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Tango troubadour Maria Volonté blends passion of tango with sentiment of blues

Tango troubadour, Maria Volonté, blends the passion of tango with the sentimental feeling of the blues

April 20, 2012|By Milton D. Carrero, Of The Morning Call

Adventure and exploration are in the essence of María Volonté’s music and voice.

“I’m very curious,” she says. “I like to find out what’s on the other side of the door. I love to experiment and to break the rules.”

A tango diva and modern troubadour, Volonté is an ardent singer-songwriter who lives true to her spirit, a spirit that has sent her on a lifelong expedition across countries and cultures through myriad musical styles.

Saturday, she will bring her latest experiment to Allentown’s Antonio Salemme Foundation as part of her Blue Tango Tour. She will be joined by harmonica player, Kevin Carrel Footer and special guest Mavi Diaz. Together, they will explore the common colors and “sentimental reasons” that unite the two musical forms.

“Both the blues and the tango share a common heritage which is the fact that they come from people who have suffered to the point of losing almost everything. Both musical genres and ways of life, embrace the most terrible and wonderful parts of life with equal devotion.”

Her art is courageous. It began with the raw need to communicate, playing with her guitar on the streets and balconies of Buenos Aires — where the tango blood runs deepest. A child in a family with five sisters, Volonté was encouraged by her father to assimilate art in the most visceral way, as part of the daily endeavors. Her beginnings came in the early ’80s, a time when her homeland of Argentina was enjoying the flourishing of democracy.

She immersed herself into the world of tango and the tango world was generous with her. It granted her its most prized award, the Gardel Prize, and inducted her into its hall of fame. She has worked with renown producers and has not become complacent in the process.

“I feel the call of the unknown and the need to escape from the comfortable places,” she says by phone from New York, as the noise of the city streets leaks into the conversation. “Let the critics do their thing, I concentrate on deciphering what my heart is telling me.”

A widow and mother of two young women, Volonté mines her most somber memories for the passion of life. She bleeds and heals on stage, commanding her guitar like a gaucho on his horse. Carrel Footer’s notes on harmonica howl with the lament of the Mississippi blues. The California musician learned to play the instrument while hitchhiking cross country. His voicings cry with the flare of tango’s own bandoneon.

Sexy, theatrical and sentimental, Volonté is devoted to her own journey. It’s that willingness to face her demons that makes her a powerful tango singer and gives her license to sing the blues.

“Both the tango and the blues share this aura of marginality and loneliness,” she says. ” It was always the music that was played on the wrong side of the city. They share that forbidden nature.”

Volonté drenches her tango roots in the sap of the blues. She lets it rip. She says she is still not ready to record the Blues Tango album. She is coming up with the material as she travels, trying new arrangements in every performance.

The duo will play in Philadelphia at the Andrea Clearfield’s Salon on Sunday, and then Tuesday and Thursday at the Consulate and Embassy of Argentina in New York and Washington, D.C., respectively.

Volonté comes from a tradition of singer-songwriters who lived on a constant pilgrimage to deliver their message on foot. After touring the United States, she returns for a month to Argentina before heading to Europe.

“What we want is for people to leave behind the noise, so that they can listen to what their hearts are telling them,” she says. “This is not music that allows you to cover your ears and forget who you are. In its most melancholic or joyful aspects, this music is encouraging people all the time to dare to be who they truly are.”

In her new song “Nueve Vidas,” which can be downloaded on her site, http://www.mariavolonte.com, she sings about that man in whom she saw the sun before the jealous death stole him at the peak of their love.

“In front of the precipice, instead of jumping, with my guitar, I started to sing.”

It’s the alchemy of music, light and darkness in constant change and equilibrium.