Thoughts on 1950s Tangos

Many, perhaps most, Argentine Tango “experts” would walk out of a milonga if they heard a piece of late 1950s Tango music. They dismiss anything beyond 1953 as being Hollywood music. It isn’t “real Tango music”.

Personally I'd be delighted to go to a 1950s only milonga - but I draw the line at some bands such as Basso. That is indeed Hollywood background music. [Edit: I'll be DJing a Silken Age only Milonga on Saturday 18th November including at least one Basso tanda]

At the other end of the timescale If I wanted to listen to crackling and pops I'll open a bottle non-vintage Champagne and put my ear to the top of the bottle. [Try it]

And I definitely am not prepared to listen to a singer whose singing is worse than mine. Or a singer who not only cannot hold a note but who ignores the Tango music he is supposedly singing with and "speaks-sings" spoken recitative. I can do that myself quite nicely.

These days I almost only listen to Argentine Tango music and mainly Italian Opera. When I go to the Opera I know I'm getting Puccini. And not just Puccini but La Boheme and nothing from Turandot. Or maybe I’ll be at a Wagner opera and it will be Götterdämmerung and nothing from Die Meistersinger.

I'm not interested in a something for everyone concert with greatest hits even if I might enjoy each and every piece of music in its own context. So not only will I know the playlist but I'll have listened to the Opera or watched it on DVD perhaps carefully following the libretto.

At the Opera I am but a spectator but I will know the Opera well. As a Tango dancer I am performing and interpreting the music for my Tanguera. Therefore I far prefer music I know well especially if I know the lyrics to interpret and role play.

Oh and my Opera music is all “traditional”. I don't listen to any operas written after 1926. But I'm not going to listen to a quaint nostalgic crackly 1920s recording of Turandot. Even if the music is excellent the sound quality is poor. My Opera CDs are with a few exceptions recorded between 1975 and 2000.

So listening to current Tango bands / orchestras does not have to be listening to electro-punk Tango. There are some bands that are as good as and perhaps better than the originals even ignoring the sound quality. But there is a tendency in all “covers” whatever the genre to string the music out and thereby make it slower and less danceable.

So it would be nice if Tango DJs were much more individualistic and branded themselves as such according to their musical bent.

See later article on Época de Seda ' Silken Age of Tango 17th November 2017

Now I can be as awkward a customer as any tango “expert”. I know some DJs who play a lot of mixed tandas - even mixed singers. Mixed bands should be avoided within a Tanda (if I am in the milonga ;-) ) unless there is a very special occasion to be marked with selected songs illustrating the theme.

There is a milonga in Germany held in a disused train station and on the milonga anniversary they have a Train Tanda with mixed bands. I have an Edición Azul (Blue Edition) coming up (2nd September 2017) but even then I’ll have the “Azul” songs heading their own Tandas.

I get very shocked and annoyed when the male (or rarely female) singer changes within a Tanda; though changing male and female singers is fine with me as there is a marked contrast and an instrumental sorbet between a change of male singers can be fine. In fact I’d far rather have a mixed band tanda than a mixed singer tanda. I’ll play a Goyeneche Tanda soon.

Some DJs play 60% - 70% instrumentals and others hardly any. I have been told that “people” find vocal Tangos “boring.” On the other hand I find too many instrumentals one dimensional and lacking - in lyrics and a singer(s) obviously.

Well I did write earlier that I pretty much only listen to (Italian) opera and (Argentine) Tango. I don’t listen to piano recitals, violin concertos or even symphonies unless there is a personal connection such as a friend is performing.

For me it would be good if I knew that Tango DJ A's sets are packed with La Guardia Vieja; DJ B loves to play early La Guardia Nueva; TDJ C has lots of late Guardia Nueva; and if you love (don't like) Sassone, Federico and Salamanca best head for (avoid) weirdo Tango DJ D’s milongas.

There are plenty of milongas around. Yesterday even London had seven milongas. Let them all be different but all predictable in music style. I like to know what I am getting and I’ll even enjoy all of them for managing expectations.

So what do I like about 1950s Tango music?

  • Good quality sound;
  • Depth and emotional intensity of the songs;
  • Singers who can hold a note rather than sing-speak rap-recitative;
  • Singer and band obviously matching and not seemingly mixed together randomly;
  • Good clear diction of singers;
  • Strength of the violins balancing the bandoneons and piano.
  • Good memorable tunes to singalong and dance to.
  • Makes me smile throughout the tanda so softer more comfortable cheeks for my Tanguera to rest against.

Warren Edwardes

14th August 2017

A 1950s Tango Tanda - Fulvio Salamanca


Todo Es Amor

Tengo un Pecado Nuevo

Adios Corazón

A current Tango Orquesta in 1950s style - Romantica Milonguera

Esta noche de luna

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