Synopsis by Eleanor Mannikka
The bandonion (or bandoneón) is a hand-organ that was invented in the 19th century by Heinrich Band (1821-1860) and then brought with him to Argentina where it became the main instrument in music for the tango. (A technical definition of the instrument is "a diatonic accordion with 38 keys for the medium and high registers, and 33 for the low.") In tangos, the bandoneón was originally accompanied by just a few instruments -- the piano, violin (or guitar), and flute, but by the 1930's large ensembles would perform the music, with vocals added. Although the tango originated in Cuba, when Heinrich Band arrived in Argentina with his bandonion, the tango was just starting to become known, and by the early 20th century it would be inseparable from a definition of Argentine culture. The new instrument and the new sound in Argentina fortuitously arrived at the same time in the same place. This documentary offers "German Tangos" in its first segment, where players learn and pass on the music by ear, and later there is a trip to the Berlin Museum of Musical Instruments for an historical and practical look at the bandonion. In the second segment, "Tango in Exile," two Argentine bandonion musicians, Maurício Kagel and Juan José Mosalini demonstrate their virtuosity, and their enjoyment of the music is contagious.