Arts & Entertainment

Argentine ensemble combines classic tango with punk-rock attitude

By Julieta Barrera

Buenos Aires, Oct 29 (EFE).- One of the leading ensembles in contemporary tango, Argentina’s Orquesta Tipica Fernandez Fierro is known for a sound that hearkens back to the classic era of that genre while also incorporating musical elements and attitudes from classic rock and punk groups such as the Ramones.

Now with the lifting of pandemic-triggered restrictions, La Fierro is marking its 20th anniversary with a return to the concert stage in Buenos Aires.

The group is notable for using a traditional tango line-up – four bandoneons, four violins, viola, cello, piano, double bass and vocalist – inspired by the orchestra of legendary Argentine pianist, composer and director Osvaldo Pugliese.

“It was our desire (at the start to have) a solid starting point from which to later develop our own aesthetic,” Yuri Venturin, La Fierro’s director and double bass player, told Efe in reference to the ensemble’s classic structure.

Organized from the outset as a cooperative, the band has developed a repertoire that includes original songs and covers of works by other artists and is planning to record its ninth album next year.

Over its 20-year history, La Fierro has toured in Europe, Oceania and Latin America, created an online radio program to disseminate new tango trends and since 2004 has managed the Club Atletico Fernandez Fierro, which has become a major venue in Buenos Aires’ independent music scene.

In 2018, it also received a Gardel Award (the Argentine music industry’s top honor) for Best Orchestral Album in the tango category.

La Fierro was founded in 2001, a year when Argentina was mired in a severe political and socioeconomic crisis and the tango genre itself was stuck in a rut.

“The majority of tango expressions (at that time) were rehashings of the past, or music that wasn’t going anywhere that was inspiring to us,” Venturin said.

The offshoot of a band known as La Fernandez Branca, the young musicians of La Fierro began performing on the streets of Buenos Aires’ San Telmo neighborhood, where they could be seen pushing a piano along the cobblestone streets.

“Our main influence is tango, and especially the biggest names: Osvaldo Pugliese, Astor Piazzolla, Anibal Troilo, Alfredo Gobbi, Horacio Salgan. But for generational reason, we grew up with rock” groups like the Ramones, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Argentine bands, the orchestra director said.

“La Fierro of course is a tango group, but there are elements that are very much rock. That doesn’t mean a fusion, but rather exploring places that at times are common to the two genres,” the double bass player said.

“The search for a musical identity is an ongoing process,” Venturin said. “We worked and found different elements that for us became more representative, and those elements were increasingly determinant in our sound.”

That quest involved composition and technique and experimentation with different sounds, which were first worked out in the recording studio and later incorporated into the group’s live performances.

“Although we play acoustic instruments, we’re processing the sounds through amplifiers and pedals, all of it very much in the style of old rock, in most cases in an analogous way,” the musician said.

“La Fernandez Fierro is an aesthetic idea” that is able to survive changes in personnel and always is striving to further refine its sound, Venturin said. “We don’t intend to reinvent ourselves, but rather infinitely demonstrate what we are.” EFE


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