Maria Cangiano and her Tango

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Name: Maria Cangiano

Age: 41

Roots: Argentine

Where do you live now? Park Slope/Caroll Gardens, Brooklyn

Years in NY: 9

Favorite thing about NY: How cosmopolitan it is. It reminds me of Buenos Aires

Favorite place in NY: The unknown Brooklyn where I live, between Park Slope and Carroll Gardens: desolate and beautiful at the same time.

Least favorite: Times Square

When did you first develop an interest in tango? Around five years ago, although I’ve loved tango since I was a kid, because my mother used to sing it very well. I realized all this post-factum. When I did my first woman show, “Tango de Negro y Carmin,” I realized the repertoire I was singing was what my mother sang or made me listen to.

What’s your training? I came to New York to follow an academic career as a historian (I have a PhD in Latin American history) and after finishing my PhD and becoming an assistant professor-tenure track- seven years ago, I left academia to become an opera singer. For several years, I sang in alternative companies, such as Amato, Regina, Dicapo, among others.

Do you dance tango or just sing? They say those who play or sing, do not dance. That is my case, although I have taken classes, and promise myself I WILL DANCE!

Favorite tango musicians? From the old times: Carlos Gardel, Edmundo Rivero, Roberto Goyeneche, Amelita Baltar, Astor Piazzolla, Anibal Troilo… from the young generation: Lidia Borda and Brian Chambouleyron

What other music are you listening to? I listen everything: Jazz, Blues, Hip Hop, Classical, Cabaret, Latin American folklore, Brazilian music, etc.

How is classic tango still relevant today? Well, actually, the young generation of musicians in Argentina is playing a lot of old tango. Today there is a boom for the old tango, maybe more than before.

How has it evolved over the years? In the 1960s/70s there appeared what has been called the New Tango with Astor Piazzolla as its major representative. After Piazzolla, I have to say that a lot of musicians are caught between the old and new tango, trying to define new paths. Maybe with time post-Piazzolla tango will develop a new character, because until now, in my opinion, there are more emulators of the old and the new tango trends than new interpreters of tango in the XXI century.

How do you feel about the tango remix trend that has emerged during the last few years (Gotan Project, etc.)? I have to confess I like Gotan Project, although most of tango musicians probably do not like it. It has an appealing bit, and a very interesting minimalistic approach to the music… I am not sure if this music is going to outlast our time. Maybe because I am not so deeply touched by it, as I am touched by Troilo or Piazzolla, I am not sure if it is just a fashion. I guess time will tell.

Could you explain the monthly show you do at the Nuyorican, “Tango de Maria”? I am surprised by the fact that in the United States whenever you mention the word Tango, people ask you, do you dance?… No, I sing Tango. It seems like nobody, or nearly nobody, understands that tango is not only a dance but songs and instrumental music. El Tango de Maria brings to the public the repertory of tango songs from the older to the new ones. I sing and introduce the songs and their themes to the audience with anecdotes, translations and history. I want the public also to understand the philosophy of life condensed in the songs and its differences from other “Latin” music: Bolero, Salsa, Flamenco, etc.. Another thing, the show is also about Maria’s tango, meaning my personal interpretation of the songs. In this interpretation, I care about the character who sings the song, the story behind the song, the lyrics, as well as the beauty of the musical line. In tango, singing the melody and telling the story are equally important, that is why Carlos Gardel was the most important tango singer of all times.

What will the “Tango and Beyond” show include at Joe’s Pub? Tango & Beyond has two parts. The first part of the show includes more traditional repertoire, chosen around the topics of tango philosophy of life: nostalgia, life as a tragedy, the impossibility of love, a particular portrayal of women, either as prostitutes, decadents or pure, social protest, among other things.

In this part there will be a slide show, done by me, of Buenos Aires photos, old and new. The photos are historical, as well as social and political, because they show two Buenos Aires, the rich and the poor, yesterday and today. Tango is a philosophy of life that represents the spirit of Buenos Aires’s population in general, but also the frustration and lack of satisfaction of the popular classes. The second part centers around the New Tango: Piazzolla and after. In this case, the images will be footage from Buenos Aires and New York, around the things the two cities have and do not have in common, either in terms of urban landscape, as well as social and political issues. The lyrics of Piazzolla’s music are different from the old tango ones, they are part of the 1970s utopia and they talk about an unequal society, while stressing the need to built a new one based on love. Sincerely, this is still the concern of our generation. Besides, his music is an extraordinary communion of musical languages, Classic, Jazz, Bossa Nova, Tango… and that also touches us.

What other projects are you involved in? A multimedia tango performance with two Argentine artists: a major musician, Brian Chambourlyan, and an incredible theater director, Susana Rivero. The performance is called Connection: Tango and it is about Tango and immigration today and at the turn of the last centuries. We are looking for funds for this production and we hope we can produce it soon in a major theater venue, still not decided. I am also working on the development of a new female tango group, Las Cancheras (The Cool Chicks), something completely new for the New York Tango scene, which is so male oriented…

Who are some other local tangueros to keep our eyes out for? Look for Fernando Otero, a major pianist and original composer, with whom I will probably collaborate in the future. There is also the trio Los Chantas of which David Hodges, the bandoleon player of the show, is part of. They are performing everywhere in the Milonga NY scene.

Best places to dance/learn to dance tango in NY? Every night there is either a class or a milonga in NY. The best site to check is I am not the super expert, but the best milongas are La Nacional, La Boca, Dance Manhattan, La Belle Epoque, and the milonga at the Chelsea Market. Regarding classes, Dance Manhattan offers a lot of good classes, as well as El Triangulo. If you check that site you find details about what I am saying.

What does “cosmopolatino” mean to you? Means that in New York our rich and diverse ethnic “latino” roots reach and become one with the rest of the world. By living here we truly discover where we come from, as well as become citizens of the world, or as I prefer, citizens of the universe.