Los estilos fundamentales del tango por Ignacio Varchausky

2015 August 23


Ignacio Varchausky is doing a series of very interesting seminars on the style of different tango orchestras. Audio recordings of the seminars have been released with links in the facebook comments, and that means an opportunity to listen to them even when very lejos de Buenos Aires. They are in Spanish though, so you need to follow spoken Spanish reasonably well to make any use of it.

Apparently, they build on a seminar similar to the one that inspired this post on how to listen to tango, so you might want to check out that first, if you haven’t already. There is one seminar dedicated to a single orchestra and what characterizes their style. Highly recommended. Obviously, if you’re in Buenos Aires on September 16, you should go to Centro Cultural Lola Mora at 7 PM.

Ignacio encourages sharing these in one of the seminars, because the purpose of the seminars is to spread knowledge of tango. Of course, this is right up my alley, so I couldn’t resist. All the original download links can be found in the comments of the facebook event, but some of them will expire and some are very large files. Therefore, I host some more reasonably sized versions below (~50-100 MB each, choose between AAC/m4a or slightly smaller Opus versions):

Enjoy! ¡Espero que los disfruten!

0. Música (Opus version)

1. Carlos Di Sarli (Opus version)

2. Juan D’Arienzo (Opus version)

3. Osvaldo Pugliese (Opus version)

4.1 Aníbal Troilo 1/2 (Opus version)

4.2 Aníbal Troilo 2/2 (Opus version)

5. Horacio Salgán (YouTube video)

6. Alfredo Gobbi (YouTube video)

EDIT 2015-11-19: Added first seminar about tango music in general and links to the YouTube-videos of the Salgán and Gobbi seminars. Also, the original event at Facebook expired, and there is now a Facebook-group for the series of seminars, get ready for a second run of seminars in 2016!

EDIT 2016-05-22: The new series has started. First seminar: Elementos básicos (YouTube video)

EDIT 2016-06-19: Second seminar: Julio De Caro (YouTube video)

EDIT 2016-07-25: Third seminar: Francini-Pontier (YouTube video)

EDIT 2016-09-01: Fresedo seminar: (YouTube video)

EDIT 2016-10-01: Miguel Caló (YouTube video)

The Perfect Embrace

2015 February 14
by Simba
the dark side of the embrace by virgoh, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License   by  virgoh 

Of course, this is nothing new to tango dancers, but understanding the mechanisms is interesting:

A caress feels best when it is delivered with a small amount of force and a speed of about 1 inch per second. Stroke slower, and it feels like an unwelcome crawling bug; faster, and it feels perfunctory rather than loving.

Perform your caress not on the glabrous skin of the palm or sole, but on the hairy skin of the limbs where the caress sensing fibers are found. Move your hand at about 1 inch per second, exert moderate force, don’t clutch a cold drink immediately beforehand, and you will optimally activate your partner’s caress-sensing fibers and then strongly excite the posterior insular region of your sweetheart’s brain. And for a moment, all will be right with the world.

Read the full article @ Slate.

Fermin, Glorias del Tango

2014 October 6
by Simba

Fermin, Glorias del Tango is now available for rental at Vimeo. Looks nice, I think. I haven’t had time to watch it, and I sort of wait for the download that was supposed to come with my Kickstarter support. Oh well.

EDIT: I worked it out with Oliver Kolker. Apparently I missed an email that was sent to all backers. Oliver promptly gave me access to the film and I experienced no further problems.


2014 September 25
by Simba
Kylie Minogue at the Hollywood Bowl, Oct by andy khouri, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  andy khouri 

Insights about tango may be found where you least suspect it. Slow down and dance with me… yeah..

Knew you’d be here tonight
So I put my best dress on
Boy I was so right

Our eyes connected
Now nothing’s how it used to be
No second guesses

Track in on this feeling
Pull focus close up you and me
Nobody’s leaving

Got me affected
Spun me 180 degrees
It’s so electric

Slow down and dance with me
Yeah… slow…
Skip a beat and move with my body
Yeah… slow…
Come on and dance with me
Yeah… slow…
Skip a beat and move with my body
Yeah… slow…

Don’t wanna rush it
Let the rhythm pull you in
It’s here so touch it

You know what I’m saying
And I haven’t said a thing
Keep the record playing

Slow down and dance with me
Yeah… slow…
Skip a beat and move with my body
Yeah… slow…
Come on and dance with me
Yeah… slow…
Skip a beat and move with my body
Yeah… slow…

Read my body language
Take it down, down

Slow down and dance with me
Yeah… slow…
Skip a beat and move with my body
Yeah… slow…
Come on and dance with me
Yeah… slow…
Skip a beat and move with my body
Yeah… slow…

Skip a beat and move with my body
Skip a beat and move with my body
Skip a beat and move with my body

The Rise of the Tango DJ

2014 September 5
by Simba
Daft Punks DJ Cover Set - Northampton, M by sebastien.barre, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  sebastien.barre 

I am thrilled to see the increased interest in djing and playing quality tango music for dancers the last few years. In trying to understand how it all came about, it is tempting to focus on the efforts of individuals to bring good dance music to their local community, but thereby we might miss the big  picture.

Technological and economic changes can be transformative. Some of the most famous examples from the world of tango are the invention of the electrical recorder/the microphone, the fierce competition between orchestras during the golden age of tango and the selective pressure following from men largely outnumbering women in the milongas as the dance developed. Without these environmental factors, tango, (and many other cultural expressions for that sake) would quite possibly have developed very differently. The inventions that have transformed the activity of tango djing, and thus the milongas and dancing in general all over the world, are incarnated in a single object: the laptop computer. However, there are several related technologies that became available and/or cheap enough at the same time: portable computers, (lossy) audio compression, and communication over the internet.

When a dinosaur like me started out, making tanda sets on writable cds, computers generally did not have a cd-rw drive, and very few people had access to  portable computers. (Although I feel tango-old sometimes, my djing doesn’t go back to the use of cassettes like Felix Picherna). That didn’t last long. Suddenly you could fit the selection of tangos that you would need for a milonga on a portable computer, using mp3 files. Information on how to dj could be shared over the internet. Even music files could be shared over the internet or among friends using portable disks. While I spent years building up even a basic cd collection of tango music, involving visits to Argentina and cumbersome mail ordering with lots and lots of red tape, I was almost shocked the first time I heard someone discuss how he just copied the entire music collection of another dj to help him start out as a dj.

Now, as other technological and economical change, this may have made life more difficult for the already established djs. The upside was that it became incredibly much easier for everybody else, and it generally led to more varied and over time to better music selection in the milongas around the world, at the very least in smaller communities.

As more and more people got access to the tango classics, the dj fanatics would dig out unknown jewels from various sources, or replace their beloved tracks with higher quality transfers to differentiate themselves from the crowd. Soon some of the ‘new’ songs became hits, and djs all over widened their selection. There is a flip side to this too, of course. Some songs get overplayed for a while, and some djs get carried away by the collector’s syndrome, trying to impress their fellow dancers with obscure, undanceble tracks (that really sounds like a good idea to impress dancers, right?). All in all that seems like a small problem compared to how overplayed a lot of music was when the selection was more  limited. Some djs consistently play crap, of course, but even they are often an improvement from playing the one available cd from El Bandoneón on repeat. The one which skips in the same place every time you play it. And with lower barriers to entry comes increased variety and competition. The dancers could simply move to the next dj that played nice tango music and leave the crap for an empty floor.

Today a beginner dancer or dj can start playing quality tango music from Spotify instantly that would take ages and cost a fortune to collect just 10-15 years ago.

So when djs that were a bit ahead of the curve think back to the time it felt like an endless walk in the desert trying to get the local tango community up to speed music wise: it turns out it was just the sea pulling back in the instant before the tsunami hit.

Felix Picherna | Tengo una pregunta para vos

2014 September 2

Felix Picherna is a legend, and he was clearly the first tango dj to make a lasting impression in me. Sitting with his cassette deck, rewinding the prepared tandas, live commenting the upcoming music with the microphone. Unforgettable.

Enjoy this video from the excellent “Tengo una pregunta para vos” series by Pepa Palazón, that I just recently found time to start watching. There are several gems there, and the most recent ones are subtitled in English (that includes this one).

I also really enjoyed the ones with Vanina Bilous, Olga Besio and Guillermina Quiroga, and I still have quite a few to go.

Encyclopedia of Tango

2014 April 19


Gabriel Valiente has released a dictionary of Tango which contains discographies of most tango orchestras. It was meant to be released as an ebook, but is only available in paper edition at the moment. I think it looks interesting, but find that kind of information is generally vastly more useful when available electronically, in a format that is searchable and sortable etc. I hope Gabriel finds a way to release the full dataset as well as his book.

The book can be ordered at createspace or from amazon, and there is also a facebook page for the book.

EDIT: There is also a kindle edition available now.

Masochism Tango | Tom Lehrer

2014 April 11
by Simba

This is a long term favorite, no wonder people have the freakiest ideas about us tango dancers… It should clear up once and for all, that dancing tango is not any fun.

I never knew much about Tom Lehrer, though. I recommend this excellent BuzzFeed piece on Tom Lehrer, in addition to checking out his other oevre of course. It has generally aged pretty well.

Tango Negro, The African Roots of Tango

2014 April 2
by Simba

Now this looks interesting, a documentary about the African roots of tango. It’s featuring Juan Carlos Cáceres (of “Tango Negro” fame), of which I’m a great fan. One of the best concerts I ever attended was with Cáceres and band and Facundo & Kely Posadas performing.

You can read a bit more about the documentary at the ADIFF film festival pages.


The Impossibility of Re-Creating the Tango of Times Gone By

2014 March 27
by Simba
First Impressionism by OldOnliner, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  by  OldOnliner 

There is a paradox concerning my relationship with tango, and maybe with tango itself. On one hand, I want to learn from the sources, learn the ‘true’ tango.  If that even exists. On the other hand, I want to see progress, to move on, and to find or invent ‘my own’ tango. Which may not exist, either. This tension between a certain nostalgia and  the Sisyphean quest for the authentic, and the longing for progress, a rational approach, the tension between being controlled by the tango and taking control over the tango is at once frustrating and tantalizing.

We are, inescapably, products of our time. The way we dress, the way we talk and the way we move has changed in numerous ways over the years, not to mention growing up on a different continent. How the times we live in manifest themselves in people was beautifully captured by this interesting reflection upon the remake of the classic movie ‘Psycho’  in an article in The NewYorker:

The way that people carry themselves—their posture, their gestures, and even the micro-gestures, the sense of sharpness or tremulousness, the brusqueness or smoothness of movements, the pointedness or curves of joints, the decisive rapidity or easy offhandedness with which they move, and the precision or meander of speech—conveys more about their personality and their times than the overt signifiers of fashion or vocabulary.

I mentioned once before how I was fascinated by the refined, elegant movements  of’El Flaco’ Dany when he lit a cigarette. This fascination is despite me generally finding the the habit of smoking despicable. Still there was something about about his way, the micro-gestures, the way he carried himself that stays with me. I would never be able to make his way of lighting a cigarette my own, even if I tried. Even if I worked hard, the best I could hope to achieve would be a superficial resemblance, a bleak copy. A fraud.

We may learn from the best, the ones that lived during the golden age of tango, or at least from those few who remain.  We may keep trying, but we will never dance their tango. We are left to find our own.