A few weeks ago, Betty Confetti invited me over to her studio, where she is currently mixing her first solo album, Camina Sobre el Fuego, which is set to come out this year. The studio space, where Betty has been working over the last few months, is an extra room in her producer’s Buenos Aires apartment. The room is packed with music equipment, and chords from various instruments create a tangle leading to a MacBook, which balances precariously on a record player—a reproduction of Andy Warhol’s Mao Zedong portrait hangs above two empty, overly-comfortable upholstered armchairs.
Betty Confetti by stage, Julia Worley by birth, she hails from Portsmouth, England. Previously of the Buenos Aires-based lady indie-rock band, Las Kellies, Betty struck out solo earlier this year with a new “tropical Cumbia” sound she is making with her music project: Betty Confetti y Su Conjunto Tropical.
Earlier this month, Tune-Yards, a music project started by Connecticut native Merrill Garbus, visited Buenos Aires. As a music-culture-importation capital south of the equator, Buenos Aires sees many acts pass through its stages—but Garbus didn’t just come and play music at Niceto Club in Palermo, she moved spectators to sway in other-worldly ways. Maybe the show’s success is a testament to the celebration pervading Garbus’s tunes. Or crowds here might just prefer dancing to standing. Either way, the back and forth between Garbus and her fans was stirring and, at times, even jolting.
Garbus wasn’t available for an interview, but these bobbling harlequin faces do a fine job of showing just what it was like having her for a drum looping, ukulele playing, Rasta dread swinging night:
San Telmo’s Sunday street market is a mosaic of kitschy tango paraphernalia, rainbow-colored knickknacks, and captivating music makers. The body of the market runs down Defensa street, but its heart, which pulses with tango, is in Plaza Dorrego. Crowds of gawking onlookers stand frozen, entranced by the seductive dance playing out before their eyes. The surrounding kiosks are supplied with stereotypical Argentine memorabilia, including tango dancer keychains, Carlos Gardel on vinyl, and cow-hoof mate gourds. During my time in Buenos Aires, I’ve made a conscious effort not to focus my recordings on tango, but I’m quickly becoming an expert in failing to do this.
Last week, my brother came all the way from occasionally-sunny Northern California to visit me in Buenos Aires, which meant an opportunity to play shameless tourist. On Sunday, we made our way to San Telmo to pay our respects to the market. While my brother was browsing through a variety of Che Guevara hats—the military-style ones with an embroidered red star—I became distracted by a band of drummers, who were surrounded by a cluster of dancers, moving like celestial bodies in, out, and among the market-goers. A mass of people collected around them.
I followed the hypnotic beat through the market, dodging fresh-squeezed orange juice vendors and precariously-stacked artisanal jewelry displays, as I wove through the throng to get a closer view. At the front of the procession was this man, a de facto leader with a practiced sway:
Attempting to ignore how sound pushes movement in this city would be like trying not to breathe.
Last week I explored Puma Urban Art Festival in Recoleta, Buenos Aires.
Among the bands I heard playing was a rock group, made up of three man-skeleton guitarists and a lady-skeleton drummer, called Montecarlo.
Here’s what I found:
I left New York for Argentina in early December, just in time for summer. Everything you’ve heard from the Northern Hemisphere is untrue: it’s all right-side up here, the water does flush down the toilet right to left, and the right choice is steak and only steak at any restaurant, which comes served by a cow aficionado.
When I’m not investigating tales from up north, I’m following around musical numbers in Buenos Aires, one of which is NanaeNada. NanaeNada is a contemporary group with a surrealist twist, whose performances are nothing short of a spectacle. Composed of singer-actress Myriam Henne-Adda, pianist Pablo Droeven, guitarist Esteban Castro Filleaudeau, cellist Katja Burer, and drummer Pablo Belnes, the collective emerges onstage, in an entrancing playhouse world, where costumes, notes, and memories whirl.
Below is a video short I put together from a recent NanaeNada concert at La Oreja Negra, a venue situated in Palermo, Buenos Aires. The song featured is called “Solitude.” Myriam, the band’s founding member, also known as “Nana,” left Paris seven years ago to take a chance on a new beginning in Argentina, as so many have done before her.