Tango is not only a fascinating dance, but also a fascinating culture, idea, lifestyle, and philosophy. In many ways, tango is a metaphor of life. The pursuit of tango is the pursuit of connection, love, beauty, harmony and humanity, i.e., an idealism that is not consistent with the dehumanizing reality of the modern world. The world divides us as individuals, but tango unites us as a species. In tango we are not individualists, feminists, nationalists, liberals, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans, etc., but interconnected and interdependent members of the human family. We are humanists. Tango calls us to tear down the walls, to build bridges, and to regain humanity through connection, cooperation and compromise. If you share this conviction, please join the conversation and let your voice be heard, which is urgently needed and long overdue.

Together we can awaken the world.




October 9, 2011

The Signature of Tango


Music plays a critical role in tango. Lousy, unfamiliar, outlandish or non-tango songs never produced a beautiful tango. Well-performed tangos are all danced to excellent classic tango music, which is an inspiration indispensable for bringing the dancers’ skills into full play. Good classic tango music excites the dancers, stirs up their emotions, lifts their spirit, kindles their creativity, generates synergism, and leads to what the Argentinians called duende, an elated state in which the dancers perform exceptionally well. Without good music, there is little scope for even a master’s abilities.

There are thousands of tango songs available on market. Only a small portion is good, danceable songs. The majorities are mediocrities or junk songs unsuitable for tango dancing. The CD makers know how to make money. If they place good songs all in one CD, nobody will buy the junks. So they mix the good songs and the junk songs together. In a CD of twenty songs, perhaps only one or two are good, danceable songs and the rest are junks. The Argentinians know their music. They buy a CD for that one or two good songs and discard the rest. American tango tourists, on the other hand, buy a CD and play them all. Our bad collecting habit and bizarre taste keep haunting us. We collect junk music and steps just like we collect junk tools in our kitchen. Worse still, we show favoritism to eccentric and rare junks, such as exotic, non-tango and alternative music.

Experts all agree that familiarity with the music is essential to an exuberant tango experience. The Argentinians only play the best and well-known classic tango music in their milongas. They don’t even play rare and unfamiliar tango songs, still less outlandish and alternative music. Playing such music does a disservice to tango. It is weird. It lacks the richness and depth of classic tango music. It cannot bring the dancers’ skills into play. It changes tango to a hybrid dance and repels the seasoned dancers who in Argentina are treated with respect, free or discount admission, best seats, and their favorite classic tango music, because they are the mainstay of the milonga.

Classic tango music is the signature of tango. It is created and developed with tango and for tango. People recognize it and associate it with the dance when they hear it. There is a sentimental attachment between the two. In reality tango dance and classic tango music are two aspects of one thing called Argentine tango, inseparable as body and soul. The fact that tango can be danced to other musics doesn’t mean it can remain intact when so danced. One may dance tango to the music of Beijing opera, but that will not be tango. Alternative music from different cultural background does not have the same rhythmic structure and sentimental richness of classic tango music, which is passionate, multi-layered, manifold, changeful, deep and moody, allowing the freedom to interpret and improvise. (See The Characteristics of Classic Tango.) Any music sharing the same rhythmic structure and sentimental richness will be recognized as tango and not alternative music. By definition, alternative music is the music that lacks the structural and sentimental depth of tango, and therefore is not the best music for tango dancing. It only appeals to beginners deficient in good taste and musicality or weird dudes seeking novelty, and those who choose to pander to their taste in order to make money.

Those who love tango more than money, on the other hand, can do one thing for tango. If we meticulously select 500 best classic tango songs and play only them repeatedly in our milongas like the Argentinians do in their milongas in Buenos Aires, we will change our tango culture and raise the level of our dance in more ways than we can imagine. After all, tango is intimately related to its music. The better the music, the better the dance, the better the milonga, the better the community, and the better we all will be. (See My Two Cents on Music Selections.)

3 comments:

  1. Agreed. One way a tourist can get a good list of tango music is to buy a CD from a good DJ. At the milongas they have them for sale sometimes. I have some from Dani, a very fine DJ in BA. Later when I started playing music I realized that we should not re-invent the wheel. We play for the people who dance tango, and we must play tango tandas. There is a reason why they are all played to exclusion of the other thousands of tangos. Thanks for stating this so well.
    E

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  2. It's reassuring to read about the importance of the music and how it shapes the character of a milonga and a community.

    We want to make sure you have a look at the way we put together music for educational purposes as well.

    www.planet-tango.com/music.htm

    Keep up the good work.

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  3. "If you can dance, you can dance to any music" I wish I had a pound for every time I have heard this. The only way we can educate the masses who can never get to Buenos aires is to keep plugging the greats. There is (as you so rightly say) a good reason that they play the same music over and over, It is simply the best to dance to.
    As a way of collecting music I would recomend buying the RCA collections of the great artists like Di'Sarli and Canaro, that way you get everything and no duplications.

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