“I am not sure that I exist, actually. I am all the writers that I have read, all the people that I have met, all the women that I have loved; all the cities that I have visited, all my ancestors.” [Guardian profile. “Jorge Luis Borges” 22 July 2008. Accessed 27 April 2013]

In 2001, the CT Tango Ensemble collaborated on a stage production “Tango del Fuego” – directed by Martinus Bassoon & Choreographed by Mark Hoeben, presented at all major festivals in South Africa. During the run at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, we met a giant of a man, in body, spirit and musical stature. Argentinian Bandoneon Maestro Ricardo Fiori was performing at the same festival. A mutual friendship and admiration was immediately facilitated by this wonderful language of Tango – since his English was as poor as our Spanish. He gave us Masterclasses, and where words fell short, illustrations were by way of grunts, stamps, waving of the arms and hugs and howls of delight and the most vivid language of facial expressions any of us could muster. A most unusual teaching and learning experience! He was genuinely touched by our love for the music of his homeland, and we were genuinely touched by the time and attention to detail he lavished on us when he could have been doing other things as visiting artist at a prominent Arts Festival. He observed that we played Tango “with an accent” but that he was amazed that we had made such progress in an idiom to which we were not born. He gave us so much stylistic guidance, and explained msucial ideas by illustrating dance movements to which they correlate. It set us on a path of discovery which already is longer than a decade and as filled with new magic every step of the way.

As part of his programme, Maestro Fiorio performed one of his own compositions, the solo Bandoneon work, “A Borges” – dedicated to the famous Argentinean poet Jorge Luis Borges. He started the piece by pulling open and closed, the bellows of his Bandoneon. Open and shut. Open and shut. Forcing the audience into silence, into focus, into concentration. The sound was so strange and it wasn’t clear yet if the piece had started yet. I suddenly realised I was listening to breathing. Hypnotising the audience. He made it shudder, was it sleep? Passion? Death?

I had never heard a solo Bandoneon work before. I was transported. We all were. This man is a master.

Subsequently, Stanislav Angelov, the group founder and Accordeonist, learnt to play the Bandoneon, and travelled to Itally to buy a Top Range instrument and, travelled all the way to Argentina to study this instrument, including lessons with Maestro Fiorio. One of the outcomes of this friendship, was that Ricardo Fiorio gave us permission to arrange and record this beautiful work, “A Borges” on our first Tango CD, “El Tango en Africa”. At this point Stanislav recorded it on the Accordeon, as can be heard below.

The piece has remained a our repertoire, as in our recent performance at the Cape Town Concert Series:

Bandoneonist and composer Ricardo Fiorio performing “A Borges” Live on the Bandoneon:

Bandoneon Maestro and Composer Ricardo Fiorio

Bandoneon Maestro and Composer Ricardo Fiorio

Another performance by this extraordinary musician:

Luis Borges in 1951, Grete_Stern

Luis Borges in 1951 (Photo by Grete Stern)

Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges
, known as Jorge Luis Borges, was an Argentine short-story writer, essayist, poet and translator born in Buenos Aires. His work embraces the “character of unreality in all literature”

Borgesian conundrum

The philosophical term “Borgesian conundrum” is named after him and has been defined as the ontological question of “whether the writer writes the story, or it writes him.” [Ella Taylor (July 18, 2010). “Book review: ‘The Thieves of Manhattan’ by Adam Langer”. Los Angeles Times.]

The original concept put forward by Borges is in Kafka and His Precursors – after reviewing works that were written before Kafka’s, Borges wrote “If I am not mistaken, the heterogeneous pieces I have enumerated resemble Kafka; if I am not mistaken, not all of them resemble each other. The second fact is the more significant. In each of these texts we find Kafka’s idiosyncrasy to a greater or lesser degree, but if Kafka had never written a line, we would not perceive this quality; in other words, it would not exist. The poem “Fears and Scruples” by Browning foretells Kafka’s work, but our reading of Kafka perceptibly sharpens and deflects our reading of the poem. Browning did not read it as we do now. In the critics’ vocabulary, the word ‘precursor’ is indispensable, but it should be cleansed of all connotation of polemics or rivalry. The fact is that every writer creates his own precursors. His work modifies our conception of the past, as it will modify the future.”[Jorge Luis Borges (February 1988). Labyrinths: Selected Stories & Other Writings. New Direction Books. p. 201.]

He gradually went blind between 1950 and 1955, and expressed the irony in another magical poem. [Jorge Luis Borges (1984) Seven Nights, A New Directions Book pp 109-110]

Nadie rebaje a lágrima o reproche
esta declaración de la maestría
de Dios, que con magnífica ironía
me dio a la vez los libros y la noche.
No one should read self-pity or reproach
Into this statement of the majesty
Of God; who with such splendid irony,
Granted me books and night at one touch