In most cities, the bandoneon does not make an appearance on the musical scene. But Buenos Aires goes against the grain.
On low-key Sundays and quiet Mondays, after a weekend of partying leaves most patrons tired, Esteban Bezenzette and Agustín Traversa pull out their guitars in El Boliche de Roberto and join Pablo Ciliberto on the bandoneon.
Together the three are Los Musicantes Porteños, a musical trio that specialise in acoustic tango tunes.
“It’s the way to transmit music without an intermediary – nothing technical,” Bezenzette says. “We believe it’s an option to offer music in a different way that isn’t conventional.”
He says the group focus on playing in the neighbourhood of Almagro where they each grew up together. Traversa, who is both a guitarist and a singer, says: “We’ve played together many years. We two [Traversa and Bezenzette] have played together for a ridiculous amount of time. We met as children and started to play together when we were 14 or 15.”
Each now 31 years old, it is easy to see that they have spent more than half their lives playing together. The guitars sing in unison and the players do not have to look at each other to keep in sync. The bandoneon adds the icing to the cake, decorating the strings with its multi-octave themes.
Bezenzette, who plays the guitar as well as the guitarrón, says the band had other members until about five months ago, including a contrabass, guitarist and singer.
“Now, we are what we are – the resistance,” he says.
They may have lost a few people, but the remaining members are still trying to find their path. Traversa notes that music is the group’s work, way of making a living. That said, the trio is also out to interpret the classics, he says, without falling into clichés. “Really, to transmit the same emotions of our place, with our musical influences and patterns, too,” he says.
The interpretations they have worked on are quite popular. On the usual nights at Almagro’s Lo de Roberto, the crowds stand hushed, listening to the groups music. When they step off the stage, people step out of the bar.
“This work is a historical and cultural continuity,” Bezenzette says. “If we were to play rock, we couldn’t offer it. It’s outside of our context.” Traversa added that they follow a style that is more personal. “We sometimes play the guitar of Gardel,” he says. “It’s like a tradition, too.”
And they will continue bringing their music to everyone, face-to-face. “There are regulars and there are foreigners,” Traversa says of their local haunt. “There are a lot of people from the neighbourhood who have lived here many years. Great men, too. There are some people who have been in Argentina for two days, and someone recommended that they come here and they mix. It’s beautiful.”