At first, I didn't know what to make of accordionist Chango Spasiuk, who played Zankel Hall on Friday night. He looked a bit like Jesus with his long hair and beard, and wore a red shawl over black pantaloons. Nor was I sure what to make of Chamamé, the strange hybrid of polka, waltz and folk music indigenous to the rural Argentine province from which Spasiuk hails. (It's lighter and sweeter than tango, more flowing.) But, as the two-hour set unfolded, Spasiuk and his band (two guitars, cello, violin, percussion, occasional vocals) played with flair and passion, and I could feel myself getting hooked. I wanted someone to hand me a glass of Malbec.
At the end of his official set, several audience members started shouting out things in Spanish. Spasiuk spoke back to them in kind, hand over heart, genuinely overwhelmed. It was as if we'd all been suddenly transported to Buenos Aires.
"I am sorry," he said after awhile. "I don't speak English."
Just then, a young woman came from the rear of the hall and stopped a few rows in front of me, offering to translate Chango's words into English. Here is what he said:
"I wasn't going to say anything, but I feel that I must. The Argentine poet Yupanqui once said: 'Music is like a torch that people use to see the beauty on their path.' It also has the power to bring us closer together. I am grateful to be able to share this music from my home with you."
And, with that, they launched into the first of three encores, the crowd rhythmically clapping along. It was a moment of pure magic: a reminder that for all our differences, we're all coming from the same place. (More pics below.)