The Tango Touch Project

The Tango Touch project commenced in late 2002 partly as a challenge to fill in the vacuum that was soon to be left by the publication of the Currency Companion to Music and Dance in Australia (2003), an almost 24/7 project since 1995.  The idea of the The Tango Touch project was to motivate the production of a series of related publications (conference papers, articles, book chapters) that would eventually be woven together into a monograph titled The Tango Touch.  The project has been a huge undertaking and has produced a very large body of archival materials, sheet music, records, piano-rolls, illustrations, photographs, journals, books and instructors, in addition to a large non-archival research collection and numerous reference indexes covering nearly two centuries of relevant music and dance history in Australia. To give some feel for the scale of the task, just one aspect of it required the page by page, issue by issue reading and indexing of several decades of the Italian language newspapers Il Globo and La Fiamma.  Another was reading and indexing the entire run of Australian Music Maker and Dance Band News from 1932 to the 1960s along with other relevant music and dance related periodicals, such as Tempo or Australasian Band and Orchestra News.                                                        

Tango Touch-Related Articles, Chapters and Conference Papers by John Whiteoak:      

‘The Birth and Death of an Early Australian Popular Music Industry: Dance Orchestra Music’, Denis Crowdy, Shane Homan, Tony Mitchell (eds), Musical In-between-ness: Proceedings of the 8th Australia- New Zealand IASPM Conference, Sydney, University of Technology, 2002  

‘How Abe Walters Became Don Carlos: Australian Construction of ‘Latin-American music’ Before Latin American Migration’,  IASPM Australia/New Zealand/Creative Cultures Committee Conference, University of South Australia, Adelaide, 2002 (unpublished)

‘Latin American Influences’ (before 1970s Latin American migration), John Whiteoak and Aline Scott-Maxwell (eds), Currency Companion to Music and Dance in Australia, Sydney: Currency House, 2003

Margaret Kartomi, John Whiteoak and Kay Dreyfus,  ‘From Berlin to Bondi: the Flight of the Weintraub Syncopators’ , Heat 6, 2004

‘Continental Music as an Early ‘Multicultural Influence’ on Australian Popular Music’,  SIMS 2004. International Musicological Society Conference (Combined with IASPM Australia/New Zealand), Victorian College of the  Arts (unpublished)

‘Mambo Italiano:  Ugo Ceresoli and his Orchestra Mokambo’  in Italian Historical Society Journal 15  2007

Italo-Hispanic Popular Music in Melbourne before Multiculturalism’, Victorian Historical Journal 78(2), 2007     

 ‘Australian Music: Music of Place or Music of a People’  (feature article) Review: Centre for studies in Australian Music 22,  October 2007

 ‘”Latin” Music in Australia Before Multiculturalism’   Ian Collinson and Mark Evans (eds.) Sound and Selves: Selected Proceedings From  the 2005 IASPM Australia/New Zealand Conference, Victoria University of Welllington, Perfect Beat Publications/IASPM, 2007   

‘The Tango Touch: Exoticised and Italianised Hispanic Music in Australia: 1932-1972,  Symposium: Exoticism, Identity and Constructions of Hispanic Music Hosted by the Faculty of Music, University of Melbourne, 2007  (unpublished)

 ‘Making Gemütlichkeit: Bavarian-Style Music and Dance in German-Speaking Community and Commercial Popular Entertainment’ in Dan Bendrups (ed.), Music on the Edge: Proceedings from the 2007 Australia/New Zealand IASPM Conference, University of Otago, University of Otago/IASPM, 2008

‘Play to Me Gypsy: Australian Imaginings of “Gypsies” in Popular Music and Dance Before Multiculturalism and World Music’,  Ian Collinson (ed.) Whose Popular Music? Selected Proceedings from the 2006 IASPM Australia/New Zealand Conference, IASPM Australia/ New Zealand & Perfect Best Publications/IASPM, 2008  

‘Family, Friendship and a Magic Carpet: the Music of Franco Cambareri’ , Italian Historical Society Journal  vol.16  2008  . 

Kookaburra Samba: Mainstream and Non-Mainstream Interpretations of Hispanic  Music and Dance in Pre-Multicultural Australia: 1850s-1970s’, Dan Bendrups (ed),  Stuck in the Middle: The Mainstream and its Discontents: Proceedings of the 2008 Australia/New Zealand Conference, Griffith University, 28-30 November 2008  

‘Some More Bagels and Bongos: The Jewish-Latin Connection in Australian Popular and Light Music History’,Instruments of Change: Proceedings of the 2010 Australia/New Zealand Conference, Monash Conference Centre, Melbourne, 24-26 November 2010, Jen Cattermole, Shane Homan, Graeme Smith (eds), School of English, Communication and Performance Studies, School of Music-Conservatorium, Monash University, 2011 

‘Cha-Cha-Cha to Ciuff Ciuff:  Modernity and Tradition: Italian-Australian Popular Music, Culture and Community in the 1960s’, Musicology Australia 32(2), 2010

 ‘An Accordionist’s Story by Eric di Losa’(researched/compiled by jw), Italian Historical Society Journal 18, 2010

‘Vale Peter Piccini A Tribute To One Of The Most Gifted Italian-Australian Accordionists by John Whiteoak’, Italian Historical Society Journal 19, 2011 

 ‘Italian-Australian Musicians,‘Argentino’Tango Bands and the Australian Tango Band Era’ , Context 35/36 2012, 28-30, November 2008  

‘Take Me To Spain: ‘Spanish’ Music and Dance in Australia from the Early Colonial Popular Stage to Post-WW2 Cabaret-Restaurant Entertainment’, Selected Proceedings from the 2011 IASPM Australia/New Zealand Conference, Wellington. IASPM, 2012 

‘The Golden Age of the Accordion in Italian-Australian Professional Music-Making and Culture’ in Marcello Sorce Kellor and Linda Barwick (eds) Italy in Australia’s Musical Landscape, Lyebird Press, 2013

””The Spanish Woman”: Lola Montez and Escuela Bolera in Colonial Australia’, Elizabeth Kertez and Michael Christoforidis (eds), Selected Proceeding of the symposium: ‘Spanish Musics and their [Western] Others’, University of Melbourne, 2012 (submitted for publication).

‘‘Ginger Megs Meets the Peanut Vendor: “Tropical” Hispanic Music and Dance in Australian Popular Entertainment’, 1930s-1960s’, Selected Proceedings of the 2012 Australia/NZ IASPM Conference, Hobart

‘“The Tango” in Australia as Popular Entertainment and Music of “Place”’, 2013 IASPM Australia/NZ Conferrence, Brisbane, December

‘Latin Influence on Jazz-Related Music in Australia 1912-1970s’, 2014 IASPM Australia/NZ Proceedings, Dunedin, Nov. 27-30

‘What Were the “German Bands” of Pre-WW1 Australian Street Life’, Street Music Conference Dec. 1-2, 2014, Monash University, Melbourne Nineteenth Century Music Review )15(1), 2017

‘Sounding the Silence of the Guitar in Australian Musical Entertainment, Culture and Society Before the Jazz Age’, INSTRUMENT OF CHANGE: The International Rise of the Guitar (c. 1870-1945).; Melbourne University, 9-11 December

‘Duo Moreno’ and their Construction of a Pan-Italian Musical Identity’ : Diaspore Italiane-Italy in Movement: a Conference on Three Continents (Australia, United States, Italy) 5 April – 7 April 2018.

‘”A Halo of Romance Around Them”: the “Spanish Students” in Colonial Australia’, Spain and Constructions of Musical Exoticism, Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, The University of Melbourne, 26 November, 2018

‘Why The Tango-Rag? an Interrupted Revolution in Early Australian Popular Music and Dance’, Turns and Revolutions in Popular Music Studies, XX Biennial IASPM Conference School of Music, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia, 24–28 June 2019

‘The Introduction of flamenco guitar (toque) and flamenco guitar recital music (guitarra flamenca de concierto) to Australia’, The Guitar Century (c. 1880-1980): Global Trends and Local Contexts, Melbourne Conservatorium of Music (MCM), Ian Potter Southbank Centre, 2-4 August, 2019

“Take Me To Spain” Australian Imaginings of Spain Through Music and Dance, Melbourne: Lyrebird Press, 2019

‘Why The Tango-Rag? an Interrupted Revolution in Early Australian Popular Music and Dance’,   https://iipc.utu.fi/iaspm2019/Whiteoak.pdf   2020

‘Jazz Diaspora, Latin Musical Influences and Australia’,  Routledge Companion to Jazz Diaspora (in press)

CONTENTS

viii ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 

x PREFACE 

xi INTRODUCTION: CASTANETS, CONGAS, STRINGS AND ACCORDIONS 

PART ONE A: THE HISPANIA TOUCH
1 Preamble: the Tangled Roots and Routes of Latin Rhythms
5-60  Take Me to Spain

PART ONE B:  DOWN ARGENTINA WAY
55 Introduction: Latin-American Music and Dance in Australian Popular Entertainment
60 Down Mexico Way
71 Take Me to That Tango Tea
92 Tropical Music
120  Latin and Jazz

PART TWO: THE  ‘GYPSY-TANGO’ TOUCH
128 Introduction: Continental European Influences
135 Continental and ‘Gypsy’ Entertainment
166 Intercultural Musical Collaborations Before World Music
180 Even More Bagels and Bongos
195 Making Gemutlitchkeit

PART THREE: THE MEDITERRANEAN TOUCH
212 Introduction:  Italian-Australians and Popular Entertainment
232 The Italian tango and rumba band years
255 Mambo Italiano
288 Fisarmonica italiana
310 CODA: MULTICULTURALISM, MIGRATION AND WORLD MUSIC
330 Select Bibliography
334 Discography
345 Filmography
348 Appendices
355 Index

 

 

 

 

Preface

In place of a formal education in Australia, I spent my teens and early twenties traveling the world on ships, motor-bikes and other transport, but mostly on ships. My love of music came not from the juke-box, radio or concert hall but from the dockside bars, night-spots or nefarious dance halls that seamen always headed for as soon as the ship was tied up and all necessary duties were completed.

Recollections of the very numerous ports visited—Haifa, Genoa, Buenos Aries, Punta Arenas, Lourenço Marques, Bremen, Cape Verde, Kingston and so on—are somewhat coalesced. What remains as clear as a moment ago is sitting in small dockside venues absolutely mesmerized by the music of some virtuosic solo accordionist, pianist or a small ensemble dispensing what I would much later come to know and play in Australia as ‘continental music’. This was Latin, ‘Spanish-Gypsy’, French, Italian, German, Russian, Jewish or something else—music that segued between whatever repertoire or style might soothe, please, interest or excite the international patronage of these places. To a youth from the, then, semi-rural Melbourne outer suburb of Reservoir (famously depicted as a cultural wasteland by satirist, Barry Dickens) with no previous exposure to this type of music or the way it was played, hearing this exciting and exotically ‘different’ music was my musical epiphany—the beginnings of a life-long devotion to curiosity about music, dance and other music-related performance.

The ports I visited all those many years ago would not be recognizable today and old venues will have been long swept away with the changes. Since that time, I have come to understand that the pleasures and excitement of observing exotic musical, terpsichorean or other ‘difference’ are entirely subjective. Yet I remain glad to have experienced, albeit so subjectively, this transcendent sense of difference at an impressionable age and I dedicate this study to those long-forgotten Italian, German, Spanish-speaking, Jewish and other musicians who unknowingly provided the deep and lasting impressions and unanswered questions that made this study necessary.

 

Introduction: Castanets, Congas, Strings, Brass and Accordions

This book represents the culmination of a personal research and publication project, The Tango Touch Project, that commenced in 2004 and produced many published academic papers, articles, a book chapter and the 2019 monograph, “Take Me to Spain” Australian Imaginings of Spain Through Music and Dance.[1] It brings together data, ideas and insights from all of these earlier related publications but with particular emphasis on what became ‘popularised and loosely known from the early 1930s in Australia as continental-style musical entertainment. It is above all a history of what I define below as Hispanic, Continental European and Mediterranean influences on music and dance in Australia before ‘multiculturalism’ became official government policy, before substantial Latin-American migration to Australia and also before the nebulous concept, ‘world music’ became a cultural platform and successful marketing label for the products of multicultural fusion and, to a much lesser extent, the music and dance of Australian ethnic minority communities. The original goal of the book was to present a straight-forward history of commercial adoptive and creative engagement with Hispanic music and dance stereotypes in Australia before mass migration from Spain and Latin America, but with reference to the importance of the role of the pre-multicultural era vogue for so-called ‘continental’ musical entertainment and ‘continental’ venues as major sites for Latin-American inflected music and dance.

I was aware of this importance through personal experience as an accordionist in migrant-led so-called ‘continental bands’ in the closing years of Melbourne‘s once vibrant and extensive ‘continental’ venue scene. However, with ever-deepening research and contemplation of the topic, the explicitly Hispanic aspect of the project became an almost secondary thread displaced by the notion of a complex convergence and interweaving of two seemingly separate narratives—mediated Hispanic influence and continental European influences—influences which will be shown to be inseparably bonded in numerous interesting ways. This convergence, interweaving and bonding is described as a function of an almost forgotten ‘place’:  a unique period in Australian cultural and social history in which continental European and Hispanic influence in popular entertainment played an intriguing role in nudging Anglo-Australian society towards becoming successfully multicultural.

Figure 1  Author at The Caprice , a 1960s (German run) continental venue in Collins Street, Melbourne basement.

While this study is a history, the perspective presented is substantially founded on ethnography and even auto-ethnography. For example, despite extensive world travel experience, having enough Mediterranean genes to be frequently mistaken as European by continental venue patrons, and being married into a Hungarian post-war migrant family for whom ‘Gypsy’ music was the sound of home, my perspective on working in European-Australian combos and playing continental listening, dancing and cabaret music was entirely mono-cultural. It was that of an Anglo-Australian outsider, intrigued with the exotic ‘difference’ of the people, the venues and the music I had been able to become associated with because of some overseas-gained stylistic familiarity with Latin-American and continental European popular and light music.

Since those years, I have reflected deeply upon the illusionary nature of such difference. What is exotically different to the cultural tourist can be quite un-exotic and commonplace to ‘the other’—just as the exotic sounding dish uova e pancetta affumicata turns out to be just eggs and bacon in English. The pleasure and excitement of observing exotic musical, terpsichorean or other ‘difference’ is similarly subjective and can be the opposite to what performers are actually experiencing, or even enduring, at the time. Yet the Anglo-centric perspective is very important to this particular study, since the nature of creative engagement with Latin or continental influences in Australia before the era of multiculturalism cannot be grasped without an understanding of their past appeal to mainstream Australian popular taste. This appeal—the romantic appeal of benignly mediated ‘difference’ or ‘foreignness’—the foreign flavour—was the basis of their success as popular entertainment beyond ethnic minority patronage.

I have mulled over and over how to capture and communicate in words the essence of what I thought I was, myself, observing and experiencing as an enthralled outsider in the 1960s continental music scene, especially with regards to ‘Latinness’. I had, for example, essentialized various Italian combo musicians I knew back then as having a natural mastery of Afro-Cuban and other Hispanic music, whilst producing a recognizably Italianised-Latin or ‘Italian-Latin’ sound. Yet, it will be shown that these particular perceptions were far less illusionary than might be imagined. The book is, therefore, also the reflection of a personal journey away from a naive mono-cultural or Anglo-centric perspective to a more complex one enabling some understanding of how things were perceived by my non-Anglo musical colleagues, continental venue proprietors and non-Anglo-Australian patronage. While I may have been an outsider to the European-Australian milieu I came into cultural contact with, I also had the relatively uncommon privilege of being a participant in and observer of this transitory milieu, or ‘musical world’.  Furthermore, this study could not have been undertaken without the benefit of this privilege and the insights, ideas and research clues that came out of reflecting upon this experience. Both the primary rational and the motivation for completing this study was the belief that if I, as an established historian of early popular music and dance in Australia, did not personally undertake it—and undertake it within the idiosyncratic conceptual framework described below—there was the probability that this early multi-stranded history would just be glossed over as irrelevant by future historians as they rightfully construct post-1960s history of music, dance and associated culture of Spanish-speaking and other minority communities in Australia.[1]

 

John Storm Roberts’ The Latin Tinge: the Impact of Latin-American Music in the United States was a source of inspiration for the book in as much as it admirably confirms the value of examining commercial Latin-inflected and hybridized music with a similar depth and zeal as that which is applied to the music of Latino (Spanish-speaking) practitioners as such. Storm Roberts states for example that: ‘Critics have tended to treat “commercial” popular music as a nefarious influence on supposedly pure forms.  …In reality… all music…borrowed from and lent to other forms; the pejorative and, in the context, essentially meaningless,  concept of corruption betrays a basic misapprehension of musical evolution.’.[ii] Yet he does this with the respectful understanding that Latin-American music as such (citing Cuban musicologist Emilio Grenet) ‘is the spiritual achievement of a people that has struggled for four centuries to find a medium of expression’.[iii] The notion of studying Latin American music as a mainstream commercial phenomenon has, however, become more common since The Latin Tinge.[iv]

Sources
There were no comparable historical studies of Hispanic related music or dance or continental music in Australia to draw upon for this study.  There are, however, excellent studies of music and dance in the Hispanic communities of later periods, such as Justo Diaz Gomez ‘s survey of musical traditions in the Spanish-speaking communities, Michael Ryan’s study of Brazilian music in Sydney or Dan Bendrups’ ‘Melbourne’s Latin-American Music Scene’, ‘Latin Down Under: Latin American Migrant musicians in Australia and New Zealand’ and ‘Latin Music and Dance since 1970’.[v] There is now a substantial body of scholarly works that address exoticized music, and in some cases, dance in Australia[vi], including some that address exoticization of Hispanic music and dance.[vii] In addition, there is the truly vast and ever-expanding international body of literature on exoticized and/or hybridized music and dance. Some of these sources, including The Latin Tinge, Shuhei Hosakawa’s study of Latin ballroom dancing in Japan or Lou Charnon-Deutsch’s, The Spanish Gypsy: the History of a European Obsession, provided invaluable, albeit widely disparate, coordinates for mapping out aspects of this study.[viii] From 2009, the keyword searchable Trove online newspaper database has provided invaluable access to relevant detail prior to 1954.[ix] The main resources that made this book possible, however (besides the invaluable assistance of those acknowledged therein), were, on one hand, the product of a twenty-five year obsession with locating and gathering together data and rare archival materials relating to early popular music and dance in Australia and, on the other, the exciting imaginings of the past and ever-deepening curiosity evoked by unanticipated research discoveries. The Tango Touch Project has already produced many peer-reviewed conference papers, articles, a book chapter and also the 2019 monograph, “Take Me To Spain” Australian Imaginings of Spain Through Music and Dance that grew out of what I had planned as Chapter One of The Tango Touch.[x] This book draws upon all of these publications for data, theory, concepts, definitions and perspectives.

 

[1] This fear was unfounded since scholars have already begun citing my previous related publications as pre-history to their writing on post-1960s Hispanic music in Australia.  See, for example,  Dan Bendrups, Latin down under: Latin American Migrant musicians in Australia and New Zealand’, Popular Music 30, 2011: 191-207.

[ii] John Storm Roberts, The Latin Tinge: the Impact of Latin American Music on the United  States, New York: Oxford University Press, 1999: 47.

[iii] Storm Roberts: 1999: x.

[iv] See, for example,  Deborah Pacini Hernandez, Oye Como Va: Hybridity and Identity in Latino Popular Music, Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2010.

[v] ‘Spanish-Speaking Immigrant Traditions’ in John Whiteoak and Aline Scott-Maxwell (eds). Companion to Music and Dance in Australia, Sydney, Currency House, 2003: 394-397, Michael Ryan,  Brazilian Music in Sydney, 1971-1984 : an Emic-etic Approach to the Structure of Folk Models , PhD Diss., University of Sydney, 1990; Perfect Beat: the Pacific Journal of Research into Contemporary Culture and Popular Music  5(2) January 200:19-29;  Popular Music 30, 2011: 191-207; Whiteoak and Scott-Maxwell (eds), 2003: 393-4.

[vi] Perfect Beat  alone, features numerous articles on musical exoticization in Australasia and the Asia-Pacific region.

[vii]  Rebecca Coyle,  Scoring Australia: film music and Australian identities in Young Einstein, Strictly Ballroom and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, PhD thesis, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW, 2002;  Michael Christoforidis, ‘The Ballets Russes, Spanish dance and El amor brujo in Australia’ in Mark Carroll (ed.), The Ballet Russes in Australia and Beyond,  Kent Town, S.A.Wakefield Press, 2011: 229-242.

[viii] ‘Strictly Ballroom The Rumba in Pre-World War Two Japan’, Perfect Beat, 4 (3) 1999: 3-23;  Pennsylvania, The Pennsylvania State Press, 1992.

[ix] Copyright restrictions largely limit the inclusion of post-1954 publications.

[x] Melbourne:  Lyrebird Press.

Mildly Exoticized Imaginings

While providing a history of certain music and dance developments and events as such, the study is equally a history of certain public perceptions of its subject matter, perceptions that are unfamiliar to most present-day readers. For example, how does the contemporary reader interpret the following seventy- year-old description of a Melbourne ‘continental’ night spot with its unfamiliar musical and contextual references, curiously multi-cultured connotations and its emphasis on Latin related genres?

When I arrived, this was already well attended by patrons dancing to the tango rhythm of Guitar Romano which is the ’theme tune’ of the Continental Ensemble which plays from 6.30 to 9.30 p.m. … Baronne Kuva portrayed originality in selecting Nino Alda, Continental guitarist, as leader. Not only has this handsome young man developed a beautiful broad tone most suitable for Continental solo playing, but he is also showing great promise as an arranger: especially of the more serious music. …he has already aroused interest by his Zanda Rhapsody for Guitar and Orchestra, and has just completed an intriguing Oriental feature of classics and yet playing Rhumbas and Tango’s(sic) with brilliant versatility… ….As a special presentation, Gypsy violinist Paul Steiner, is undoubtedly a great asset to the group with his Continental library of 2000 arrangements, and a memorised repertoire of 500 compositions and, judging by the applause when playing at tables, it is obvious that his touring of the Continent has gained for him well deserved recognition. Evidence of considerable experience was substantiated by Arthur Knight, who displayed equal aptitude when supplying the foundation for Dinner Music, or the more complicated rhythm of Rhumbas and Tango’s(sic) which are a speciality of the ensemble.[i]

Because the book is substantially about engagements with representations of cultures of ‘others’, it required a very broad concept of ‘Latin’ comprising overlapping and semi-interchangeable ‘lands’ and ‘people’ of exoticized imaginings. ‘Spain’ or España overlaps metaphorically (and otherwise) with Latin America  through the usefully ambiguous (if sometimes controversial) term ‘Hispanic’:  culturally related to or derived from Spain, people of  Spanish ethnic heritage or of the Hispanophone countries, particularly those of  South America and the Caribbean. Hispanic is derived from Hispana, a Roman province that embraced Spain and Portugal, and modern-day Portuguese are sometimes embraced by the term, Hispanic. The term ‘Iberian’ is also sometimes used to embrace cultures with roots tracing back to the Iberian Peninsula (to geographical Spain and Portugal). Among the earliest Hispanic influences in Australian entertainment were early nineteenth century imaginings of Andalusia, Spain, including the ecstatic music and dance of Spanish ‘Gypsies’(Spanish Roma or Gitanos). This notion of intersecting and coalescing imaginings is well illustrated by a quote from Michael Frishkopf’s contribution to the 2003 anthology Mediterranean Mosaic titled ‘Some Meanings of the Spanish Tinge in Contemporary Egyptian Music’. Frishkopf asked Egyptian respondents why there was a profusion of Spanish and Latin sounds in contemporary Egyptian pop and he noted that most respondents: ‘pointed to Andalusia as a key factor in the selection of Spanish (and Latin) music, indicating the enduring power of Andalusia in the contemporary Egyptian imagination.  …Spanish (and by extension Latin) music is a symbol that evokes Andalusia…’.[ii]

 

[i] ‘A Night at Ciros’,  Tempo (Sydney) May 1949, 22.

[ii] Goffredo Plastino (ed),  Mediterranean Mosaic: Popular Music and Global Sounds,  New York, Routledge 2002: 162.  

While Frishkopf’s chapter usefully points to the common perception of Latin as equating with ‘Spanish’ and, compositely, as the ‘Spanish Tinge’, his article forms part of an anthology about another ‘land’. This is a multi-cultured region of exoticized imaginings that is also relevant to The Tango Touch, namely ‘the Mediterranean’, extending laterally from the proximity of Andalusia (with its romantic Moorish historical connections) through the foot of Italy to the (albeit strongly contested) Jewish homeland. As a more complex example of  the notion of interconnected ‘lands’ or regions of part-imagining,  the title, lyrics, cover art and sheet music of  Isle of Capri, a tango-song smash hit in Australia in 1936, references many of the lands, regions and places, part-imagined or otherwise, that are relevant to The Tango Touch: Spain, Latin-America, including Mexico, Italy, the Mediterranean and, an even more overarching concept (for the English-speaking world) , ‘the continent’.

To explain this proposal, tango is a dance and music form perceived to draw its origins from Spain, from Cuba and from Argentina (at a time of intensive migration from Italy).  Its development and early popularity were also associated with Mexico, especially though Sebastian Yradier’s famous tango-like habanera, La Paloma, composed before 1865, which reached the USA via Mexico and thereon to global and Australian popularity. One of the earliest tangos published in Australia was, for example, Miss Mexico (1907). The title and cover art of Isle of Capri is meant to evoke ‘Italy’ but it also evokes the Mediterranean as a sunny, mildly exotic holiday playground (replete with the promise of dark and charming Latin lovers). Isle of Capri  became an enduring standard of eclectic continental music repertoire as played in Australia by 1930s and ’40’s suave continental cabaret-restaurant orchestras to tango, beguine, or gentle rumba rhythms.

‘Continental’

It’s like a fever, It’s like a plague
It’s swept all Europe, From Moscow to The Hague
You kiss while you’re dancing
The Continental, the rhythm is driving you wild
The Continental, a meter that isn’t so mild

The concept of continental as an overarching category of influence—embracing Latin as an almost integral component—is probably the most difficult to try and convey to the present- day reader. I tread and stretch most precariously in attempting to describe this multi-level construct of part imaginings. Yet this concept is the key to understanding how all the levels relate and how the highest level, continental influence, is able to embrace not only Romance language related ‘places’ and ‘the Mediterranean’  but also many other ‘places’ of part-imagining, such as ‘old Vienna’,  ‘old Moscow’, ‘old Budapest’ or ‘The Alps.’. Music and music-related influences from Continental Europe have always been present in European-Australian society, especially in concert repertoire, theatrical entertainment dance music and the direct influence of highly accomplished resident and visiting European musicians and also in the art and popular music traditions associated with German, Italian and other European migrant communities. Italian opera, alone,  was vastly influential. However, for reasons discussed later in the book, the early 1930s brought greatly increased Australian interest in continental European culture, including its popular and light music. Popular European artists who reached Australia, such as the Jewish-German Weintraubs Orchestra or the (also Jewish-German) Comedy Harmonists, were often referred to as ‘clever continentals’ and continental music became a generic marketing term for popular music perceived rightly or wrongly to emanate from or be mediated via Europe. For progressive young Australians (apart from the hiatus of World War Two) a visit, a tour or a stay to study or work on ‘the continent’ was almost a rite of passage and, even as a much-travelled young seaman, I felt the need to take an eight week fast-track continental bus and camping tour with ten young Australians, New Zealanders and South Africans in 1961.

 

‘Continental’ meant imbued with European style and sophistication, as in continental décor or cuisine, ‘continental cabaret-restaurant’, or, for that matter, the subdued and sophisticated rumba, The Continental, which was featured with a spectacular twenty minute dance routine in the 1934 Hollywood film Gay Divorcee and became the Australian rumba dancing Sensation of 1935.[i] Continental music was also a specific type of repertoire for listening or dancing to, especially at the continental-style venues that became popular in various forms from the 1930s and especially from the late 1940s to the early 1970s. It comprised a mixed repertoire of what radio listeners perceived to be the evergreen and newer popular music and light classics of various European countries (and their part imagined Romani ), notably Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Russia or Hungary, and of a type most likely to please an audience of mixed nationalities while also being mildly exotic to Anglo-Australian patrons. It almost always included tangos and other Latin music. Other repertoire, such as American evergreens, jazz standards, show tunes or recent hits were interpolated, depending on the particular patronage or on request. Musicians of European background generally referred to their continental music as ‘international music’.

 

Dancing to continental music in these venues, regardless of dance genre, generally took the form of so-called ‘crush dancing’ (dancing adapted to small dance floors) and Afro-Cuban and Brazilian influenced dance rhythms were ideal for this. ‘Presented in the continental manner’ or ‘played in the continental manner’ referred to modes of musical presentation and performance and this manner, as explained later, was closely  related to what was described as ‘in the Gypsy manner’. Where a continental venue was based on a specific theme, such as ‘Gypsy’, ‘Bavarian’ or ‘Spanish’ (which was increasingly the case in Australia from the early 1960s) some part of the entertainment and its presentation generally supported that theme.

 

[i] The Australian Music Maker and Dance Band News, 1 January 1935,7

The Tango, ‘the Gypsy’ the Accordion and ‘the Instrument of Romance’

The Tango Touch, as already indicated, is far more about the creative representation (read delineations), hybridization and exoticization of pre-mediated cultural products of overseas ‘others’ than about locating cultural ‘authenticity’. Moreover, these stereotyped ‘others’ (e.g. ‘Gitanos’, Hungarian ‘Tziganes’, Argentine ‘Gauchos’, Mexican ‘Vaqueros’, ‘Latinos’, ‘Bavarians’, ‘Afro-Cubans’ and so forth) often hailed from places, lands or regions, such as ‘Andalusia’, ‘Old Budapest’, ‘South America’, ‘the Alps’ ‘the Mediterranean’ or ‘the continent’ that are themselves—at least from a cultural perspective—amorphous and sometimes overlapping constructs. The album title, track titles and imaginative iconography of the numerous Continental European, Hispanic or ‘Mediterranean-themed LPs released from the beginning of the LP era and collected for this project provide fascinating insight into the extent  and ways in which these ‘others’ and  places  have been exoticized, hybridized, stereotyped and reduced into romantic clichés for the consumption of the English speaking world (Fig.#). One such cliché was especially chosen as the cover image of this book: an ageless, swarthy and gold-toothed ‘Gypsy’ who smiles at us enigmatically while playing what we might imagine as being a sweet Gypsy-tango on his decorative piano-accordion.[i] As metaphors, ‘the tango’, ‘the Gypsy’ ‘the accordion’ and the guitar as the ‘Instrument of Romance’ provide further ways of understanding the nature of the complexities dealt with in this book and also the complex interconnectedness of ‘Latin’ and continental’ music in Australia.

 

The Tango
Tango-like habanera dance music was already familiar to many Australians by the late nineteenth century through, for example, the immensely popular Habanera in Bizet’s famous Spanish Gypsy-themed opera, Carmen and other habaneras that entered popular culture, such as La Paloma. The tango itself was popularized in Australia just prior to World War I as a Paris, London, and New York mediated stage and social dance craze. While ‘tango’ refers to specific forms of music and dance, the term has become, like ‘Gypsy’, capable of conveying, almost subliminally, an infinite variety of meanings and complexes of meaning, including a widely appealing and deeply mysterious ‘Latin’ exoticism—even orientalism—that interestingly and sensually (even sexily) imbues almost any construct placed upon it. The tango was so loved and localised in European countries that, to many former refugees and post-war migrants, it is still the ‘sound of home’. The widespread notion that tango music has roots in European Romani musical culture has been a very important part of its mystiqueThis notion is manifest infor example, once immensely popular 1930s Gypsy-tango songs like Play to Me Gypsy or At the Balalaika. Tango music—the first and most enduring of all ‘Latin’ genres—was therefore identified as an integral aspect of ‘Gypsy’ or ‘Tzigane’ music.

Play to me Gypsy
Racial and cultural stereotypes of the Roma of Spain or Gitanos were widely distributed by George Borrow’s influential 1841 (and later editions) travel book, The Zincali: or an Account of the Gypsies of Spain.[ii] Borrow also discusses the Roma of other nations and compares them with the ubiquitous ‘Jews’, as does Franz Liszt in his controversial two volume book The Gypsy in Music.[iii] Borrow’s Spanish ‘Gypsies’ are, for example,  dangerously seductive and ‘dusky’ (un-white) wanderers with dark flashing eyes and distinctive physiognomy who dance with compelling poise and ecstatic abandonment to wild and excitingly percussive rhythms, including ‘furiously’ played and ‘demoniacal’ sounding guitar accompaniment. His Hungarian ‘Gypsies’ or ‘Czigány’ (Tzigane), ‘are very fond of music, and some of them are heard to touch the violin in a manner wild, but of peculiar excellence’.[iv] ‘Gypsy’ violin playing subsequently became as emblematic of Hungarian culture as ‘Spanish Gypsy’ dance, polyrhythmic hand-clapping, and flamenco-style guitar playing is of Spain. The Hungarian Rom-influenced style Hongrois and Spanish-Gypsy styles influenced many nineteenth century and later solo instrument, orchestral and theatre composers.

 

One aspect of the ‘Gypsy’ stereotype, with a basis in fact,  is that the contingencies of being a wandering race taught Romani people how to take whatever was around them—including local music—and use it in their own unique manner for their own advantage.[v] Their ability, and that of professional Gypsy imitators, to take and embroider popular tunes and styles  ‘in the Gypsy manner’ gave them a reputation in the cafés of Vienna, Paris, Moscow and Budapest, for example, as performers of a type of international music that was idiosyncratically romantic, exotic and expressive but also somehow familiar and highly responsive to patrons desires: ‘; ‘many musical decisions are made on the spur of the moment depending on the musician’s ‘read’ of the customer’.[vi] The Romani stereotypes that became most influential and confusingly conflated in Australian popular entertainment were the above-mentioned Andalusian ‘Gypsy’ (Gitanos), the romantic and virtuosic fiddle playing of the Hungarian Roma and, to a much lesser extent, the music of the ‘melancholy’ and ‘soulful’ Ruska (Russian) Roma (Руска́ Рома́). Even more important was a generalised notion of the music of the European Gypsy café and restaurant orchestras, a model adopted by famous English tango orchestra leaders like ‘Geraldo’ (Gerald Bright) or ‘Alfredo’ (Fred Gill) who, in turn, provided models—though not the only models—for 1930s tango or Gypsy-tango bands in Australia. The ‘Gypsy-tango’ concept also  overlapped confusingly with other tango-related stereotypes adopted here, such as Italian-Australian ‘Argentino’ tango bands, Hungarian and Russian ‘Gypsy bands’, ‘Gaucho-tango’ bands, ‘cosmopolitan’ or ‘all-nations band’ and ‘rumba bands.’.

Also significant for Australia was the belief, with some basis in fact, that Jewish musicians were, by professional tradition and disposition, expert performers of music ‘in the Gypsy manner’. Various Jewish-Australians became closely identified with both ‘Gypsy’ music and Latin-American music and the Australian klezmer movement has rekindled the notion of historical Jewish affinity with ‘Gypsy’ music.[vii]  What matters here, however, is that the Gypsy-tango concept was one in which a very wide range of popular and light classical music could be embraced and presented in the romantic, expressive and patron-responsive ‘Gypsy manner’ and thereby become Gypsy-tango, Gaucho-tango or other ‘tango’ music. The historical and metaphorical associations between the early Gypsy-cafe-style  performer and the continental venue musician of later years in Australia are also important, historical associations that I was not even aware of as a continental venue accordionist of the 1960s.

The Accordion
While the ‘Gypsy fiddler’ was the prime signifier of ‘Gypsy music’, the accordion played an even more important and sustained role in continental music. Its expressiveness, mellow richness, cross-genre versatility, and emblematic role in tango music made it (along with the fiddle and Spanish guitar) a core instrument of Gypsy-tango and later continental music. Like the ‘Gypsy fiddler’, the accordionist could also play from table to table ‘in the Gypsy manner’ and offer more or less the same light classical and popular  continental repertoire as a fiddler, plus continental genres that are more idiomatic of the accordion (such as dazzling Parisian musettes). The perception of exotic ethnicity associated with the accordion and its sound was further reinforced by the fact that it is (with respective performative and other differences) emblematic of the music traditions of many continental European countries.  Moreover, Hispanic music—tangos, rumbas, sambas, la fiestas, beguines, paso-dobles and so forth—remains characteristic, much-loved solo accordion repertoire.  Accordionists of any repute must have an affinity for Hispanic musics and their accompaniment cross-rhythms and this is one reason why many of the Latin music-oriented Italian-Australian bands formed within the post-WW2 Italian migrant communities were led by accordionists. Moreover, the accordion, like ‘the Gypsy’ has been rediscovered and re-branded as an exotic and ubiquitous component of world music.

The Guitar as the ‘Instrument of Romance’

The image and sound of the guitar is a primary metaphor in romantic imaginings of Spain. Likewise, a flamenco-style rasgueado (strum) or Phrygian mode-inflected punteado (run) on a film soundtrack is sufficient to instantly evoke Spain (or perhaps a Mexican cantina) in the minds of most Australians.  Despite the initial transplantation of mostly British-mediated guitar culture, a perception of the guitar as especially emblematic of and exotically and romantically indigenous to the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) and, by extension, the Spanish and Portuguese colonies, was constantly reflected in overseas reports, fiction and poetry published in the colonial and later press.  Australian perceptions of the guitar as intrinsically Spanish in origin and character were partly challenged by the presence of other continental European guitar cultures, especially those of German and Italian-speaking settlers.

 

German immigrants had a pre-existing affinity with the guitar, its own traditions of guitar manufacturing and music, and also traditional affinity with another plucked-string instrument, the zither, characteristically performed with guitar accompaniment This musical duo combination was popularised on the colonial variety stage by successful  tours of costumed Swiss mountain singers and yodellers with traditional instrumental accompaniment and the zither also became a popular amateur parlour and concert instrument. Italian immigrants and touring Italian artists played an especially important role in late nineteenth and early twentieth-century guitar-related culture. Many teachers and expert performers of mandolin and guitar were Italian. Angelo Demodena, Oreste Manzoni and various others established popular amateur mandolin and guitar orchestras, or estudiantinas (student plucked-string bands), from the 1890s. The guitar found new roles as the Instrument of Romance with the 1930s and later Australian vogue for continental musical entertainment, as a core instrument of tango orchestras and through emerging Australian awareness of flamenco as exotic Gitano-inflected dance and music.

 

[i] This ceramic ‘Gypsy accordionist’ figure was given to me in London in 1961 as a congratulatory gift for passing British College of Accordionists exams.

[ii] See, for example, the advertisement for the book in The Perth Gazette and Independent Journal of Politics and News, 1 September 1854, 3.

[iii] Franz  Liszt, The Gypsy in Music: The Result of the Author’s Life-long Experiences and Investigations of the Gipsies and their Music, trans. Edwin Evans (first published 1859); London: William Reeves, 1924: 280

[iv] London, John Murray, 1941:341, 12.

[v] ‘“Play to Me Gypsy”: Australian Imaginings of “Gypsies” in Popular Music and Dance Before Multiculturalism and World Music’,  Ian Collison and Mark Evans (eds.), Selected Proceedings from the 2006 Australia/New Zealand IASPM Conference, JMC Academy, Sydney: Perfect Beat Publications/IASPM

[vi] Jonathan, Bellman, ‘The Hungarian Gypsies’ in J. Bellman (ed.) The Exotic in Western Music,  Boston, North eastern University Press, 1998: 85.

[vii] Aline Scott-Maxwell, ‘Locating Klezmer Music in Australia’, Australasian Music Research 7, 2007.

Ethnicity

Despite the fact that this study is largely about exotic or semi-exotic representations and interpretations of the sometimes triple-mediated music and dance of others, it also presents a complex dialogue or overlap between ‘representation’ and ‘ethnicity’.  For example, it sometimes refers to the actual transplantation of music, dance and related cultural practices by certain ethnic minority groups that—like ethnic minority languages themselves—functioned to bind members of migrant communities and represent their homeland in generically folkloric, patriotic or nostalgic ways. These same elements, or stereotyped versions of them, could also be showcased beyond the community as emblematic of regional or national identity at public events and celebrations, or at commercial ethnic-themed venues. Some powerful modes of ethnic cultural expression are maintained while others are quickly watered down through the processes of cultural assimilation and the ethnic characteristics of yet others are inflated into colourful stereotypes and expressions of ‘difference.’.

For the specific purposes of the Tango Touch Project, I defined five concepts of ethnicity to categorize processes of mediation and hybridization associated with the real or part-imagined music and dance of relevant ethnic groups in Australia or overseas.[i] These concepts are most relevant in situations where music or dance perceived to be associated with one ethnic group in Australia is creatively engaged with and mediated by another ethnic group, including Anglo-Australians. I define and label these concepts/processes as ‘retained ethnicity’, ‘assimilated ethnicity’, ‘hyper-ethnicity’, ‘hyper-delineation’ and  ‘ethno-mediation’. Although I apply these to interpreting the past, the same processes can still be observed in certain present-day contexts. These definitions may seem comparable to others encountered in contemporary cultural discourse but they were formulated very specifically for the colonial era and twentieth century Australian contexts referred to in this study. For example, hyper-ethnicity works better than, say, Gayatri Spivak’s much debated term ‘strategic essentialism’ for, say, the musical entertainment in commercial Bavarian-style venues in Australia where patrons’ imaginings of Bavarian ethnicity are evoked by the franchise-like presentation of globally successful stereotypes.

Retained ethnicity occurs where modes of ethnic cultural expression, such as language, are maintained. Assimilated ethnicity refers to modes of cultural expression watered down though social and cultural assimilation, as in the German liedertafel (song table) tradition in Australia.  Hyper-ethnicity is the creative inflation of ethnic characteristics into overt expressions of difference or colourful stereotypes, as in the case of Bavarian-style entertainment by German-speaking musical entertainers. Hyper-delineation is the delineation, or burlesque, of real or perceived ethnic characteristics by those of another ethnicity into colourfully exaggerated stereotypes. Ethno-mediation involves an ethnically-defined genre being mediated via another ethnic group  to the extent of perceivably blending or juxtaposing characteristics of both ethnicities, as in the ‘Yiddish tango’ or ‘ Italian-Latin music’, defined and discussed later in this study.

There are further significant aspects of ethnicity encountered in the Tango Touch and its themes and narratives that fall between and beyond these various processes. There is, for example, delineation where a performer or performers simply present the music or dance of another ethnic group as correctly as they possibly can, or else where artists present themselves as belonging to another ethnic group for the professional advantage of appearing authentic. The study also refers to visiting artists and migrants who performed the music or dance of their ethnicity as they learnt it in their country of origin, and others of migrant heritage who had to learn how to perform the music or dance of their inherited culture as best they could in Australia.

In the absence of practitioners from Spain or Latin-America—or Anglo-Australian practitioners with a sufficient knowledge or feel for Hispanic musics and dance— non-Hispanic European-Australians, new migrants and, in the late 1930s, European refugee musicians were able to establish themselves as the masters of this music in mainstream, entertainment and in their own ethnic-minority communities, where it was much more familiar and demanded as ‘music of home.’. This real or perceived expertise, and their appealingly sophisticated difference or foreignness and European musical sensibility, led to a demand for specialist tango, ‘rhumba’ (rumba), ‘Gypsy’, ‘all-nations’, ‘cosmopolitan’ and ‘continental’ orchestras or bands of mixed ethnicity. Furthermore, European-owned and continental-styled cabaret-restaurants were a particularly important locus for live Latin music and dancing, especially with post-world war two mass migration. The Jewish-Australian connection in Latin and continental music is especially profound with, for example, many of the highest profile figures in Latin and ‘Gypsy’ music before the 1970s being of Jewish heritage.

 

You’re talking Italian? You’re talking Latin [music]!   Peter Ciani 2004[ii]

 

Specific ethnicity is particularly important to the Hispanic and continental European narratives in Part Three of the book dealing with Italo-Hispanic music in Australia. This is also where these two narratives very naturally converge, since Italo-Hispanic music was ‘continental music’ by ‘continentals’ that was also enjoyed by other European-Australians, Jewish-Australian patrons in particular. Italo-Hispanic music is also where exotic representation and ethnicity—Italian ethnicity—converged most profoundly in the 1950s and 1960s as producing something unique to this particular time and place in Australia‘s musical and social history. Italian association with various form of popular music in Australia—such as street music, dance music and music for the popular stage—traces back to at least the mid-nineteenth century, but Italian identification with Hispanic music  became explicit from the early 1930s in Australia[iii] when all-Italian tango bands, or so-called ‘Argentino Tango Bands’, began broadcasting and appearing at prestigious public dining and dancing venues. Italian affinity with Hispanic music, the Spanish language, the accordion and various stringed instruments enabled Italian-Australians to inhabit the cultural space left vacant in the absence of Hispanic performers and the vast and vibrant post-world war two Italian community music, dance and cabaret scene provided a rich field for the development of Italianised-Latin music, along with the immensely popular canzone (modern Italian popular song).

 

If a venue proprietor of that era, Italian or otherwise, wanted to feature Latin-American music, the obvious choice was to hire an Italian band and many Italian dance and cabaret bands adopted Latino names and promoted themselves as an ‘orchestra Latino’, or ‘orchestra Sud-Americana’. Commercial recordings of the era (and even present-day performances) show that Italianised Latin music was (and is still) not simply delineated, interpreted or modified Hispanic musical culture. It is a genre in its own right with distinctive characteristics and a distinctive sonority, albeit with variation between individual ensembles and practitioners. It has sometimes been promoted specifically as ‘Italian-Latin music’ to distinguish it from the music of Latino-Australian musicians.

 

[i] These concepts were also applied to the previous Tango Touch Project monograph “Take Me to Spain” Australian Imaginings of Spain Through Music and Dance, Melbourne: Lyrebird Press, 2019.

[ii] Comment by Peter Ciani at the beginning of an interview about his involvement with Latin music in the 1960s and later. Maroubra, NSW, 2002.

[iii] This affinity traces back in particular to Italian mass immigration to Argentina and the popularity of tango and later Latin dance music in Italy.

Exoticism, Stereotyping and Racism

It would be devious and amiss to discuss exoticism without explicitly acknowledging its relationship to racism and, at the same time, acknowledging the unedifying episodes of racism that furtively dwell in Australian colonial and later Australian social and cultural history. The most glaring early examples are the treatment of Indigenous Australians, the Chinese during and after the mid-nineteenth century gold-rushes, late nineteenth century exploitation of Pacific Islanders as plantation workers and the immediate and long-term implications of the Immigration Restriction Act of 1901, the basis of the White Australia Policy that restricted non-European immigration until being gradually dismantled after World War Two. Stark and bountiful evidence of this racism and racial mocking, including anti-Semitism, is found in illustration and articles published in newspapers such as The Bulletin or The Arrow, novels such as The Yellow Wave, A Shanty Entertainment (By Milky White) and is particularly explicitly in the 1928 Australian silent film The Birth of White Australia.[i] Stereotyping and racial mocking of African-Americans as blackface minstrelsy reached the Australian popular stage in the 1830s and blackface minstrelsy remained immensely popular as amateur and professional entertainment until the 1910s. Black jazz bands were unable to perform in Australia between 1928 and the 1950s. Some European migrant groups (German and Italian-speaking in particular) also suffered episodes of racism, and stereotyping, including racial mocking through comedic stage act, song lyrics and other means that made fun of real or perceived group idiosyncrasies of speech, appearance or behavioural characteristics or proclivities. But racial mocking became sometimes violent racial vilification for German speaking Australians in the leadup to and commencement of World War One and similarly with Italian-Australians around the commencement of World War Two.  Those who arrived from Europe in the Great Wave of post-World-War-Two migration also had to somehow overcome various forms of racism, racial mocking, resentment and suspicion in addition to the struggle to become established despite language, social, financial and cultural barriers.

 

Edward W. Said points out in his seminal work, Orientalism: Western Conceptions of the Orient, that ‘No one has ever devised a method of detaching a scholar from the circumstances of life’.  He specifically refers to their conscious or unconscious association with a set of beliefs, a class, a social position or a particular society that, despite the professional need and presumably the desire of the scholar to remain objective, ‘continue to bear on what he does professionally’.[ii] I have remained particularly aware of this problem as an outsider to the owners of the music-related cultures discussed in the book that have been employed, appropriated, hybridized, stereotyped or exoticized as mainstream or ethnic community entertainment. Exoticism is a particularly controversial field of academic scholarship because of its complex real and perceived links to the power relationships of colonialism, racialization, ethnicity and gender, a field made even more complex from the 1980s in relation to music through the development of so-called ‘world music’.[iii] Scholarship on exoticism embraces music, dance, literature, painting, and other popular or high arts and within this field of scholarship there are what might be termed ‘the activists’, who disagree with scholars who may seem to them as more interested in the details of the exoticization than how it might reflect some sort of ‘first world’/‘third world’ or other power imbalance.[iv] ‘In Defense of Exoticism’ by Ron Shapiro provides an explicit example of opposition to the attitudes variously associated with the ‘activist’ school writings, and he is scathing of postcolonial criticism as being ‘far too intent to banish the kind of literary imagination that is required to see what lies beyond’.[v] He concludes that ‘very imaginative text is intrinsically exotic…exoticism lies at the very heart of the literary process since this is a process concerned with the construction of ‘other’ worlds.’.[vi]

 

My own position with regards to the exoticization discussed in this book might also be perceived as the work of someone ‘content to retreat’ from the theoretical debate about exoticism as a tool of subjection of various ‘Other’. It will be seen, however, that the generally mild exoticism of ‘Others’ in question was often a construct of hyper-ethnicity, hyper-delineation or ethno-mediation’ by performers belonging to minority groupings within Australian society, such as expert Jewish, Greek, Latvian or Italian-Australian performers of Latin-American music or else  auto-exoticization in the case of, for example, touring or resident  Spanish dance theatre or cabaret artists from Spain. My primary intention throughout the creation of this book has been to excavate and discover, document and describe the pre-multicultural era influence of continental European and Hispanic influences in music-related entertainment and, wherever possible, contemporaneous perceptions of this entertainment.

 

[i] Kenneth McKay, The Yellow Peril a Romance of the Asiatic Invasion of Australia, 1895; E. S. (Ernest Sando) Emerson, Melbourne : Ford & Taylor, 1904; (Dir.) Phil K. Walsh, Dominion Films.

[ii] Edward W. Said, Orientalism: Western Conceptions of the Orient (London: Penguin Books, 1991 [first published  1978]),10.

[iii] For an Australian perspective of this additional complexity see: Aline Scott-Maxwell, “Localising Global Sounds: World Music and Multicultural Influences in Australia”, Shane Homan and Tony Mitchell, Sounds of Then, Sounds of Now: Popular Music in Australia (Hobart: ACYS Publishing, 2008), 73-92.

[iv] Ronald Radano and Philip V. Brohman (eds.), Music and the Racial Imagination (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), xiii. This is further explained in their ‘Introduction: Music and Race, Their Past, Their Presence’, 1-53.

[v] Ron Shapiro, ‘In Defense of Exoticism’, Isabel Santaolalla (ed.) “New” Exoticisms: Changing Patterns in the Construction of Otherness (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2000), 49.

[vi] Ibid., 42, 48.

Mediation and the Mediated Influences

The interpretive framework for this study was deeply influenced by the concept of ‘decontextualization’ which also informed my study of improvisatory music in Australia over the period, 1830s to 1970s.[1] Its significance for both studies is based on my sustained fascination with the way in which music (and dance) genre adoption in Australia generally evolved in stark isolation from the overseas cultural and social contexts that generated these genres and, more importantly, in the consequences of this decontextualized development as a localized form of mediation:

Individuals in a decontextualized environment are only partly informed. All performance is an act of communication that is transmitted on many different levels and received through several sensory channels. The consequences for isolated musicians [and dancers] attempting to adopt and performance culture by observing visiting performers, or by studying notations, recording or instruction manuals were the loss of certain vital information and the mutation of what remained. This mutation could take the form of blurring, grey-out (watering down) and especially simplification of distinctive performance characteristics.[2]

A significant outcome of decontextualization is absence of an internalized understanding of vitally important referents, principles or ‘keys’ that enable the correct performance of certain genres such as the clave concept in Afro-Caribbean music and dance or compás in flamenco (See Glossary)—‘keys’ that are intuitively felt by those raised in the respective traditions but are not necessarily apparent to others. While decontextualization could also result in the loss of vital cultural meanings, isolation from reliable models also allowed or even required artists to synthesis according to her or his own rules and for specific localized entertainment requirements and preferences—thereby occasionally generating interesting new meanings.

 

Mediated Influences
North America, with its proximity to Latin-America and its substantial Latino population, was the most important site for the hybridization of globalization of Latin genres and their dissemination via Tin Pan Alley and Hollywood exports, as exhaustively detailed in Storm-Robert’s The Latin Tinge. However, Australia, for much of its history, also absorbed and interpreted many of the latest vogues in music, dance and fashion from America and continental Europe substantially via London: for example, via the BBC, which the Australian Broadcasting Commission emulated, British dance academies and visiting teachers, and British tango, gaucho tango, Gypsy-tango and rumba bands, such as the famous Edmundo Ross rumba band. North America, Britain and, as already discussed, continental Europe (Paris especially) were primary sites through which the Hispanic influences that reached Australia were mediated and hybridized but, in the case of the latter, the mediated and hybridized outcome often reached here via migrating  artists, such as the Sydney Jewish-English and Jewish-German Latin band leaders of the late 1940s and ‘5Os,  Ernest Ritte and Leo ‘White’ (Weis). Non-Hispanic continental Europe was also the source of other romanticized part-imaginings that fed into continental-style’ entertainment; such as the ubiquitous part-imagined ‘Gypsy café’ musician.

 

From the Australian perspective of the period, 1830s to the 1970s, the most significant imagined (or actual) geographical origins of mediated Hispanic influences and related stereotypes were (in approximate chronological order of  appearance in Australia) ‘Spain‘, ‘Mexico‘, ‘Argentina’,  ’Cuba’, ‘Brazil’ and  ‘The Caribbean’. Yet an influence, such as ‘Mexican’, for example, could be a presence in Australian popular culture over a period of time without having any substantial or lasting influence. One significant influence in nineteenth century Hispanic music and dance development, dissemination and cross-fertilization was the zarzuela musical theatre tradition that linked the Spanish-speaking world and also developed independently in Cuba, the Philippines and other Spanish-speaking locations. Zarzuela, however, bypassed Australia until the late 1950s because the meanings of its dialogue, humour and song lyrics were lost on the English-speaking audiences.[3]

 

Mediated Spanish, Spanish ‘Gypsy‘ and Mexican music and dance influences (Spanish stage dance in particular) had all reached the colonial popular stage by the mid-19th century and continued to inflect popular entertainment in association with various new entertainment vogues, such as estudiantina espanole (guitar and mandolin) ensembles from the late 1880s and classical guitar in the Segovia tradition from the 1930s. Tango music and dance became influential from just before World War I and the 1920s brought  ‘tango-song‘ and new tango dance styles. Tango dancing and music were repopularised over and over in new forms, despite the more widespread popularity of mediated Afro-Caribbean influences from the early 1930s, mediated Brazilian influences from the early 1940s and a strong resurgence of Mexican-related influences in the 1960s. Rumba, carioca and beguine dance music and tango bands, gypsy-tango bands, rumba bands and continental musical entertainment all became popular during the 1930s.

The 1940s brought conga, conga bands, la fiesta dance music, samba, and local so-called orquesta tipica (supposedly ‘typical’ Latin-America dance orchestras). Latinised ‘cool jazz’ or ’samba jazz‘, mambo, calypso, cha-cha-cha were popularized during the 1950s. By the 1960s, Latin influences permeated mainstream popular music. The popularity of Italian-Latin bands peaked over this period along with Tijuana sound and the bossa nova as cool jazz. Other genres, including pachanga and merengue dance music, were sometimes added to the mix of mediated Hispanic influences. Assisted migration expanded the Spanish-speaking community in the 1960s and touring Spanish dance theatre troupes and with flamenco guitar accompanists popularised flamenco dance and music as cabaret entertainment and guitarra flamenca de concierto (flamenco guitar as recital music).

Many non-Hispanic continental European influences, the style Hongrois, for example, were elements in Australian popular culture even before the twentieth century. Some came through early migration as retained ethnicity, such as Italian street bands and singers, or as hyper-ethnicity as in the costumed ‘Bavarian’ or ‘German’ bands that were a feature of Australian street and other outdoors entertainment until World War One. Yet, for reasons to be discussed in subsequent chapters, a substantial demand for continental-style entertainment beyond the ethnic communities was not firmly established until the 1930s.

The Tango Touch traces a more or less continuous expansion of mainstream Australian society‘s openness to the music and, to a lesser extent, the dance of real or partly imagined non-Anglophone cultures. Beginning around 1932, mainstream popular music in Australia began to take on an ethnic dimension. This is seen, for example, in the sudden popularity of specially produced and narrated live radio programs of ‘typical‘ ‘Gypsy’, German, Spanish, Jewish, Russian, Italian and Latin American music and in the popularity of the sophisticated and semi-exotic foreignness of music, acts and fashions from (or perceived to be) from the continent, the Mediterranean or Latin-America. That is, despite these influences often being highly mediated via Hollywood, Tin Pan Alley, the London popular stage and BBC radio entertainment light music policy, among other cultural channels. The shameful flare-up of Australian xenophobia around the commencement of the second world war created serious problems for European refugees and certain European-Australian communities but the popularity of continental-style entertainment, with Latin music and dancing as an integral component, grew alongside successive mainstream crazes for new Latin-American genres and their broader inflection of mainstream music-making and consumption. The demand for continental or continental-style entertainment was boosted by post-War mass-migration but this demand peaked by the early 1970s through generational change and ethnic club support for folkloric groups, among other factors. From thereon, even the very notion of continental music, dance or continental anything began to seem redundant as the concept of a multicultural Australia seized the national consciousness.[4]  Beginning around 1935,

 

 

[1] Playing Ad Lib: Improvisatory Music in Australia 1836-1970,  Sydney, Currency Press.

[2] Playing Ad Lib: xiv.

[3] Spanish dance theatre companies with some zarzuela content began to tour Australia from 1958.

[4] Some continental-themed venues with regular musical entertainment, such as the Bavarian-style Cuckoo Restaurant in Sassafras, Victoria (est. 1958) remain, but their function has largely been displaced by ethnic social clubs with their own premises and food and entertainment programs and facilities.

[1] Melbourne: Lyrebird Press.

[1] This fear was unfounded since scholars have already begun citing my previous related publications as pre-history to their writing on post-1960s Hispanic music in Australia.  See, for example,  Dan Bendrups, Latin down under: Latin American Migrant musicians in Australia and New Zealand’, Popular Music 30, 2011: 191-207.

[1] John Storm Roberts, The Latin Tinge: the Impact of Latin American Music on the United  States, New York: Oxford University Press, 1999: 47.

[1] Storm Roberts: 1999: x.

[1] See, for example,  Deborah Pacini Hernandez, Oye Como Va: Hybridity and Identity in Latino Popular Music, Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2010.

[1] ‘Spanish-Speaking Immigrant Traditions’ in John Whiteoak and Aline Scott-Maxwell (eds). Companion to Music and Dance in Australia, Sydney, Currency House, 2003: 394-397, Michael Ryan,  Brazilian Music in Sydney, 1971-1984 : an Emic-etic Approach to the Structure of Folk Models , PhD Diss., University of Sydney, 1990; Perfect Beat: the Pacific Journal of Research into Contemporary Culture and Popular Music  5(2) January 200:19-29;  Popular Music 30, 2011: 191-207; Whiteoak and Scott-Maxwell (eds), 2003: 393-4.

[1] Perfect Beat  alone, features numerous articles on musical exoticization in Australasia and the Asia-Pacific region.

[1]  Rebecca Coyle,  Scoring Australia: film music and Australian identities in Young Einstein, Strictly Ballroom and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, PhD thesis, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW, 2002;  Michael Christoforidis, ‘The Ballets Russes, Spanish dance and El amor brujo in Australia’ in Mark Carroll (ed.), The Ballet Russes in Australia and Beyond,  Kent Town, S.A.Wakefield Press, 2011: 229-242.

[1] ‘Strictly Ballroom The Rumba in Pre-World War Two Japan’, Perfect Beat, 4 (3) 1999: 3-23;  Pennsylvania, The Pennsylvania State Press, 1992.

[1] Copyright restrictions largely limit the inclusion of post-1954 publications.

[1] Melbourne:  Lyrebird Press.

[1] ‘A Night at Ciros’,  Tempo (Sydney) May 1949, 22.

[1] Goffredo Plastino (ed),  Mediterranean Mosaic: Popular Music and Global Sounds,  New York, Routledge 2002: 162.  

[1] The Australian Music Maker and Dance Band News, 1 January 1935,7

[1] This ceramic ‘Gypsy accordionist’ figure was given to me in London in 1961 as a congratulatory gift for passing British College of Accordionists exams.

[1] See, for example, the advertisement for the book in The Perth Gazette and Independent Journal of Politics and News, 1 September 1854, 3.

[1] Franz  Liszt, The Gypsy in Music: The Result of the Author’s Life-long Experiences and Investigations of the Gipsies and their Music, trans. Edwin Evans (first published 1859); London: William Reeves, 1924: 280

[1] London, John Murray, 1941:341, 12.

[1] ‘“Play to Me Gypsy”: Australian Imaginings of “Gypsies” in Popular Music and Dance Before Multiculturalism and World Music’,  Ian Collison and Mark Evans (eds.), Selected Proceedings from the 2006 Australia/New Zealand IASPM Conference, JMC Academy, Sydney: Perfect Beat Publications/IASPM

[1] Jonathan, Bellman, ‘The Hungarian Gypsies’ in J. Bellman (ed.) The Exotic in Western Music,  Boston, North eastern University Press, 1998: 85. 

[1] Aline Scott-Maxwell, ‘Locating Klezmer Music in Australia’, Australasian Music Research 7, 2007.

[1] These concepts were also applied to the previous Tango Touch Project monograph “Take Me to Spain” Australian Imaginings of Spain Through Music and Dance, Melbourne: Lyrebird Press, 2019.

[1] Comment by Peter Ciani at the beginning of an interview about his involvement with Latin music in the 1960s and later. Maroubra, NSW, 2002.

[1] This affinity traces back in particular to Italian mass immigration to Argentina and the popularity of tango and later Latin dance music in Italy.

[1] Kenneth McKay, The Yellow Peril a Romance of the Asiatic Invasion of Australia, 1895; E. S. (Ernest Sando) Emerson, Melbourne : Ford & Taylor, 1904; (Dir.) Phil K. Walsh, Dominion Films.

[1] Edward W. Said, Orientalism: Western Conceptions of the Orient (London: Penguin Books, 1991 [first published  1978]),10.

[1] For an Australian perspective of this additional complexity see: Aline Scott-Maxwell, “Localising Global Sounds: World Music and Multicultural Influences in Australia”, Shane Homan and Tony Mitchell, Sounds of Then, Sounds of Now: Popular Music in Australia (Hobart: ACYS Publishing, 2008), 73-92.

[1] Ronald Radano and Philip V. Brohman (eds.), Music and the Racial Imagination (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), xiii. This is further explained in their ‘Introduction: Music and Race, Their Past, Their Presence’, 1-53.

[1] Ron Shapiro, ‘In Defense of Exoticism’, Isabel Santaolalla (ed.) “New” Exoticisms: Changing Patterns in the Construction of Otherness (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2000), 49.

[1] Ibid., 42, 48.

[1] Playing Ad Lib: Improvisatory Music in Australia 1836-1970,  Sydney, Currency Press.

[1] Playing Ad Lib: xiv.

[1] Spanish dance theatre companies with some zarzuela content began to tour Australia from 1958.

[1] Some continental-themed venues with regular musical entertainment, such as the Bavarian-style Cuckoo Restaurant in Sassafras, Victoria (est. 1958) remain, but their function has largely been displaced by ethnic social clubs with their own premises and food and entertainment programs and facilities.