By Marilyne Buda
Translated by Ellen Donnison
Photos copyright Lempicka Brian
From the meeting of Müller and Makaroff, the two founders of the Gotan Project, and Catherine Ringer, the voice of legendary French band, Les Rita Mitsouko, Plaza Francia was born. This unexpected and avant-garde collaboration is another renewal of the vision of tango, uniting it with pop music. Ventana Latina interviewed Eduardo Makaroff in Paris to talk about the first album, which will be performed live at the London festival La Línea, (The Line) on 23 April, 2015.
Ventana Latina: Müller & Makaroff have left the Gotan Project universe for a while. How did they arrive at the Plaza Francia project?
Eduardo Makaroff: Well, in reality Christoph Müller and I have always worked on projects and continue to do so. We made three records with the Gotan Project and composed the music for various films such as the fictional documentary El Gaucho. We also worked on Cortázar for the radio station France Culture. At one point there was a moment where we really wanted to write songs which would be a marriage between tango, and, in this case, pop and rock songs, rather than with electronic music we had previously explored with Gotan. At the beginning, for us, it was to be a project for multiple female voices; initially we worked with tango performers. Later on we thought that it would be better to look for voices within the world of pop, so we made contacts with singers, most of them Anglo-Saxon and some of them very well known.
Ventana Latina: And then came along Catherine Ringer, the singer of Les Rita Mitsouko…
Eduardo Makaroff: Yes, we called her directly by telephone and she told us that she would possibly be interested. She sang two tracks and we loved them. From this the project between Müller & Makaroff and Catherine Ringer was born. We didn’t know at what point it was going to take off; it was purely an artistic experiment and not a decision fuelled by making a discography. You listen to her sing tango and you die! Each day she sang better and we started to compose tracks inspired by her. Furthermore, a great relationship grew between all of us. We finalized the production with the maestro Gustavo Beytelmann, who was responsible for arranging the violins and the bandoneones. We recorded the whole set with the drummer Earl Harvin and after working with our own label, MAÑANA, we sent the project to the London based record company, Because Music, a very good label that has headquarters in both Paris and London.
Ventana Latina: To clarify…does Plaza Francia relate to La Recoleta?
Eduardo Makaroff: Yes! In the Recoleta neighbourhood in Buenos Aires there is a square, Plaza Francia, with a monument which is an homage to the Argentine Republic from the French Republic. Since the end of the sixties until the seventies it was a place for hippies to have reunions, play guitar and smoke joints. My brother Sergio was one of them and it was he who came up with the idea for that name, because not only did it form part of our personal history but it also represented what this project means really well: the history of tango with its back and forth between Paris and Argentina, and a French singer who sings about Argentina, tango and pop culture…
Ventana Latina: Does Catherine Ringer speak Spanish? What is her relationship with tango and Argentina?
Eduardo Makaroff: She doesn’t speak Spanish fluently but she can say a few words and understand some things. She has a link to Argentina through friends and, in fact, her famous song, Marcia baila, is about Marcia Moretto, an Argentine dancer and choreographer. I don’t think she had ever sung in Spanish before and certainly not in Argentine Spanish. We all worked on the phonetics and she conveyed the feeling of each phrase very well. After, she would write down the sounds in French. She now already knows how to read and directly pronounce Spanish, including when we compose new songs.
Eduardo Makaroff: Many of these songs can be sung by a male voice but they really lend themselves to a female voice. The principle themes of the songs are love and indifference but they are also topical songs. For example, La Mano Encima (The Hand Above), which was written by my brother Sergio, is a song about a woman who tells the listener that her partner has crossed the line and reached the limit: he hits her. And despite the love that she feels for him, she leaves him. At one time tango contained the opposite message: ‘you betrayed me therefore I will cut your cheek so you never forget what you did to me, or I will kill you by stabbing you 34 times’! In another song, a woman misses her plane; out of her despair she becomes totally happy because of the liberty she experiences. Due to this she goes on to begin a new life in a new city. Each song has its history.
Ventana Latina: So Plaza Francia is a meeting of tango songs and pop music?
Eduardo Makaroff: Yes. The tango song which was practically invented by Gardel is a genre within tango and is linked to great composers such as Gardel, Aníbal Troilo, Cobián, Discépolo and great poets like Cadícamo, Cátulo Castillo, etc. With the arrival of rock in the sixties, a movement grew in Argentina, which was part of ‘national rock’ that took over the tango scene. In the middle of the eighties I decided to return to my Argentine roots without abandoning all of the other influences. I fought to recreate the tango reputation, which we achieved with the Gotan Project and now with Plaza Francia. I think that tango is a very rich material from which one can make new things. With Gotan we deconstructed tango so we could make it more hypnotic; we took it to a level of abstraction. With Plaza Francia, the format of its songs, complete with verses and a shorter chorus, allows the singer to be accompanied with a guitar or piano. We made a cancionero (a song book). After what could be regarded as a return to tradition there is experimentation; we wanted to build a rhythmical, sometimes harmonic and melodic ‘bridge’ between pop music, soul and tango with accordions, violins… The challenge is to find the balance; it’s like a ‘musical kitchen’ where one has to put together great ingredients and to be inspired, because, in a nutshell one is trying to create great songs!
Ventana Latina: Plaza Francias’ Live Re-Experience just came out…
Eduardo Makaroff: Yes, it’s the live interpretation remixed by Mexican and German artists, and by the very same Christoph Müller. They brought electronic music to our creations, which resulted in something brilliant. It was a really interesting experience.
Ventana Latina: And speaking of ‘live’, how is your tour going?
Eduardo Makaroff: Very well. For now, the tour, which started in April, has been above all French and francophone because Catherine Ringer is also very well known in countries such as Canada, Belgium and Switzerland. Now the great challenge is to conquer the world and we started with Europe. We have been to Italy various times and on the 23rd of April, 2015 we are going to London to a venue called Kokoto be part of the Latina music festival, La Línea (http://www.comono.co.uk/la-linea/).
Ventana Latina: Before we say goodbye, does the Gotan Project have any new projects coming up?
Eduardo Makaroff: There are future projects and Gotan continues to exist… we are now bringing out an album, Club Secreto (Secret Club) which contains remixes of themes from three previous discs.