and to the dance that brought them together so many years ago.

Read their story here, in our June 2013 Tango Lovebirds article

Debbie Goodwin and John Campbell, tango dancers

Debbie & John in 2001

At the time they met, Debbie was working on an undergraduate degree in dance and teaching in Auburn, CA. John began commuting from Marin on weekends to be with her and they formed Alma del Tango as an umbrella for their tango activities. In 1997 they started going to Buenos Aires to study with the masters for a month each year.

In addition to Auburn, Debbie taught in Sacramento, Davis and Nevada City. While deciding on her career path, she realized that she was fascinated by the cultural aspect of social dances. Ergo, the name of their nonprofit became Social Dance Cultures with Alma del Tango as one of several programs under its auspices.

Dipping their tango toes into the Bay Area
Every other weekend, the couple went into San Francisco to dance and John introduced Debbie to the local tango community. They frequented the Club Verdi, Broadway, and the Golden Gate Yacht Club. After seven years of commuting, Debbie and John settled in Marin together. John was teaching tango classes through Tam Community Education at the time. Among his first students were Alex and Karina Levin.

“John was one of Alex’s and my first tango teachers,” says Karina. “We first took classes with him in 1999-2000, and later we studied with Debbie and John. They played a dramatic role in our development as tango dancers.”

Couple dancing tango at Alma del Tango in Marin

Alex and Karina Levin 

When Karina’s life dramatically changed in 2013 with the untimely death of Alex,

“Debbie and John were the ones who embraced me and carried me through the pain. They are not only my tango teachers, they are my dear friends.”

Time out…briefly

After they married, Debbie and John took a break from teaching to concentrate on artistic endeavors. But it didn’t last long. In 2004, Debbie founded Tango Con*Fusión, the all women professional dance company. But the urge to teach grew too strong to resist, and in 2007 they started a class at Drake High, which long-time student Boyer Cole describes as “a hot night in the cafeteria with 57 students on a concrete floor.”

Dart and Dottye Rinefort got their first taste of tango the following year. “2008 marked the start of our journey into the world of Argentine Tango with John and Debbie. It was in a small, windowless room at Drake High School, filled with faces eager to learn this challenging dance. Many of those faces have continued on this journey with us and are among our treasured tango family,” says Dottye.

Dottye & Dart Rinefort at Alma del Tango in San Anselmo

Dottye & Dart Rinefort greet guests at the milonga

Dart adds: “To a non-dancer, John and Debbie’s step-by-step approach along with tons of patience and encouragement helped turn an incredibly formidable dance into an enjoyable and rewarding experience. For us, they have brought to life the rich history, music, passion and improvisational possibilities of tango.”

Building community in San Anselmo
Driven by the desire to build a tango community in Marin, Debbie and John began searching for a venue. At that point they were teaching privates in the living room of their home. They rolled up the rugs and moved out the furniture. Clearly, a studio was needed!

When they found the current space in the Knights of Columbus hall, they started renting by the hour. “I got tired of carrying in the sound equipment for every class,” John says, so they decided to rent it on a permanent basis as the home of Alma del Tango.

“We wanted a studio where people who wanted to dance well could learn and grow,” says Debbie, “and we wanted to offer programs that would enhance their experience as a community, including classes for all levels, practicas, milongas, performances, student productions and guest artists.”

To transform the space to match their vision, they had the stage built and added stage curtains. John installed video equipment, lighting and sound equipment, turning the bare bones dance hall into a tango center, the only one in Marin.

“We put a lot of time into designing the classes and making students aware of the historical context of the dance,” explains Debbie. “At the same time, we want to be cutting edge, which is why we continue to study the new developments of the dance and have visiting teachers as well.” 

Tango maestro Eduardo Saucedo teaching at Alma del Tango in Marin

Eduardo Saucedo, guest artist in residence for the month of August

Deborah Loft, a long-time supporter says:

“Over the many years I have been studying tango with Debbie and John, I have seen them go from weekly classes in a generic space at Drake High, to building a community with our own studio, stage and boutique; several classes a week (sometimes with visiting dancers from Argentina), monthly milongas (often with live music), and performances. What an accomplishment! This has taken great dedication on their part, and I am so grateful that we have these resources right here in San Anselmo.”

Philip Benson became a regular at Alma del Tango in May of this year. “Alma del Tango is the jewel of Marin for Argentine Tango students and dancers, he says. “John Campbell and Debbie Goodwin are superb instructors and hosts. They have created a warm, encouraging environment in which to learn, dance and connect with others who have an interest in or passion for this unique form of communication and connection. I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of this wonderful community.”

Argentine tango dancers Debbie Goodwin & John Campbell

For Debbie and John, teaching and performing together is so fulfilling

For Debbie and John, the years of dancing and teaching together have been fulfilling. “Not a week goes by that I don’t learn more about teaching and gain a new appreciation of movement and helping people,” says John. “I never thought I’d have a second career as a dancer!”

Alma del Tango gave  Debbie a place to pursue her creative work and to have community. “Especially with the kids away,” she says, “I love having my tango family around.”

“John and I really enjoy teaching together, that’s why I’m so happy to be back teaching the full program since recovering from my knee injury.”

Reflecting on her experience at Alma del Tango, student Errin Loveland says:

“I came to ADT in February of this year at a friend’s invitation. I had no dance experience of any kind, though I was open to whatever I encountered. I felt welcomed immediately as Debbie and John have created a warm space for those that are absolute newbies. Their own love of tango shines through, and they are eager to share what they know both technically and around the music and history of Argentine Tango. Debbie and John encourage a community atmosphere that supports learning what can be a very challenging dance. I look forward to attending for years to come. There is so much more to learn and explore.”

Tango dancers Debbie Goodwin and John Campbell

Debbie and John invite you to join their anniversary celebration at a class, milonga and performance, September 28 at Alma del Tango. Live music by Seth Asarnow y su Sexteto Tipico.

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Who was Max Glucksmann and how did he influence tango?

The first of two articles about Max Glucksmann by Terence Clarke, novelist, journalist and Alma del Tango board member

 

Max Glucksmann’s is not a household name, to be sure. But were it not for him, the Argentine recording and film industries would not have developed as quickly as they did or –- especially in the recording of tango– with such formidable results.

An Austrian and part of the important Jewish immigration to Argentina in the nineteenth and twentieth  centuries,  Glucksmann arrived with his family in Buenos Aires in 1890, when he was 15 years old.  Max was a very industrious young man, and he went to work soon after his arrival in Argentina for  Lepage y Compañia, a photography studio. He was one of three employees in a shop that was seven by twenty-five meters in its entirety.  He often bragged later in life, shrugging his shoulders in the Buenos Aires manner of humorous acceptance of one’s fate, that his first salary was fifty pesos a month.  Even in 1890, this was not a lot. 

The arrival of moving pictures and voice recordings

Max Glucksmann, Argentine movie and recording industry mogul

Max Glucksmann, founder of Argentina’s cinema and recording industries in the early 20th Century.

Lepage y Compañia recognized the coming importance of the moving picture, and expanded its operations in 1900 to that primitive but exciting art.  In the meantime, the possibility for recording voice and music had also become a reality.  In a 1931 interview, Max explained what had been happening in Buenos Aires: “Forty years ago, the first Lioret phonographs were imported from France.  They used celluloid cylinders.  Then came cylinders made of wax. And finally in 1900 disks appeared, even though they were pretty bad.” 

Max understood that, although these first recordings were mostly by opera singers like Enrico Caruso, the real market lay in popular music artists of the period.  In a day in which radio was in its own infancy, these recordings were usually the only way that large numbers of people could hear different kinds of music. 

“When the gramophone really came into its own in Argentina,” Max said, “it was thanks to the popularity that, day by day, was enjoyed by criolla music (music from Argentina itself). From the time of the payadores (itinerant singers) like Negro Gazcón, Gabino Ezeiza, Villoldo and others, who were singing just as the disk was perfecting itself.”

Max, recognizing that cinema and recording were the coming industries, applied himself to his work so intently that, in 1908, when Lepage y Compañia now had one hundred fifty employees, he bought the company.  Soon thereafter, he built the first recording studio in Argentina, taking advantage of new technology that allowed recordings to be made by the thousands. He also worked to establish the legal rights of music authorship for performers, something that had not previously existed in Argentina.

Next month we’ll see the profound influence that one of Max Glucksmann’s first artists, Carlos Gardel, would have on tango and the world.

Terence Clarke’s new novel, The Splendid City, will be published next year.

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