El otro camino

2009 June 18
bandoneon by i_gallagher, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License by  i_gallagher

Una vez, tocando con una pequeña orquesta  en la escuela  de música popular — eran estudiantes; yo me sentí, tocando con ellos, me sentí cómodo. Pero físicamente cómodo, como cuando  uno se siente con la ropa de entrecasa. Y dije: “¿Que me pasa? Y de pronto, la orquesta estaba tocando, esa orquesta de la escuela en un concierto y salen a bailar algunas personas. Y yo ví eso y dije: “esto es maravilloso”. “Esta gente baila y baila conmigo”. Está  reinterpretando, lo mismo que yo. Yo estoy tocando ese melodía y ellos la están tocando con los pies. Y cuando comprendí que esos bailarines estaban más cerca de mí, que esa gente que me aplaude  por los acordes raros que uno puede hacer.  Dije: “Hay que recuperar el baile”.

Rodolfo Mederos

I finally got around to watching the documentary El otro camino with Rodolfo Mederos. I got tipped by a comment over at tangocommuter, and ordered it from Amazon right away.

I don’t think I am exagerrating when I say that Mederos is one of the major bandoneon players of our time, and I really enjoyed watching El otro camino. Rather short and simple, it has lots of musical numbers, and Mederos talking about the instrument, playing it and about tango in general in between. It is a good format. If you like tango music, and chances are that you do, as you are reading this, I think you will enjoy this little film.

The music is excellent, only the mixing is a little odd for some numbers. It could be that we watched it on a pc, but with Mederos playing with a trio, it was next to impossible to hear the other instruments. Aside from that, everything was good, and a pleasure to listen to the wisdom of one of the top bandoneon players in Buenos Aires.

I love how the porteños use this colorful language, which is especially evident when he talks about how it is necessary to bring tango back to life after the dark times that have passed. Interestingly, he also talks a bit about dancing, and what he has to say makes a lot of sense. I do hope that more musicians would come to the same conclusion as Mederos. Here is an attempt to translate the above quote to English:

One day, while I was playing with a small orchestra in the school of popular music — they were students; I found myself, playing with them, feeling very comfortable. Physically comfortable, like when you put on gym clothes. And I said: What is happening to me? And suddenly, as the orquestra was playing, this school orchestra, giving a concert, some people started dancing. And I saw this and said: This is marvellous, These people are dancing with me. They are interpreting, just like me. I am playing this melody, and they are playing with their feet. And then I understood that these dancers were closer to me than the people that applauded me for the strange chords that one can make. I said: The dance must recovered.

One day, I was playing with a little student orchestra in the college of popular music — I was playing with them, and I felt very comfortable. I mean, physically comfortable, like wearing pyjamas. And I said to myself, What is this? And then suddenly, the orchestra was playing, this college orchestra giving a concert, and some people got up and danced. And I saw this and I went, “this is brilliant”. “These people are dancing with me”. They were interpreting the music, just like me. I am playing the music, and they’re playing it with their feet. And I realised that these dancers were more with me than an audience who applaud me for the intricate harmonies I can play. I said: “We need to revive the dance”.

Rodolfo Mederos

Suggestions for improvements of my translation are welcome. Edit: New translation heavily influenced by suggestions from Ms Hedgehog.

7 Responses leave one →
  1. 2009 June 30

    This is the tough part for a translator:

    Yo estoy tocando ese melodía y ellos la están tocando con los pies.

    because the colour is in the repetition of the verb, and ‘tocando’ seems to me to convey the idea of his fingers stepping on the buttons of the instrument in the same sort of way that feet move. “They are playing with their feet” just conveys the wrong sense of “playing”. “They are playing _it_ with their feet” is better but still not quite satisfactory because it implies that their feet make a sound, which isn’t what he’s saying. I’d be tempted to expand and paraphrase a little:

    “My fingers are tapping out this tune, and so are their feet.”

    In fact I think I’d want to make the whole thing a bit more colloquial. So:

    One day, I was playing with a little student orchestra in the college of popular music — I was playing with them, and I felt very comfortable. I mean, physically comfortable, like wearing pyjamas. And I said to myself, What is this? And then suddenly, the orchestra was playing, this college orchestra giving a concert, and some people got up and danced. And I saw this and I went, “this is brilliant”. “These people are dancing with me”. They were interpreting the music, just like me. My fingers were tapping out this tune, and so were their feet. And I realised that these dancers were more with me than an audience who applaud me for the amazing harmonies I can play. I said: “We need to revive the dance”.

  2. 2009 June 30

    Nice! I like your colloquial tone a lot better. Not sure about the tapping though. How about ‘playing along with their feet’? The main point is that they are participating, right? This is knitpicking, but isn’t ‘amazing harmonies’ a bit too positive for ‘acordes raros’? I was thinking of contemporary disharmonies and such, that only a trained audience is able to appreciate ‘properly’, but it might be an misinterpretation on my part.

    I guess trying to translate between two foreign languages is a crazy project 😉

  3. 2009 July 1

    Maybe. I’m not specially happy with the harmonies bit, I just took it that he meant the audience were applauding his virtuosity – rather than participating directly.

    I agree with you that the tapping thing isn’t really satisfactory either. “Playing with their feet” just sounds too ‘Squidgygate’ to me. It gives me the wrong relationship between ‘playing’ and ‘feet’. And ‘playing along’ specifically suggests insincerity, which doesn’t apply here at all. Maybe something like “I am playing the music, and they’re playing it with their feet” would be a better solution.

  4. 2009 July 5

    Ooops, one has to be careful with foreign languages. I supposed playing along had a more innocent literal interpretation.. Thanks for your contribution!

  5. 2009 July 7

    Yes, in “playing along”, playing is in the sense of ‘playing’ a game. “Tocar” doesn’t have these problems, as far as I know. I don’t think you “tocar” a game, or do you? So in the original language it’s a very neat way of putting it. But in English it’s tricky.

  6. 2009 July 9

    Yes, I believe the word for playing in that sense is ‘jugar’. I updated the translation, thanks for your help!

  7. 2009 July 15

    Somehow the update for this post disappeared. Now it is restored.

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