Some tango thoughts and our new Classical Latin Music Festival at Southbank Centre London

Havana Buenos Aires Classical Music Festival July 17 and 18
Tangos for Angels and Demons -20 years of Tango Siempre
Cubana Clásica-A Night at the Opera in Havana

 I just returned from Eastern Cuba and the city of Gibara where every year there is an important International Film Festival now in it’s 14th year (July 1-7th) and inaugurated by the great Cuban film director Humberto Solas. The Cuban film industry is one of the country’s great cultural exports apart from its dancers and musicians and this particular festival is renowned for its focus on documentary film.
Apart from the main focus on film there are concerts and dance performances all week especially by the Holguin province dance company Codanza Cuba with whom I will collaborate in Mozart’s Magic flute in December. I was fortunate, given my interest and involvement in tango to be introduced to the considerable tango community in Gibara, singers and dancers at the Casa del Tango, where I joined them   for  evenings of singing and dancing with the local tangueros, especially tango diva Marta Maria and tango dance maestro Ricardo Reyes. These centres for dance classes, milongas and live music were very common all over Latin America during the Golden  Age of Tango. Through them I met the Argentinian director Marta N. Bautis who was presenting her documentary about tango in Cuba and its relationship with the Cuban Danzón. Both these dances evolved at the turn of the 20th century and brought young people together in a dance of close embrace. This embrace and the sensing and listening to your partner is crucial to both dances. What I didn’t know was that Cuba and especially Gibara was a major centre for tango when Gibara was a wealthy Spanish port, the main port before ships from Europe stopped off at the port of La Havana. Even after the war with Spain in 1898, the city remained culturally influential. 

After the Revolution and due to the economic blockade, Tango became less popular although the flame still burned in many families where tangos were sung alongside the Danzón and it’s close musical partner the Son. Carlos Gardel’s films were classics seen by all Cubans including  Omar Puente when he was growing up in Santiago de Cuba and studying in La Habana. We will perform all of these genres in our concert Cubana Clásica: Omar Puente will play his own  Danzón, a tribute to his mother Gloria, and a new Son de Negros, to a poem by  Federico Garcia-Lorca who travelled widely in Cuba,  by Grammy award-winner Yalil Guerra written specially for this concert will be performed by opera singer Ann Liebeck and Cuban virtuoso pianist Marcos Madrigal. Madrigal will also play music by the great Ernesto Lecuona, often described as the George Gershwin of  Cuba.Argentinian Grammy award winner Fernando Otero is also featured . His piano piece Prima Donna is a tribute to his mother a famous Argentinian film actress and tango singer.

Julian Rowland’s interest in world music, not only his speciality, tango will contribute also to the fusion, in a salsa and ragtime -inspired version of Carlos Gardel’s most famous tango, Por una Cabeza and a new piece Island Noises to words from The Tempest by William Shakespeare. This second concert in our new Classical Latin Music Festival, will we hope give  a new perspective on the close links between classic tango as championed over 20 years by Tango Siempre and Julian Rowlands in the UK and classical Cuban music which may not be so familiar to London audiences. In Tangos for Angels and Demons which features the melodramatic operatic  vocal  ballads by Astor Piazzolla,sung by Ann Liebeck,Tango Siempre will be presenting brand new tangos by Rowlands and Jonathan Taylor, the group’s pianist written especially for this festival. Havana –Buenos Aires-a marriage made in a tropical Paradise.     
 Ann Liebeck July 5th 2018