When I started dancing tango, the “milonga” was in a café where we basically heard the same double cd over and over and over. In general, everybody knew exactly what song came next and started humming on the next song before it started. Knowing the music is all good, but, well…
-I guess I would start djing, was the dry comment from an American dancer we met in Bs As a few years ago when I told this story. Well, as it happens that was exactly what I ended up doing.
However, that was a long time ago, up in the ice desert, so not much tango music available, and nobody really seemed to care (about the music), don’t ask me why. And nobody knew about tango djs, apparently.
Some dancers in our community had been to Argentina, but they all moved out of town. And none of the active dancers in our community had been there. So when I went with my partner (later wife), we were kind of breaking new ground. And much so in the case of tango music.
As many others starting out in tango, I found the typical tango to be dull sounding, and it all sounded much the same to me. So I was searching for new recordings with fresh sound. After searching record stores in my home town, I found little other than Piazzolla, but coming to Zival’s in Buenos Aires, the selection was huge. (You will have to remember that this was before the wealth of information available online today, and it was before the crisis in Argentina, so everything there was pretty expensive.)
Of course, I had no idea what to search for, but I had a list from my teachers in Buenos Aires, with strange names like Troilo, D’Arienzo and Pugliese… Most cds were short on milongas and valses, so I remember using the number of vals and milonga on a cd as a selection criterion. In retrospect, it all went really well, my next record extravaganza was far from as successful. I also bought modern orchestras like El Arranque, Color tango and Los cosos de al lao. As s many others, I have grown to prefer the classic recordings, but that’s a different story.
Well, and they did not play it like on our cd in the milongas, (3 tangos, 1 milonga, 1 vals, repeat). There was this concept of tandas and cortinas. I found some information on the web, Stephen Browns pages were a great help I remember, but the concept was unheard of in my local town.
Back from Bs As, I started assembling tandas of similar sounding music sitting on our livingroom floor, writing notes, this and that track from this cd, then this and that track from that cd, and then all the cds to the computer in the office to create a cd of precompiled tandas… A lot of work, and far too little music to make a good selection. But it was the start.
Fast forward a few years, and I have a real collection of tango music (You really like D’Arienzo, don’t you? asked one visiting instructor, borrowing some cds for classes) all neatly tagged on my computer for instant access and on-the-fly tanda composition at the milonga. I did a lot of mistakes on the way, of course, but I have improved vastly. And people are finally starting to pay attention to the music in my local community, and we have a few aspiring djs for whom I gave a seminar on tango djing last year. Now even more are interested.