Tango in New Zealand Tango in New Zealand

Tango to Tango II - Other Music

Page 1 - Tango Orchestras Page 2 - Other Music Page 3 - Postscript

Astor Piazzolla

This is Astor Piazzolla's "Simple":

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[Astor Piazzolla - Simple]

Astor Piazzolla was famous worldwide, and his music is often played by foreign musicians when they want to try tango.

You'll find in the music instruments we haven't encountered so far - apart from the bandoneón and piano, there's electric guitar and electric bass. You may have also noticed that the music sounds quite alot different from the other examples of tango. For some, the departure Piazzolla made from traditional tango is so great that it's not tango any more. Piazzolla himself was inclined to call it "music of Buenos Aires" rather than "tango".

The music is very unpredictable, with long sections with no discernable beat, or with long pauses. The melodies can be sublime, but also deeply weird. I have heard this particular piece of music described as belonging in a horror movie soundtrack.

When I first heard Piazzolla, I hoped that one day I'd be good enough to dance to his music. These days, I find his music interesting to listen to, but for me more in the way I'd listen to jazz, and it doesn't make me want to dance. Piazzolla isn't generally played in Buenos Aires milongas (although there are exceptions), but his music is played by alot of contemporary tango orchestras.

However, there are dancers who can't get enough of him, and feel that his music unleashes their expressive potential as dancers. And he did compose music that was more danceable than this example - most notably "Libertango".

Hugo Diaz

This is Hugo Diaz's version of "Milonga Triste":

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[Hugo Diaz - Milonga Triste]

Again, this features an instrument we haven't heard yet - harmonica. Like Juanjo Domínguez, Hugo Diaz normally played other types of music, but made forays into tango. This particular tango was made famous by Sally Potter's film "The Tango Lesson".

Many find it hauntingly sad, and very emotional to dance to. The lyricism of the harmonica is offset by the reliable rhythm laid down by the guitar, which makes it lovely to dance to whether you're a rhythm-following dancer or a melody-following dancer.

Again, this is a musician you'd almost never hear in a milonga in Buenos Aires.


This is the Gotan Project's version of "Vuelvo al Sur":Buy this on CD

[Gotan Project - Vuelvo Al Sur]

The Gotan Project are an early example of a growing genre of 'electrotango' - electronic music that features some elements of tango. In many cases, the only common thread is the presence of a bandoneón, however in this case, they're playing an electronic version of well established tango - this is "Vuelvo al Sur" played by Piazzolla with Goyeneche singing:Buy this on CD

[Roberto Goyeneche & Astor Piazzolla - Vuelvo Al Sur]

There are other cases where the music features samples of traditional tango, just as electronic music in general uses samples from other styles of music, for example Bajofondo's "Duro y Parejo" uses samples from D'Arienzo recordings:

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[Bajofondo Tango Club - Duro y Parejo]

Here is the original D'Arienzo:

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[Juan D'Arienzo - A la Gran Muñeca]

The range of influence from tango in electrotango can vary from interpreting a tango, to sampling, to including bandoneóns, to nothing particularly obvious - here is Tanghetto's "Montevideo":

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[Tanghetto - Montevideo]

For some, electrotango is simply not for dancing tango to - it's electronic music, and if you want to dance to it, dance the way you would dance to other electronic music (or preferably, just turn that racket off!). For others, it's an exciting new turn, both for tango music, and for tango as a dance.

For me, it's the same as with traditional music - if listening to it makes you want to dance, go for it. But if the music doesn't move you, there's no need to suffer by trying to force yourself to dance. Some electrotango has a good pace for dancing, and has similar structural elements to traditional tango - different melody sections that repeat, get replaced by others, and then return later. Others are too slow or too fast, or have parts that are not easily danceable but too long to convincingly make a 'pause' in the dance.

It's also worth pointing out here that some refer to electrotango as "tango nuevo", which makes a certain sense from the perspective of it being a 'new' type of tango. However, there's also a 'new' type of dancing which is also called "tango nuevo". It's possible to dance "tango nuevo" (the dance style) to electrotango (the music style), but they don't necessarily go hand in hand. By and large, in "tango nuevo" dance classes and milongas, the music played is traditional tango (D'Arienzo, Pugliese, etc.), and plenty of people dance to electrotango music using the more traditional "salon" style of dance.


There is also an international tendency in milongas to play music that's not tango, not even electrotango.

There are lots of examples, from 'tango-sounding' music, to music that has nothing to do with tango, like Peggy Lee's Fever:

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[Peggy Lee - Fever]

As I said above, if the music makes you want to dance, then dance! This is music that isn't played in Buenos Aires milongas (for dancing tango to, at any rate), but is quite common in other parts of the world.

For me the important thing, as with all of the above examples, and in fact any music you might dance tango to, is that you dance because the music makes you want to, and you dance in a way that the music makes you want to move. It's important to choose what you dance to and how, and make the dance your own, rather that just do any old thing to any old music. Milongueros with years of experience don't even dance with any old person - they carefully select who they dance with to what music - this person for vals, that person for Pugliese, the other person for Biagi. They know what they like, but they also know what their partners like.

Next Page - Postscript

text: robert©fromont.net.nz August 2008


...on the streetcorners  pairs of men would dance, since the women of the town would not want to take part in such a lewd debauchery.

Jorge Luis Borges