When you ask Argentine-born singer Jose Carbo what he remembers about the country he spent the first part of his life in, there is one memory that sticks out in particular.
“The fireflies, my god, you’ve taken me back,” he laughed.
“There were fireflies all the way down our street every night, it’s one of my most lucid memories.
“They were just like little lamps hanging off the ends of big blades of grass – it was quite amazing and magical to a little boy.”
The accomplished opera baritone is on the line-up for the Latin Spirit festival at Four Winds over Easter, where he will perform songs from his tango and Spanish music album My Latin Heart.
Some songs are from sheet music handed down from his grandfather, a talented player of the bandoneon – a concertina popular in tango. Carbo was proud to have this family connection in his music.
“It’s a direct link to my history,” he said.
“[My earliest memory of music] is my grandpa playing the bandoneon on the edge of his bed to us.”
While Carbo left Argentina when he was five he still has many vivid memories as a young boy growing up in Rosario, north of Buenos Aires; of the food, his industrious father building a house and tree house as well as the never-ending hordes of mosquitoes.
But, now living in Sydney, he has not returned in 30 years, since he was 17.
“If I returned after 18 I would have had to complete two years of compulsory military training,” Carbo said.
“As I missed it, I automatically became a deserter from the army, so I couldn’t return without doing military service until block pardons were introduced.”
Music has always been in his life and he saw similarities between his two loves of opera and tango.
“It would have to be the drama,” he said.
“In opera, most of the time someone dies. In Latin music, it’s not really that a person dies, but a lot of songs are a lament around love dying.”
While he is used to major productions with Opera Australia, he enjoys the intimacy in tango bands.
“With tango, it is always a collaboration of how all members on stage at the same time feel the music,” he said.
“You’re allowed to create, and every time it’s a different creation.”
The Latin Spirit festival will be on April 15-16 at the Four Winds site in Barragga Bay and the Bermagui Community Centre.
Carbo will perform at a concert on the Sunday from 12noon at Four Winds alongside Rasa Duende and Bandaluzia. For tickets, visit www.fourwinds.com.au.