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The passing of the golden voice of tango - Alberto Podesta


"Ah, Rebecca. The unforgettable woman," he commented with a mischievous look in his eye. Even at the age of 89, this gentleman could still smooth talk his way about the ladies, even those over 50 years his junior. Alberto Podesta was the last surviving voice of the golden age of tango and we had the privilege of chauffeuring him to a milonga for a performance. Softly spoken, his manner was gentle until he stepped out on stage and he sang with such strength and vigor for his age. He was still performing at the age of 90, thrilling tango dancers at every performance. 

Late last year, the tango community of the world was saddened by the passing of Podesta. On 9th December 2015, his manager Maria Alejandra Podesta announced  that "At age 91, Maestro Alberto Podesta fell asleep forever. Tango was everything he thought, spoke and breathed. One of the greatest singers, with prolific work in the 1940s. One of my best friends and fellow traveller. I want to remember you forever this way, your smile and your mischief, but above all, your voice and nuances that resound softly entwining my heart. Farewell."

Born on the 22nd September 1924 as Washington Alejandro Ale in San Juan, his natural talent for singing shone through even at a young age. Nicknamed 'Gardelito' (little Gardel), it wasn't until 1939 that he moved to Buenos Aires and began his singing career. Given his stage Alberto Podesta by Carlos Di Sarli who hired him to sing for his band, it was Podesta's dream come true to be singing with Di Sarli before the age of 18. By 1945, his singing career was in full swing and he spent many years touring, bringing to life tango in many cities in the world. He continued to sing life into tango for the rest of his life. 

As I was embarking on my own tango trip to Buenos Aires, I was told by many that if I have the opportunity to see Podesta sing then I must see it. As luck would have it, I saw Podesta perform three times - even once managing to snap a beautiful portrait of him. He was sitting backstage, looking serious and lost in his thoughts, when a mutual friend asked him if I could take his photo. Upon seeing a young girl with a camera in her hand, his face transformed, his eyes sparked and he smiled cheekily down the lens. It is one of my favourite photos and what a treasure it will be now. 

Farewell Podesta. Thankyou for the beauty you have brought to many a milonga and for the performances those of us who have seen you, will never forget.

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