Arts Desk

Quarteto Olinda, Ana Tijoux, and La Gata: D.C.’s South-American Weekend

Quarteto OlinaTonight through Saturday, three unique representatives of South American music styles are coming to town. Begin ticking off the list this evening at the Millennium Stage, where Brazilian forro de rabeca ensemble Quarteto Olinda will be in the house. The group—appearing in the United States for the first time—aims to keep its traditional, rural Brazilian genre vital. It's no bossa-nova act singing “Girl From Ipanema"; instead, Quarteto Olinda's members chant in Portuguese over zydeco-like percussion, a rhythm section, and the hoedown strumming of the rabeca, a Brazilian fiddle. The group also plays Saturday at Liv.

In July 2010, French-Chilean wordsmith Ana Tijoux appeared in D.C. in support of her Gang Starr-influenced debut, 1977. Now she’s back to tout her latest record, La Bala. While that album starts off sounding a bit like 1977, she then mixes it up with guest artists and a blended approach that borrows from current commercial R&B and hip-hop. Tijoux is at Black Cat tonight.

Saturday brings La Gata to Artisphere, where the longtime Argentinean singer and The Tango Mercurio Orchestra will perform after the local premiere of La Gata: The Nine Lives of a Tango Singer Called the Cat, a film about her life directed by D.C.-based journalist and producer Julienne Gage. Gage’s film offers the bittersweet tale of Maria Angelica Milan, 85, who was raised in a convent, spent years as cleaning lady, slept in streetcars, and whose vocal talents and personality Gage and hipster Argentinean immigrants rediscovered several years ago in Miami. Gage penned a feature in 2004 about the fishnet-donning diva for the Miami New Times, and soon decided the singer's life would make for an engaging film.

Gage's directorial debut touches on La Gata's globetrotting career in South America, Spain, Mexico, and beyond, but it focuses on her recent years in Miami. It's no happily-ever-after story: To a somber bandoneon soundtrack, La Gata struggles to pay her rent and achieve residency in the United States. Gage hasn't been able to clear all the music for the film—which was completed in 2006— so she can only show it at not-for-profit events like this Saturday’s screening. But she's still proud of her work's impact. "I would say the real gains have been sentimental," she says. "A lot of immigrants have come up to me after screenings in Miami, New York, London, and Madrid, and told me how they felt a renewed sense of hope that they could follow their dreams in spite of the challenges, and that they realized it's never too late to feel young and vibrant.”

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