Monday, February 20, 2012

In review--Tangos and Ice Floes

Las Chicas del Tango
Featuring Horacio Ferrer
Tango de Norte a Sur
Arc Music

On the album Tango de Norte a Sur, (Tango From North to South), the Finnish trio Las Chicas del Tango meld Finnish tango with new Argentine tango. Kukka-Maaria Ahonen (vocals), Johanna Juhola (accordion), and Milla Viljamaa (piano), collaborate with esteemed Argentine poet Horacio Ferrer who also performs on the album. Rounding out the text, the musicians feature the poetry of Bolivian songstress Siboné Oroza and the late Argentine feminist poet Alfonsina Storni (who lived during era when Argentine tango was just emerging).

I read in a Finnish radio review that Las Chicas del Tango successfully wed Finno-Ugrian melancholy with the sadness of Argentine tango.  While this is not an exact quote, the musicians blur the lines between tango of South America and Finland, with Ahonen singing the text in Spanish. I imagine dancers could tango to these melodies, but tango songs (music with lyrics), usually invite people to listen to the text.  The stories here range from the pain of love (of course), to homage songs for three Finnish legends, (tango composer Unto Mononen, architect Alvar Aalto and classical composer Jean Sibelius), to pleas to protect the planet from destruction.  If you want the pain of love, take a listen to A Sun, “...During my life I gathered ice and more ice; I need the sun to melt me,” by Alfonsina Storni.

Musically speaking, all three musicians know their way around their instruments. With robust accordion, passionate piano, topped off with powerful vocals, these women take listeners deep within their songs. Gorgeous melodies, thoughtful lyrics, and enticing arrangements, produce a hot album from a cold climate. I have listened to a lot of tango over the years (I’m especially fond of Astor Piazzolla’s new tango), and I give this album top rating.  The musicians have provided everything listeners need for an authentic tango experience except the macho male dancers and women in spiked heels.  You are on your own in that regard.

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