Roxana Martínez Zabala is described as having “the deep voice that tango deserves”, a claim that was thoroughly verified at her recent performance at the National Tango Academy.
Zabala is a critically acclaimed Argentine tango singer who has performed around the world, earning herself the nickname “tango woman”, a moniker she shares with the name of her LP (‘Mujer tango’). A talent mostly undiscovered by tourists and casual tango fans, Zabala’s shows are generally populated by acquaintances and the tango elite of Buenos Aires.
Zabala’s voice is in the tradition of the sultry, low vocals of crooners such as Susana Rinaldi and Adriana Varela, her more widely-known contemporaries. Her work is as traditional as it gets, great for fans of tango who are looking to avoid the modern twists and spectacle that most tour companies and dinner shows insist on.
Perhaps the most fascinating and unique thing about Zabala’s recent show was its amalgamation of different art forms. It includes the participation of traditional tango dancers sharing the stage with her, as well as that of a live painter, working in the background. The overall effect was inspiring and uplifting – every artist on the stage was completely engaged in their performance, while Zabala led the conversation with the crowd.
Zabala had her vocals backed by the luscious strings and arrangements of an orchestra, apart from when the sound failed and she continued singing a capella, providing possibly the most magical moment of the night. The painter, local artist Gabriel Sanchez, created a baroque-looking flower design as the music continued, which was perfectly suited to the venue’s vintage stylings. “Tango and fine arts are first cousins,” he said, alluding to an attitude to tango which has prevailed since its earliest days – it is a way of life, not just singing, not just dancing. The show’s unification of the fine and performing arts holds this torch aloft.
Located in downtown Buenos Aires, the National Academy of Tango is a historical venue which pays homage to one of Argentina’s most sacred traditions and houses the World Tango Museum, itself an interesting spot for any visitor of Buenos Aires. The ticket to Zabala’s show included a tour of the museum, providing a fascinating context for the performance. It also provided the ideal setting for a tango show, with Zabala’s voice resounding around the tango-related paintings, photos, and artefacts that surrounded the stage.