All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review


Melingo: Maldito Tango

Chris May By

Sign in to view read count
Like the Algerian singer Rachid Taha and Spanish band Ojos de Brujo, Argentinean singer and multi-instrumentalist Daniel Melingo is broadening the scope of his native music while ensuring that its cultural identity remains intact. All three artists are creating "roots" music, but the extent of their innovations means that conservative Maghrebi, flamenco and tango fans dispute that. More freewheeling listeners simply revel in the thrilling music being created.

Melingo has retained tango's characteristic instrumentation—bandoneon, clarinet, double bass, violin, guitar—while adding a treasure trove of the familiar and the unfamiliar, from trombone and baritone saxophone to the saw and steel drum. More importantly, from Melingo's point of view, is his championing of tango's street poets, the lunfardo (tango slang) specialists whose lyrics are featured on most of Maldito Tango's eleven tracks. Melingo says that his primary purpose in making the album was to restore these lyricists to their rightful place atop Argentina's cultural pantheon.

But here's a thing. Most non-native listeners will be wholly unaware of the dialect used on the album, just as they will be unaware of the meaning of the lyrics (as they are unaware of the meaning of Taha or Ojos de Brujo's lyrics). Unless you are planning an evening of emo-self-mutilation, however, that may be a good thing; for these lyrics—as befits those on an album whose title in English is "Cursed Tangos"—are d-a-r-k.

Here's a taste, from the synopses given in the liner booklet. "Pequeno Paria" is "a prayer for a child raised in loneliness, who dies without ever having been hugged and kissed, who never had any love." "Se Igual" tells of "a man shunned by society who, in the face of general indifference, sleeps in the street, takes drugs and eats what he finds in dustbins." "A Lo Magdelena" is the story of "a girl who has led a bad life, now an old woman, (who) listens to a tango that reminds her of her past, and cries."

The intense sadness of most tango lyrics is shrouded from non-Argentinean listeners. An air of gravity comes across, but not the gory details—and more than that, there's a pervasive ambience of resilience, endeavor, even positivity. In this sense, tango truly is the Argentinean cousin of the blues, cathartic and ultimately uplifting. Maldito Tango has these qualities in spades.

It also has some excitingly innovative arrangements and masterful instrumental performances. The textures Melingo creates are fascinating and utterly delicious—setting the theremin-like saw alongside rough trombone riffs, or hard-boppish baritone saxophone alongside classic tango violin, to instance just two such juxtapositions. The guest vocalists are mesmerizing too, their voices so lived-in they're sometimes practically worn through. Cristobal Repetto's role as the old woman on "A Lo Magdalena" should not be missed.

If this music is cursed, it proves one thing: the devil does have the best tunes.

Track Listing: En Un Bondi Color Humo; Julepe En La Tierra; A Lo Magdalena; Se Igual; Fabriquera; Luisito; Cha Digo; Pequeno Paria; Montmartre De Hoy; Cuando La Tarde Se Inclina; Eco Il Mondo.

Personnel: Daniel Melingo: vocals, piano, guitar, kazoo, clarinet, vibraphone, percussion; Patricio Cotella: double bass (1, 3-6, 9-11); Gustavo Paglia: bandoneon (1, 3-6, 9, 10); Jorge Giuliano: guitar (1, 3-6, 9, 10); Javier Casalla: violin, violin corneta (1, 3-6, 7, 9-11); Juan Carlos Caceres: vocals and trombone (1); Santiago Castellani: trombone (1, 8, 10);Pablo Rodriguez: baritone saxophone (1); Ruben Vasquez: chorus (2); Rudy Flores: guitar (2); Nini Flores: accordion (2); Cristobal Repetto: vocals (3), whistle (9); Rodrigo Guerra: saw (6, 8, 10); Skay Belinson: electric guitar (7); Horacio Fontova: vocals (7); Julian Armani: double bass (7); Edu Herrera: reverse guitar (7); Felix Melingo Torre: vocals (8); Gabriel Fernandez Capello: vocals (8); Flavio Cianciarullo: Mexican guitar (8); Javier Estrella: cajon (8); Toto Rotblat: cajon (8); Alenjandro De Raco: tablas, steel drums (8); Dipy Kvitko: guitar (11).

Title: Maldito Tango | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Manana


comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Peaks of Light CD/LP/Track Review
Peaks of Light
by Mark Sullivan
Published: March 18, 2018
Read In Denmark I Was Born CD/LP/Track Review
In Denmark I Was Born
by Gareth Thompson
Published: March 18, 2018
Read In Copenhagen - Live at Jazzhus Slukefter 1983 CD/LP/Track Review
In Copenhagen - Live at Jazzhus Slukefter 1983
by Chris Mosey
Published: March 18, 2018
Read A Year Ago Today CD/LP/Track Review
A Year Ago Today
by Doug Collette
Published: March 18, 2018
Read Dreams of Belonging CD/LP/Track Review
Dreams of Belonging
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: March 18, 2018
Read Ravensburg CD/LP/Track Review
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: March 17, 2018
Read "Sing House" CD/LP/Track Review Sing House
by Karl Ackermann
Published: July 30, 2017
Read "Unification" CD/LP/Track Review Unification
by Mark Corroto
Published: June 12, 2017
Read "Spavati, Mozda Sanjati" CD/LP/Track Review Spavati, Mozda Sanjati
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: November 19, 2017
Read "Es:sensual" CD/LP/Track Review Es:sensual
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: March 3, 2018
Read "Journey To The Mountain Of Forever" CD/LP/Track Review Journey To The Mountain Of Forever
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: June 17, 2017
Read "Trillium Falls" CD/LP/Track Review Trillium Falls
by Jack Bowers
Published: April 5, 2017