Saturday, April 26, 2008


Man Yung and I started to rent studio space to dance by ourselves over a year ago - we weren't completely satisfied with the music that we were hearing at the milongas and renting a studio and playing our own music was one way (short of opening our own milonga) that we can enjoy dancing to some tracks that were rarely played elsewhere.

It was just supposed to be a pleasant way to spend time together dancing for an hour or two hours, but Man Yung had to turn it into a weekly tango boot camp! Well, that's another story, but one good thing that came out of it was that I got plenty of practice making up my own playlists of tracks that we wanted to hear and dance (or practice) to.

There's some pretty good DJ's in Toronto - DJs who either have a natural ear for the music, and who are able to gage the feeling of the crowd and adjust the intensity of the music accordingly (for example Michael at Mad for Tango on Saturdays), or who are expert dancers with great musicality and who can tell instinctively what music would be just be perfect for dancing to (for example Victor at Milonga Sentimental on Sundays).* There's a lot I've learned from listening to the DJ's here and in Buenos Aires - in terms of what to play and when to play it, and for what kind of crowd. There's one very important lesson that I always keep in mind, which is that you have to change your music all the time every time. No matter how much you love playing that particular set of D'Arienzo and how much the people seem to really like it the "nth" time you have played it, behind your back you are being cursed by your patrons who are saying "Goddammit, ________ is playing that same playlist AGAIN! I can predict what's coming for the next ten tandas!"

These days we rent studio space for one hour before the milonga at Mad for Dance studios - it's just the two of us, and whoever wants to show up can practice for free during our time slot if they want to (hi Jani and Kristina!) - and I play different music every week. The following is a list of loose guidelines I have made for myself for making the playlist for the one hour practica:

1. The playlist lasts approximately one hour: two tandas of four tracks each of tango, followed by a tanda of three tracks of either vals or milonga, then two tandas of four tracks each of tango, and ending with a tanda of three tracks of vals or milonga

2. There must be at least one tanda of Di Sarli tango, but no more than two (we are working on pausing and tango salon steps right now, and Di Sarli is perfect for this kind of practice. Another reason is that Man Yung really loves Di Sarli). If there are two tandas of Di Sarli, one must be intense - a late Di Sarli instrumental, or Di Sarli with later singers like Jorge Duran or Roberto Florio. The other can be either an earlier rhythmic Di Sarli or Di Sarli with Alberto Podesta or Roberto Rufino.

3. If there is only one tanda of Di Sarli, there should also be another intense tango tanda - Pugliese, Gobbi, later Troilo, or Color Tango for example. Again, perfect for practicing pausing and tango salon.

4. The rest of the tango tandas have to be rhythmic and "milonguero" - Laurenz, D'Arienzo, Biagi, Rodriguez, Tanturi etc. so we can dance a little fun close embrace milonguero style in between tandas of tango salon. It also gives us a fresh perspective when we are dancing - I played only Di Sarli for an entire hour once and it was agony on my feet and bad for anger management having Man Yung practice the same extra long salon steps again and again for the whole hour.

This is what we are playing tonight:

Osvaldo Fresedo with Ricardo Ruiz:
Vida querida
Y no puede ser
Despues de carnival

I'm in love with Ricardo Ruiz's voice right now - he has a light and fragile tenor, full of vulnerability, but perfect for creating a dreamy lyrical feeling with Fresedo's orchestra. The way his voice caresses the words when he sings "Vida, vida querida" or "Una plegaria" brings shivers down my spine. And "Despues de carnival" is a personal favourite - it's one of the theme songs in "Milonguisimo" and it brings back memories of all our favourite milongueros dancing in the show.

Carlos Di Sarli with Jorge Duran
Vieja Luna
Para que te quiero tanto

I chose a lighter-hearted Di Sarli tango to start, so that there wouldn't be too much of a contrast from the floating, dreamy Fresedo that went before it. "Vieja Luna" continues with similar beginning and mood as "Yo", but with more rhythmic intensity. "Gracias" amplifies the rhythm from "Vieja Luna" and adds a element of passion. The last track in the tanda is more lyrical, and brings everything down a notch so that we can progress to the vals in the next tanda.

Vals - Edgardo Donato
Una luz en tus ojos
Estrellita mia
La Tapera

Donato really knows his vals - you can fly on the compas, and his melodies are so sweet, it's like heaven. The first track has a longer intro to gradually introduce us into the compas and mood of vals after the more intense Di Sarli. "Estrellita mia" is charming. And "La Tapera" is beautiful beyond words - especially if you have seen it danced with emotion and elegance by Alberto Dassieu and Paulina Spinoso or Osvaldo and Coca Cartery on YouTube.

Alfredo De Angelis Instrumentals
Sin Aliento
Mi Dolor

This tanda brings us back to business - practicing steps. I'm not a big fan of De Angelis, I find his music a tad commercial sometimes, but the great fidelity of these instrumentals and the mood that the tracks convey (a little show tango anyone?) makes this tanda a great bridge to Pugliese (OK, I admit it, I think "Pavadita" and "Mi Dolor" are pretty great).

Osvaldo Pugliese Instrumentals
El Arranque
El Refran
Si sos brujo
De Floreo

Why do DJs just play "Chique", "Nochero Soy", "Gallo Ciego" etc., milonga after milonga? Pugliese has such a rich recording legacy and danceable sound, for god's sake, please venture out of the top ten sometimes! I have started this tanda with the contemplative and lyrical "El Arranque" - it's got all the great Pugliese elements, but it's less heart-poundingly dramatic than some of his more well known tracks. The melodic quality of "El Arranque" continues with "El Refran" - which has this moody "refrain" that makes me think of a young Alain Delon in a trenchcoat driving to some secret rendevous at midnight in the rain. Anyway. "Si sos brujo" turns it all up a notch, but is still similar to the tracks before in that you have to be patient and listen hard to uncover the beautiful melody and refrains - but it's worth it once you feel it. I ended the tanda with "De Floreo" - driving compas from the bandoneon, high drama, soaring violin melodies that tug at your heart, and didn't Milena Plebs and Ezequiel Farfaro perform to it in Cosmotango 2004? Nothing like a little cosmotango association to intensify your dancing pleasure ;)

Milonga - Angel D'Agostino with Angel Vargas
Asi me gusta a mi
Senores, yo soy del centro
En lo de Laura

I think Angel Vargas is a great singer, one of our absolute top favourites - I once made a wish I would like to dance like the way he sings. His voice is so "tango tango". But I don't think the way he sings is well-suited for vals or milonga - I don't know how to explain it, is it because of the "storytelling" style of his singing? His milongas with D'Agostino are all pleasant and smooth - as Keith Elshaw once said "hot in a cool way" - but I prefer the more primitive rhythmic drive of milongas by Canaro and D'Arienzo. Still, it's good to dance to D'Agostino/Vargas milongas once in a while.

*There are also DJs who are too preoccupied with showing off their superior encyclopedic knowledge and vast music collection to care about playing music for dancers, DJs who aren't really listening to what the @$#@%!!! they are playing because they would rather turn down the music to chat, and DJs who play undanceable "international/alternative tango" tracks tanda after tanda to drive all the dancers off the dance floor and into the street, but that's a topic for another post.


Unknown said...

thanks for the great music suggestions and the wonderful explanations as to why you chose what you chose.
I love your blog very funny and so true. Keep writing and I'll keep reading. See you both on the dance floor.

MIM Tango said...

An excellent past 2 posts!

Damn it! We want to dance to the practica playlist you've made for tonight... stupid TTC is keeping us home :( It's interesting that you're ending with a D'Agostino tanda as Jani & i were just listening to him before we read your post. Vargas is such a lovely singer!

The previous post made us laugh quite hysterically :) We have been so annoyed with the tango combos that have been "created" lately. I supposed it's particularly annoying because tango is unlike every other mainstream partner dance - it's a culture and it is NOT made up of steps. So how can the "steps" of tango be combined with another dance or movement?? Ridiculous! I suppose you've also heard of FoxTango and Jango? Retch!

Irene and Man Yung said...

Dear Susanita, Jani and Kristina,

Thanks for your comments, and for enjoying the music (suggestions). I am planning to make a playlist post before every practica - it's fun and good practice for me to write out my rationale for playing the music that I have chosen - because god knows how some DJ's are making their playlists. Is it through Tarot cards? Extispicy? Magic 8 Ball? You just have to wonder sometimes.

Unknown said...

Hi Irene & Man Yung,

As you have probably heard me saying many times, your selection of music is pretty good, it’s amazing how much you know about Tango music and the fact that you also have a brilliant memory that helps me identify certain tangos at the milongas makes your music skills even more fascinating to me. Even though Saturday is not a Tango night for me and I don’t get to listen to your tango selection every week at least I get to enjoy your great selection of tangos, valses and milongas by listening to your CD’s pretty much every day,

Thanks for sharing your favorite music with the community hopefully we all get something good out of it.

Hasta pronto!

Veronica ;o)

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