Norberto Gradilone. Bandoneon player. Photographed at Caminito in La Boca, Buenos Aires, 2016.
I’ve been playing here for just three years but my story with the bandoneon began a long time ago. I was born listening to a bandoneon because my father played. When I was 11 I learned to play myself.
I had an argument with my mom because she didn’t want me to learn. She said: “bandoneon players are lazy; they don’t study; they become drunks.”
Not all of them, I told her, just some. But whether she was right or not, I kept my promise to her: I worked for 54 years in another job, nothing to do with this. I put the bandoneon aside. When I was 42 I stopped practicing altogether; I wasn’t interested anymore. But after 20 years, I came back. My parents had passed away 30 years before.
I continued doing things the same way as when I was working. I didn’t start doing those things some people do without even having to be an artist, a musician or a poet. One learns a certain conduct and it becomes a part of who you are. I avoided those things that go against your finances and against your health. You could be a priest and still do those things. You’re not a saint because you’re a priest; nor are you a lost cause because you’re a musician. Now I can proudly say that I’ve been a working man for 57 years.