The Haibao Tango

I would hereby like to thank the great country of Argentina for being so awesome to me during the past week. One: For looking past my shabby dress and allowing me into your fancy-schmancy National Day cocktail party at the Argentina pavilion. I really enjoyed all that red wine, cheese, and ice cream. I would also like to thank Argentina (and props to Uruguay as well!) for introducing me to Bajofondo, the super dance-classical-tango band that lit up the Puxi side of the Expo for a multi-day extravaganza this weekend.

Bajofondo is an eight-piece band with members from Argentina and Uruguay who play a fusion of, well, a bit of everything. The group features a violinist, accordion player, double bass player, and a dude on turntables/keyboard/MacBook. These guys formed in 2002, have produced three full-length albums, and toured extensively internationally.

I got to the show with almost a full minute to spare and, in what may be a first for a Latin American band, the show started at 8:00 exactly. The audience of a couple hundred people seemed like cautious Chinese music fans spread out among the seats, and a couple of rows up front filled with the Argentinian superfans, giving the show as much energy as they would a World Cup football match. Eventually, their energy, combined with the frenetic enthusiasm of all the band members, got the entire crowd to their feet, dancing, clapping, and hip-shaking.

The concert began with a solo violin playing snatches of classical tunes, and then the full band came on stage and exploded into some excellent funky folk-dance-house fusion. A sultry tango climaxed in guitar fuzz and keyboard noise. A folk-riff became a hip-hop tune, with the guitarist and keyboard player spouting lyrics in Spanish and French. We heard some dramatic solo tunes from the accordionist and the guitarist. Not only did the music shift and change grooves, but the band members did as well. No one on stage was still for a minute. The lovely keyboard player swung her hips and did a one-woman tango, the pianist/DJ grooved and danced, and at one point the bassist and accordionist did a playful back-to-back jam that warmed my chilly North American heart. The atmosphere at the show was interesting as well. The venue was outdoors but the 10 meter high screens behind the band flashed artsy scenes of waves and factories, creating a superb mix of warm-outdoor summer show and dance club atmosphere.

It should also be mentioned, as I know this issue has come up before with Expo shows, that the sound did not disappoint.  I think all the kinks that dragged down Herbie Hancock’s performance have been sorted out, so that by the time Bajofondo made it to the stage we were able to hear every bass line, accordion gasp, and DJ scratch without issue.

It’s only been one month of the Expo and I’ve learned so much about music. Finland taught me how awesome Viking metal is, and this week I got to tango with an older Chinese gentleman wearing a Haibao shirt. What new music experiences will Expo bring this month?

Stay tuned!

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