In 2015, I started hosting a tango night at a little Argentinian café in Brooklyn. Milonga Falucho offered milonguero tango classes, live music performances by tango musicians from New York and abroad, the chance to dance, and the comfort of typical Argentinian dishes. The only thing missing, at least for the non-Spanish speakers, was the poetry of the lyrics, which put into the dance and the music the story of my culture.
John Osburn was one of the regulars at Café Argentino, and when I saw a video of him reciting Shakespeare in Central Park, I recognized the magical element needed to convey the lyrics. I wanted people to feel the emotion of the verse, to connect it to personal experience like spectators do when they watch a play. I’d ask John to recite the lyrics in English. Then we’d play the song and invite the dancers to put the lyrics in their bodies, feeling it affect the density of their dance and “the way they hear the music.”
I had no doubt John was the right choice, since he came every week and loved the spirit of our little Argentinian bohemia. So he took on the task, and eventually he was doing his own English versions and performing them back-and-forth with me reciting the Spanish. His rich and complex translation and powerful delivery capture the weirdness of a melancholic, contradictory culture, the polarization of being torn between what is right and what is felt. You can read his translations on this blog and, maybe, share with us what tango means to you.
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