Tango DJ Fundamentals: Part 1 – Selecting Music for Dancing and Tanda Construction

December 6, 2016

 

  • The music selected for play by a Tango DJ at a milonga has a significant effect on the enjoyment experienced by dancers.
  • The recordings selected by DJs in Buenos Aires milongas, as well as the stated preferences of experienced tango DJs and dancers worldwide can provide good guidelines for tango DJs regarding the selection of music to play at a milonga.
  • The music played for dancing in Buenos Aires milongas generally has a clear rhythm and a consistent tempo. Many selections also posess emotional intensity. Most of the music played is familiar to experienced dancers, which facilitates improvisation on the music. Tango DJs should follow these guidelines, which limit the diversity of music played for dancing, rather than providing for dancing a wide selection of music that includes some obscure recordings, or recordings that lack a clear rhythm, constant tempo, or sufficient emotional intensity.
  • Given these desirable qualities of music for dancing tango, the following recommendations are made:
    • The preferred music for dancing at milongas is primarily that of the orchestras of Carlos Di Sarli (tangos and milongas 1940s, instrumental tangos 1950s), Juan D’Arienzo (1930s, early to mid 1940s), Anibal Troilo (early 1940s), Osvaldo Pugliese (instrumental tangos 1940s), and Francisco Canaro (milongas 1930s). It would be wise for a tango DJ to include recordings from each of these orchestras at every milonga, possibly even 2 or more tandas each from Di Sarli, D’Arienzo, and Troilo. The recordings of these orchestras provide a clear rhythm and constant tempo for dancing and usually convey a palpable degree of emotional intensity.
    • These primary selections can be supplemented with recordings from the orchestras of Ricardo Tanturi (tangos and valses 1940s), Rodolfo Biagi (tangos and valses 1940s), Miguel Calo (tangos with vocals early 1940s), Edgardo Donato (milongas and valses late 1930s), Angel D’Agostino (tango with vocals by Angel Vargas 1940s), and Enrique Rodriguez (tangos with vocals by Armando Moreno 1940s). These orchestras also provide music with a clear rhythm and constant tempo for dancing, and often sufficient emotional intensity.
    • Additonal good music for dancing can sometimes be selected from the orchestras of Alfredo De Angelis (valses with vocal duos by Carlos Dante & Julio Martel late 1940s, tango instrumentals 1950s), Pedro Laurenz (tangos with vocals by Alberto Podesta early 1940s), Osvaldo Fresedo (tangos 1930s), and Lucio Demare (tangos with vocals early 1940s).
    • The 1950s instrumental tangos of the Pugliese orchestra are in high demand by dancers because of their emotional intensity but many dancers cannot stay connected to this music because of its variable tempo. A tango DJ can select this music for play if there is a sufficient number of skilled dancers at a milonga.
    • Tango DJs should give low priority to playing music from the ochestras (and smaller ensembles) of Francisco Lomuto, Orquesta Tipica Victor / Adolfo Carabelli, Roberto Firpo, Ricardo Malerba, Jose Garcia, Alfredo Gobbi, Enrique Francini – Armando Pontier, and Julio De Caro, as well as recordings from the 1920s. This music has a low priority for selection for one or more of the following reasons: (1) lack of a clear rhythm, (2) variable tempo, (3) low energy, (4) limited availability and familiarity of recordings. These recordings are played rarely in Buenos Aires milongas.
  • The music played at milongas is grouped into tandas (sets) of 4 tangos, 3 or 4 valses, and 3 milongas. The recordings selected for a tanda should be homogeneous with respect to rhythm, tempo, and emotional intensity. This is generally accomplished by grouping together songs from the same orchestra during a narrow time period, usually having the same singer. This may not be possible for tandas of milonga and vals, for which it is not uncommon to have mixed tandas comprised of music from several orchestras.

 

During the Golden Age of tango (1930s – mid 1950s), tango orchestras played live music for dancing at milongas in Buenos Aires. In Buenos Aires milongas today, playing recorded Classic Tango music from some of these orchestras for dancing is the norm. At most milongas worldwide, Tango DJs also provide play recordings of tango music from the Golden Age for dancing. Although there has been some experimentation in the last decade or so with playing alternatives to Classic Tango music for dancing, in 2016 the overwhelming majority of milongas worldwide play only Classic Tango music or play very little Tango Alternative music.

The DJ has a major impact on dancing at a milonga. If the music played is uninspiring, dancers will not enter onto the dance floor. If the music lacks a clear rhythm or has a varying tempo, dancers may become disconnected from the music. If the music is unfamiliar, dancers will not be able to anticipate the flow of the music and improvise accordingly. If the music lacks emotional intensity, dancers may go through the motions of dancing steps, but will not have a satisfying emotional experience. Most DJs in Buenos Aires milongas know how to provide music for dancing that is satisfying to dancers, bringing them out onto the dance floor to connect with the music, improvise on the rhythm, melody, and phrasing, feel the emotion in the music and communicate what they feel to their partners.

There is a wide variety of Classic Tango music available for selection by a DJ at a milonga. In this post, recorded music of the tango dance orchestras of the Golden Age will be examined with respect to suitability for play at a milonga. The linking of songs into a tanda (set) will also be examined. In a subsequent post, the DJ’s role in the management of the overall sequence of music played at a milonga will be examined. 

 

Selection of Music from Golden Age Tango Orchestras

Recorded music for dancing at milongas is organized into tandas (sets) of music with the same basic rhythmic form (tango, milonga, or vals). The standard arrangement in Buenos Aires milongas is a tanda of 4 tangos, 3 or 4 valses, or 3 milongas, with the songs selected from recordings of the same orchestra from the same time period in the Golden Age (1930s – 50s). For milonga and vals it is sometimes difficult to find 3 or 4 songs with similar qualities from the same orchestra that are suitable for dancing, and in these cases a ‘mixed’ tanda containing recordings from several orchestras may be constructed; in rare cases, mixed tandas of tangos with similar qualities may be appropriate.

A tango DJ has the opportunity to select from the recorded music of about 20-30 tango orchestras from the Golden Age. The orchestras from which music for dancing usually is selected includes the following orchestras listed by Anton Sukhanov and Bernhard Gehberger: Rodolfo Biagi, Miguel Calo, Francisco Canaro, Adolfo Carabelli, Angel D’Agostino, Juan D’Arienzo, Alfredo De Angelis, Julio De Caro, Lucio Demare, Carlo Di Sarli, Edgardo Donato, Roberto Firpo, Osvaldo Fresedo, Jose Garcia, Alfredo Gobbi, Enrique Francini & Armando Pontier, Pedro Laurenz, Francisco Lomuto, Ricardo Malerba, Orquesta Tipica Victor (OTV), Osvaldo Pugliese, Enrique Rodriguez, Ricardo Tanturi, and Anibal Troilo. However, the recordings of some orchestras are played more than others, due to differences in suitability for dancing and their appeal to dancers.

In selecting music for play at milongas, the decisions made by DJs at Buenos Aires milongas are a useful guide. There appears to be only one quantitative survey of the frequency with which different orchestras were played at Buenos Aires milongas, that conducted in 2008 by Ron Weigel of the Tango Society of Central Illinois of 14 Milongas del Centro. According to this survey, the music of the following orchestras was played most often:

  • Tango: D’Arienzo (14.8%), Di Sarli (14.8%), Troilo (8.5%), Biagi (7.4%), Tanturi (7.4%), Pugliese (6.3%), D’Agostino (6.3%), Calo (5.7%), Rodriguez (5.1%).
  • Milonga: Canaro (25.0%), Mixed (22.2%), D’Arienzo (19.4%), Di Sarli (16.7%), Donato (11.1%)
  • Vals: D’Arienzo (32.4%), Mixed (29.7%), Biagi (10.8%), Troilo (8.1%), De Angelis (5.4%)

It is not known to what degree selection of these milongas may bias the results compared to all milongas in Buenos Aires; however, the results are consistent with personal (subjective) impressions derived from a wider variety of milongas (although still primarily Milongas del Centro) over a more extended time period. These results are correlated with results reported in a Tango Tecnia 2014 worldwide survey of tango dancers, which indicated that dancers’ preferred orchestras for dancing were D’Arienzo (81.28% of respondents), Di Sarli (78.02%), Pugliese (72.87%), Troilo (68.03%), Canaro (60.88%), Calo (53.7%), and De Angelis (51.21%), as well as SuperSabino’s survey of tango DJs (mostly European), whose opinions of ‘must-play’ orchestras for milongas included D’Arienzo (68% of DJs), Di Sarli (66%), Canaro (32%), Troilo (32%), Pugliese (15%), and Biagi (12%); when focusing specifically on tandas of vals and milonga, the SuperSabino survey also reported DJ preferences for mixed tandas of milonga and vals, as well as a preference for milonga tandas of only Canaro. The primary consistencies among these 3 surveys with respect to one orchestra tandas are a preference for D’Arienzo, Di Sarli, Troilo and Pugliese overall, and a preference for Canaro for tandas of milonga.

 

Recommendations for Music Selection at Milongas by Orchestra

Listed below are recommendations for music selection at milongas by orchestra.  The orchestras considered for inclusion are those that recorded music for dancing tango durong the Golden Age (1930s to 1950s), essentially the list provided by Anton Sukhanov, with a few additions. The orchestras are listed in a general order from most favorable to least favorable for inclusion for play at a milonga. Some of the best selections from each particular orchestra are highlighted, as well as limitations of the music from each orchestra for play at a milonga. [An asterisk (*) placed next to a class of recordings indicates that these selections are intended primarily when the average skill level of dancers is high.] Dates of recordings are given because tango orchestras often made multiple recordings of the same tango composition. Recording dates are those provided by Anton Sukhanov, Bernhard Gehberger or Tobias Conradi.

Recommendations for music selection are based on the qualities of music for dancing, specifically a clear rhythm and a constant tempo, as well as the possession of emotional intensity. Familiarity of music to dancers, as determined by their readiness to enter the dance floor, as experienced at milongas in Buenos Aires, North America and (to some degree) Europe, is also an important factor. Knowledge of tango music and its impact on dancing has been influenced significantly by more than a decade of experience as a tango DJ. The results of the surveys of tango music preferences reported in the previous section also have influenced the recommendations made. Nevertheless, the Gold Standard for recommendation of recordings for play at milongas is how often they are played for dancing at Buenos Aires milongas, as determined from personal observations. Within this standard it is recognized that there are differences among tango DJs in Buenos Aires, although this variation is less with respect to the range of music selected for dancing than with respect to tanda construction and the flow of music throughout the milonga. It should also be noted that there are developing tango DJs in Buenos Aires as well, although exposure to experienced DJs who need to satisfy the most demanding dancers is a factor that enhances the faster development of tango DJs in Buenos Aires.

Comments are made regarding the frequency of play at milongas of music from the orchestras listed and, in some cases, the responses of dancers to the music played. There is undoubtedly some bias in reporting frequency of play of different kinds of music at North American milongas, due to nonsystematic (i.e., opportunistic) sampling. It should also be noted that there is considerable variation in the repertoires of music selected for dancing among tango DJs in North America, considerably more than in Buenos Aires, where there is more uniformity.

For each orchestra, links to additional background information (biography and evaluation of music) is provided from Mike Lavocah [UK], Keith Elshaw [Toronto], and Todotango [Argentina]. The opinions expressed on these websites do not necessarily coincide with the opinions expressed in this post.

 

I. Essential Tango Orchestras

Recordings from these orchestras should be played at every milonga. Neglecting to include music from these orchestras at a milonga deprives dancers of the opportunity to dance to the best tango music available for dancing.

 

(1) Carlos Di Sarli  [milonga.co.uk]  [Todotango]  [ToTango]

The orchestra of Carlos Di Sarli made many recordings from 1939 until 1958. There were many tango instrumentals recorded that varied in tempo and rhythmic structure over different time periods (e.g., Catamarca 1940, Milonguero viejo 1944, Bar Exposicion 1952, Bahia Blanca 1957). In the earlier periods, there were many tangos with vocal accompaniment by Roberto Rufino (Corazon 1939, Canta pajarito 1943), Alberto Podesta (Tu … el cielo y tu 1944, Dejame no quiero verte mas 1947), and Jorge Duran (Tu intimo secreto 1945, Tus labios me diran 1945). Almost all of the tangos of the Di Sarli orchestra during the 1940s are suitable for dancing and multiple tandas of these are usually played at Buenos Aires milongas.

Tangos with vocals from the 1950s [1951-53 Music Hall recordings with Mario Pomar (e.g, Domani 1952) and Oscar Serpa (e,g., Clavel del aire 1952); 1955-56 RCA Victor recordings with Roberto Florio (Buenos Aires 1956). Argentino Ledesma (Fumando espero 1956, and Mario Pomar (Corazon 1955] are, in most cases, more or less acceptable for dancing, but not all have the clear and constant rhythmic structure of the recordings of the Di Sarli orchestra from the 1940s, in part because of the dominance of the vocals (and the melody in general) and their independence from the underlying rhythm. Di Sarli tangos with vocals from the 1950s are rarely played in the milongas of Buenos Aires. In contrast, Di Sarli tango instrumentals from the 1950s have a clearer rhythm and more consistent tempo (A la gran muñeca 1954, Una fija 1958), and are played regularly at Buenos Aires milongas, but are not as omnipresent as are the tangos from the 1940s.

Recordings of the Di Sarli orchestra also are played frequently in milongas in North America. One apparent difference from Buenos Aires is that tango instrumentals from the 1950s are played more frequently in North American milongas, where they appear to be almost obligatory, compared to Buenos Aires milongas, where preference is given to Di Sarli tangos from the 1940s.

Some North American DJs play tangos from the Di Sarli sextet that recorded from 1929 to 1931. Some of these recordings are more or less acceptable for dancing (Belen 1929), but many lack the energy of the 1940s recordings of the Di Sarli orchestra (e.g., T.B.C. 1928). Recordings of the Di Sarli sextet appear not to be played in Buenos Aires milongas.

The Di Sarli orchestra has a relatively small selection of recordings in the milonga rhythm. The best of these for dancing are those with Rufino providing vocals (e.g., Pena mulatta 1941, Yo soy de San Telmo 1943). Connection to the rhythm of these milongas may be difficult for beginner level tango dancers due to the more subtle rhythm.. These recordings are played regularly in Buenos Aires milongas, less frequently in North American milongas.

The Di Sarli orchestra also made a small number or recordings in the vals rhythm. Some of these that are most acceptable for dancing are those with Rufino as vocalist (e.g., Alma mia 1940, Rosamel 1940). These recordings are played sometimes in Buenos Aires milongas, as well as in North American milongas. Connection to the rhythm of these valses may be difficult for beginner level tango dancers due to the subtlety of the rhythm.

  • Di Sarli best selections:
    • Tango with vocals by Rufino, Podesta, or Duran (1940s)
    • Tango instrumentals (1940s)
    • Tango instrumentals (1950s)
    • Milongas with vocals by Rufino (1940s)*

 

(2) Juan D’Arienzo  [milonga.co.uk]  [ToTango]

Juan D’Arienzo was known as ‘El Rey del Compas’ (The king of the beat) and his upbeat music with a clear hard rhythm and rapid tempo inspired many dancers to dance during the Golden Age. His orchestra made many recordings during the late 1930s, the 1940s, and the 1950s.

Highly suitable for dancing due to a clear consistent rhythm are tango instrumentals from the late 1930s (e.g., El flete 1936, El Cachafaz 1937) and tangos with vocals by Alberto Echagüe in the late 1930s (e.g., Pensalo bien 1938, La bruja 1938) and by Hector Maure in the early 1940s (e.g., Dime el amor 1941, Mirame en la cara 1942). Also highly suitable for dancing are instrumental valses (e.g., Amor y celos 1936, Lagrimas y sonrisas 1936) and instrumental milongas  (e.g., La puñalada 1937, Milonga vieja milonga 1937), and milongas with vocals (e.g., Silueta porteña 1936, La cicatriz 1939) recorded during the late 1930s. Recordings of this type are played frequently in the milongas of Buenos Aires and North America.

After the departure of pianist Rodolfo Biagi in 1938, the D’Arienzo orchestra started playing a faster tempo music with a harder beat (e.g., the instrumental tango Maipo 1939, the tango with vocals by Echagüe: Mandria 1939, the instrumental milonga Corrales viejos 1943, the vals with vocals by Hector Maure: La serenata de ayer 1941). Some tango dancers find the harshness of the rhythm and the more rapid tempo annoying and prefer to dance to the recordings of the D’Arienzo orchestra from the 1930s. Nevertheless, these recordings are played regularly in the milongas of Buenso Aires and by most tango DJs in North America. However, recordings of the D’Arienzo orchestra from the late 1940s and later (e.g., Derecho viejo 1948, Loca 1955) tend to have an even sharper beat and/or faster tempo and these are played rarely in Buenos Aires milongas, although some North American DJs play recordings from the D’Arienzo orchestra as late as the 1960s (La morocha 1963La puñalada 1963).

Notably, it is the recordings of the D’Arienzo orchestra when Biagi was the pianist that are favored by tango DJs in Buenos Aires milongas.

  • D’Arienzo best selections:
    • Instrumental tangos 1930s
    • Instrumental valses 1930s
    • Milongas 1930s
    • Tangos with vocals by Echagüe 1930s
    • Tangos with vocals by Marure early 1940s

 

Tango DJs in Buenos Aires often play multiple tandas of recordings from both the Di Sarli and the D’Arienzo orchestras during a milonga. For Di Sarli, most likely to be played are multiple tandas of tango, for D’Arienzo a tanda of tangos and a tanda of instrumental valses.

 

(3) Anibal Troilo  [milonga.co.uk]  [Todotango]

Recordings of the Anibal Troilo orchestra are available from 1938 onward. The best recordings for dancing are those from the early 1940s, which have a clear rhythm and emotion filled melodies. Recordings from this era suitable for dancing include instrumental tangos (e.g., Milongueando en el 40 1941, Cachirulo 1941), and tangos with vocals by Francisco Fiorentino (e.g., Tinta roja 1941, Toda mi vida 1941) that are part of the mainstay of a DJ’s programming repertoire in Buenos Aires milongas. There are also some valses (e.g., Temblando 1941, Tu diagnostico 1941) and milongas (e.g., Mano brava 1941, Papa baltasar 1942) that are played in Buenos Aires on a somewhat regular basis.

There are some tango recordings of the Troilo orchestra from the mid to late 1940s that are somewhat more difficult to dance to because of varying tempo (e.g., Inspiracion 1943, Color de rosa 1945); these recordings are not played regularly in Buenos Aires milongas, but are played by some North American Tango DJs.

There are some late 1940s recordings, e,g,, valses with vocals by Floreal Ruiz (Flor de lino 1947, Romance de barrio 1947) that are suitable for dancing. However, there are numerous recordings from the Troilo orchestra in the mid to late 1940s that are less suitable for dancing due to a somewhat uneven tempo and less clear rhythm (e.g., tangos with vocals by Floreal Ruiz, including Yuyo verde 1945, La noche que te fuiste 1945; tangos with vocals by Alberto Marino, including Uno 1943, La vi llegar 1944) . These tangos are rarely played in Buenos Aires milongas; they are played occasionally in North American milongas.

After 1947, the music of the Troilo orchestra changed to be unsuitable for dancing due to the lack of a constant tempo [e.g., tango instrumentals (Responso 1951), and tangos with vocals by Edmundo Rivero (Sur 1948) or Raul Beron (El choclo 1952]. Recordings of the Troilo orchestra from this period are not played in Buenos Aires milongas and are played rarely in North American milongas.

  • Troilo best selections:
    • Tango instrumentals early 1940s
    • Tangos with vocals by Fiorentino early 1940s
    • Valses with vocals by Fiorentino or Ruiz 1940s
    • Milongas early 1940s

 

(4) Francisco Canaro  [milonga.co.uk]  [Todotango]  [ToTango]

The music of the orchestra of Francisco Canaro consistently has a clear rhythm and most of the recordings from the 1930s and 40s are suitable for dancing.

Canaro is the orchestra of choice for playing recordings in the milonga rhythm in the milongas of Buenos Aires, with a good available selection of both slower milongas (e.g., Milonga sentimental 1933, Silueta porteña 1936, Milonga de mis amores 1937) and faster milongas (e.g., Milonga brava 1938, La milonga de Buenos Aires 1939, Soy un porteño 1942). It would be unusual for a milonga in Buenos Aires to not contain at least one tanda of milongas from the Canaro orchestra. North American tango DJs regularly select the milongas of the Canaro orchestra for play at milongas, although not with the same apparent sense of obligation as do tango DJs in Buenos Aires. Canaro also directed the Quinteto Pirincho, which also recorded some milongas suitable for dancing (e.g., Arrabalera 1950, El torito 1950). Milongas of the Quinteto Pirincho are played occasionally in the milongas of Buenos Aires. North American DJs also sometimes select Quinteto Pirincho milongas for dancing.

There is a long history of tango recordings of the orchestra of Franciso Canaro, beginning in the late 1920s. The early recordings (before 1933) have a lazy tempo and poor recording quality, and therefore are not recommended for play at a milonga. In most cases there are later recordings of the same tangos that are more suitable for dancing (e.g., compare: El chamuyo 1927 to El chamuyo 1933). Recordings from this early period are not played in the milongas of Buenos Aires. Some North American tango DJs play tangos of the Canaro orchestra from the 1920s.

There are numerous instrumental tangos (e.g., Charamusca 1934, S.O.S. 1934) and tangos with vocals by Roberto Maida (e.g., Poema 1935, Viejos tiempos 1937) and vocals by Ernesto Fama (e.g., Lo pasao paso 1939, Tormenta 1939) recorded by the Canaro orchestra in the 1930s  and early 1940s that are suitable for dancing. Tangos recorded by the Canaro orchestra during this period are sometimes played in the milongas of Buenos Aires. They appear to be played more often by Tango DJs in North American milongas.

Most tangos recorded by the Canaro led Quinteto Pirincho (e.g., El flete 1939, Cuando llora la milonga 1940) are also suitable for dancing. Music from this Canaro quintet is occasionally played at milongas in Buenos Aires, as well as by Tango DJs in North America.

With respect to vals, most of the valses recorded by the Canaro orchestra in the early 1930s (e.g., Ronda del querer 1934, Esquinas porteñas 1934) have a tempo too slow for dancing. These apparently are not played in the milongas of Buenos Aires; they are occasionally played in milongas in North America. There are numerous valses recorded by the Canaro orchestra during the late 1930s and early 1940s (e.g., Romantica 1938, Desde el alma 1940, Muchacha 1942, Soñar y nada mas 1943) that have a tempo suitable for dancing. There are also several valses recorded during this period by Canaro’s Quinteto Pirincho (e.g., El trovero 1942, Francia 1943) that are suitable for dancing. Canaro valses are played sometimes in the milongas of Buenos Aires, as well as in North American milongas.

  • Canaro best selections:
    • Slow milongas 1930s
    • Fast milongas late 1930s and early 1940s
    • Instrumental tangos 1930s
    • Tangos with vocals by Maida (late 1930s)
    • Tangos with vocals by Fama (late 30s & early 40s)
    • Valses late 1930s and early 1940s
    • Valses by Quinteto Pirincho

 

(5) Osvaldo Pugliese  [milonga.co.uk]  [Todotango]  [ToTango]

The music of the Pugliese orchestra has rhythmic creativity and emotional intensity that makes it a favorite music for dancing for many tango dancers. At least one tanda of tango recordings of the Pugliese orchestra is played at nearly every milonga in Buenos Aires.

The instrumental tangos of the Pugliese orchestra from the mid 1940s are those to which a musical connection is easiest to achieve (e.g., El arranque 1944, Recuerdo 1944, La yumba 1946). Most of the music of the Pugliese orchestra played in the milongas of Buenos Aires is from this 1943-46 period; sometimes the faster and harder rhythmic music of the Pugliese orchestra from the late 1940s is played (e.g., the instrumental tangos El Buscapie 1947, Jueves 1947, Malandraca 1949).

There are also some tangos of the Pugliese orchestra from the mid 1940s with vocals by Roberto Chanel that are acceptable for dancing (e.g., Corrientes y Esmeralda 1944, Rondando tu esquina 1945); these are rarely played in the milongas of Buenos Aires, probably because of lower energy and less clear rhythm compared to the instrumentals of the same period.

Although there are numerous tangos from the Pugliese orchestra in the 1940s that are suitable for dancing at a milonga, the Pugliese orchestra has few recordings in the milonga and vals rhythms. The milongas Tortazos 1944 and Un baile a beneficio 1950 and the valses Puentecito de mi rio 1944 and Ilusion marina 1947 are more or less acceptable for dancing; these apparently are rarely (perhaps never) played for dancing in the milongas of Buenos Aires, most likely because the rhythm is unclear at some points in these recordings. The instrumental vals Desde el alma 1979 is played sometimes in North American milongas; the varying tempo can be challenging for some dancers. This vals is played occasionally in some Buenos Aires milongas.

During the 1950s the music of the Pugliese orchestra changed significantly. The tango recordings began to have a more variable tempo and the inclusion of more pauses. Some of the instrumental tangos from the 1950s (e.g., Chique 1953, Seguime si podes  1953, Emancipacion 1955, Pata ancha 1957) are played at times in the milongas of Buenos Aires. This music is very powerful and can elicit intense emotions. Not all Buenos Aires tango DJs play recordings of the Pugliese orchestra from the 1950s. Not all dancers will dance to this music; most of those who do are familiar with the melodies and can adapt their dancing to the changing tempo. Instrumental tangos from the Pugliese orchestra in the 1950s are played by most North American DJs; some will play more than one tanda in a milonga. This music tends to draw many dancers out onto the floor. Due to the varying tempo, it is difficult for some dancers to stay connected with this music while dancing. Thus, when this music is played in North American milongas, some (perhaps most) dancers will be moving without connection to the music. Therefore, a tango DJ should be selective when choosing the music of the Pugliese orchestra, relying mostly on the instrumental tangos from the 1940s.

After 1960, as milongas faded in Buenos Aires, the music of the Pugliese orchestra diverged even more from a style suitable for dancing, becoming instead tango music for the concert hall. Despite being unsuitable for dancing due to an even more highly variable tempo and the interjection of even more pauses, it is not unusual for a North American tango DJ to select instrumental tangos from this era (e.g., El andariego 1972, Los mareados 1977) to fill out tandas of the Pugliese orchestra. This music is used rarely for dancing in the milongas of Buenos Aires.

  • Pugliese best selections:
    • Tango instrumentals 1940s
    • Tango instrumentals 1950s*

 

II. High Priority Tango Orchestras

Although music from each of these orchestras may not be selected for play at every milonga, tango DJs should give primary consideration to including one or more tandas of their music at each milonga.

 

(6) Ricardo Tanturi  [milonga.co.uk]  [Todotango]  [ToTango]

The music of the orchestra of Ricardo Tanturi has a clear rhythm and thus is suitable for dancing. There are two primary singers associated with this orchestra – Alberto Castillo and Enrique Campos – and the music associated with their singing is clearly distinct, thus providing the tango DJ with the opportunity to provide two tandas of tango for dancing from this orchestra with a different rhythmic structure and a different emotional quality.

There are numerous recordings of the Tanturi orchestra from the early to mid 1940s that are suitable for dancing. These include tangos with vocals by Alberto Castillo (e.g., Asi se baila el tango 1942, Como se pianta la vida 1942), tangos with vocals by Enrique Campos (e.g., Una emocion 1943, Oigo tu voz 1943) as well as a limited number of instrumental tangos (e.g., Comparsa criollo 1941, Un noche de garufa 1941). Recordings by the Tanturi orchestra of tangos with vocals by Castillo and Campos during this period are played regularly in the milongas of Buenos Aires and in North American milongas. Recordings of tango instrumentals are played occasionally in Buenos Aires, and somewhat less frequently in North American milongas.

There is a relatively small but good collection of valses by the Tanturi orchestra; those most suitable for dancing have vocals by Castillo (e.g., Mi romance 1941, Recuerdo 1941). These are played regularly in the milongas of Buenos Aires and in North America.

There are a few recordings of the Tanturi orchestra in the milonga rhythm that are acceptable for dancing (e.g., Asi es la milonga 1942, Mi morocha 1941). The underlying milonga rhythm is somewhat more subtle in Tanturi milonga recordings; therefore, they are not high priority choices for a tango DJ to play at a  milonga. The milongas of the Tanturi orchestra are played occasionally in the milongas of Buenos Aires and North America.

  • Tanturi best selections:
    • Tangos with vocals by Castillo
    • Tangos with vocals by Campos
    • Valses with vocals by Castillo

 

(7) Rodolfo Biagi  [milonga.co.uk]  [Todotango]  [ToTango]

Recordings of the tangos of the Rodolfo Biagi orchestra from the late 1930s until the mid 1940s, including tango instrumentals (e.g., Quejas de bandoneon 1941, Belgica 1942) and tangos with vocals (e.g., by Teofilo Ibañez: Golgota 1938; by Andres Falgas: Son cosas del bandoneon 1939; by Jorge Ortiz: Indiferencia  1942) are played frequently in the milongas of Buenos Aires, as well as in the milongas of North America. Biagi tango recordings from this era have a sharp syncopated rhythm that draws many dancers out onto the dance floor, but which some dancers find irritating. The tangos of the Biagi orchestra with vocals by Alberto Amor in the mid to late 1940s (e.g., Seamos amigos 1944, Y dicen que no te quiero 1947) retain the characteristic syncopation with a softer edge and are therefore more palatable to dancers in general. The instrumental tangos of the Biagi orchestra from the late 1940s to the early 1950s (e.g., Racing Club 1950, El internado 1953) also have this somewhat softer syncopation compared to the recordings of the early 1940s and therefore are also more agreeable to dancers in general. These later recordings of the Biagi orchestra are played occasionally in the milongas of Buenos Aires. Some North American tango DJs show a preference for the tango instrumentals of the Biaigi orchestra recorded in the 1950s.

The valses recorded by the Biagi orchestra from the late 1930s through the mid 1940s (e.g., instrumentals: Lagrimas y sonrisas 1941, Pajaro herido 1941, valses with vocals El ultimo adios 1940, Paloma 1945) have an energetic rhythm suitable for dancing. Valses recorded during this period are played often in the milongas of Buenos Aires; astute North American tango DJs also rely on Biago valses to energize dancers at milongas.

The milongas recorded by the Biagi orchestra in the late 1930s and early 1940s (e.g., Campo afuera 1939, Picante 1941) also have the nervous energy characteristic of Biagi tango recordings during this period; some dancers dance faster than the underlying rhythm when these milongas are played. Milongas from this period are played occasionally in the milongas of Buenso Aires, and somewhat more frequently in milongas in North America. Tango DJs should exercise caution is selecting the milongas of Biagi for dancing at a milonga.

  • Biagi best selections:
    • Valses late 1930s & 1940s
    • Tangos with vocals late 1930s & 1940s
    • Tango instrumentals early 1940s

 

(8) Miguel Calo  [milonga.co.uk]  [Todotango]  [ToTango]

The music of the orchestra of Miguel Calo generally has a clear rhythm and a constant tempo, as well as significant emotional intensity, that dancers find agreeable for dancing.

The Calo orchestra recorded numerous tangos with vocals in the early to mid 1940s that are suitable for dancing [e.g., Alberto Podesta vocals: Dos fracasos 1941Yo soy el tango 1941; Raul Beron vocals: Al compas del corazon 1942, Tristezas de la Calle Corrientes 1942; Jorge Ortiz vocals: Mi cantar 1943, Pa’ que sequir 1943; Rail Iriate vocals: Cuando tallan los recuerdos 1943, La noche que te fuiste 1945). Tangos with these singers recorded in this era are played regularly in the milongas of Buenos Aires, as well as in the milongas of North America, although probably at lower frequency in the latter.

The Calo orchestra also recorded tangos with vocals by Roberto Arrieta in the late 1940s. In most of these (e.g., Carriego 1948, Corazon de papel 1948) Arrieta sings somewhat independently of the melody created by the instruments and this is distracting to dancers; at times the rhythm is submerged under the melody and is therefore challenging to follow. Tangos recorded by the Calo orchestra with vocals by Arrieta are rarely if ever played in the milongas of Buenos Aires and are not recommended for play at a milonga.

The Calo orchestra also recorded some tango instrumentals during the mid 1940s that are acceptable for dancing (e.g., Saludos 1944, San Souci 1944). These are played rarely in the milongas of Buenos Aires, perhaps because they lack the emotional intensity of the tangos with vocals recorded by the Calo orchestra. Calo tango instrumentals are played somewhat more frequently in North American milongas.

The Calo orchestra also recorded a small number of valses, most of which are suitable for dancing (e.g., Bajo un cielo de estrellas 1941, Pedacito de cielo 1942). Valses recorded by the Calo orchestra are played occasionally in the milongas of Buenos Aires, usually in mixed tandas. Valses of the Calo orchestra also are played occasionally in North American milongas.

The Calo orchestra recorded a small number of milongas during the 1940s. There are some that are acceptable for dancing (e.g., Azabache 1942, Milonga que peina canas 1942; however, there are other milongas of the Calo orchestra (e.g., Bien criolla y bien porteña 1945; Cimarron de ausencia 1945) that are difficult for dancing because they tend to lack a consistently clear rhythm.. Milongas recorded by the Calo orchestra are played infrequently in Buenos Aires milongas, apparently always in mixed orchestra tandas; North American tango DJs will occasionally play milongas by Calo.

  • Calo best selections:
    • Tangos with vocals by Beron, Iriarte, Ortiz & Podesta early 1940s
    • Valses early 1940s

 

(9) Angel D’Agostino  [milonga.co.uk]  [Todotango]

The orchestra of Angel D’Agostino recorded numerous tangos with vocals by Angel Vargas during the early to mid 1940s that are suitable for dancing (e.g., Ahora no me conoces 1941, Rondando tu esquina 1945). These are played regularly in the milongas of Buenos Aires, less frequently in the milongas of North America. The D’Agostino orchestra also recorded a small number of tango instrumentals during this period (e.g., Gran muñeca 1943, Racing club 1946) that are suitable for dancing; these appear to be played rarely in milongas in Buenos Aires and in North America. This decision is probably due to the stronger emotional intensity of the recordings with Angel Vargas vocals, as well as the greater familiarity of dancers with the recordings including Vargas.

There are a small number of valses recorded by the D’Agostino orchestra during this period that are suitable for dancing (e.g., Esquinas porteñas 1942, Tristeza criolla 1945). These are played sometimes in the milongas of Buenos Aires, typically in mixed tandas. Valses of the D’Agostinao orchestra are played occasionally in North American milongas. Perhaps they are played somewhat infrequently because they have relatively low energy.

The D’Agostino orchestra also recorded a small number of milongas during this period that are acceptable for dancing (Entre copa y copa 1942, Señores yo soy del centro 1945). These are played rarely in milongas in Buenos Aires and in North America. With their slow tempo, some (inexperienced) dancers may not recognize the milonga rhythm. These slow milongas also lack the syncopation contained in the Canaro slow milongas that invite dancing milonga con traspie. These milongas also may not be used by Tango DJs because they lack sufficient energy.

  • D’Agostino best selections:
    • Tangos with vocals by Vargas 1940 – 1945

 

(10) Edgardo Donato  [milonga.co.uk]  [Todotango]  [ToTango]

Milongas of the orchestra of Edgardo Donato recorded in the late 1930s (e.g., Ella es asi 1938; La milonga que faltaba 1938) are played regularly in the milongas of Buenos Aires; they have a clear and energetic rhythm for dancing. North American tango DJs also rely on the orchestra of Donato for construction of tandas of milonga.

The Donato orchestra also has several good recordings of valses from the late 1930s and early 1940s  (e.g., La tapera 1936, Con tus besos 1938) that have a clear and energetic rhythm for dancing. Valses of the Donato orchestra are played sometimes in the milongas of Buenos Aires; North American tango DJs also sometimes select Donato valses for play at milongas.

There are numerous tangos recorded by the Donato orchestra during the 1930s and early 1940s that are suitable for dancing (e.g., instrumental tangos: El acomodo 1933, La tablada 1936; tangos with vocals: El adios 1938, La melodia del corazon 1940). Tangos from the Donato orchestra are played sometimes in the milongas of Buenos Aires; they appear to be played somewhat more often by DJs in North American milongas.

  • Donato best selections:
    • Milongas 1930s
    • Valses 1930s – early 1940s
    • Tangos 1930s – early 1940s

 

(11) Enrique Rodriguez  [milonga.co.uk]  [Tododtango]

During the early to mid 1940s the orchestra of Enrique Rodriguez recorded numerous tangos with vocals by Armando Moreno (e.g., Llorar por una mujer 1941, Suerte loca 1941) that are suitable for dancing, These are played regularly in the milongas of Buenos Aires and in North American milongas. The Rodriguez orchestra also recorded some tango instrumentals during this period (e.g., Florida 1941, Expresion campera 1942) that are suitable for dancing. These are played occasionally in the milongas of Buenos Aires, less frequently by Tango DJs in North America.

There are a few valses with vocals by Armando Moreno recorded by the Rodriguez orchestra during the early to mid 194os (e.g., Con tu mirar 1941, Llora corazon 1945) that are suitable for dancing. These are played rarely in the milongas of Buenos Aires; they are played occasionally by Tango DJs in North American milongas. There are also some valses recorded by the Rodriguez orchestra during the late 1930s and early 1940s (e.g., Tengo mil novias 1939, Por aqui … por alla 1940) that have the sound of folk valses, i.e., are not tango music. It appears these are not played in the milongas of Buenos Aires; they are occasionally played in North American milongas.

There are a small number of recordings of milongas by the Rodriguez orchestra during the 1940s that are acceptable for dancing (e.g., Chunga que si … chunga que no 1941, Cuando te hablen el domingo 1945). These appear not to be played in the milongas of Buenos Aires and rarely if ever in North American milongas, perhaps because they are not well known.

  • Rodriguez best selections:
    • Tangos with vocals by Moreno early 1940s
    • Tango instrumentals 1940s

 

III. Secondary Priority Orchestras

These tango orchestras have some good and popular music for dancing that should be considered for play at a milonga.

 

(12) Alfredo De Angelis  [milonga.co.uk]  [Todotango]

The music of the orchestra of Alfredo De Anglis orchestra that is probably most recognized by dancers are the valses with vocal duos by Carlos Dante & Julio Martel (e.g., Pobre flor 1946, No vuelvas Maria 1950); these are suitable for dancing, and are played regularly in the milongas of Buenos Aires and North America.

The orchestra of De Angelis recorded numerous tangos during the mid to late 1940s that are suitable for dancing, mostly with vocals (e.g., Marioneta 1943,  Por eso grito 1945, Compadron 1949) but also some instrumentals (e.g. El pial 1945, 9 de Julio 1950). Not all dancers in Buenos Aires like the tango music of De Angelis, calling it ‘music of the carousel’. De Angelis tangos from the 1940s are played occasionally in milongas in Buenos Aires, apparently more frequently in milongas in North America.

Played somewhat regularly in milongas in Buenos Aires are tango instrumentals of the De Angelis orchestra suitable for dancing from the late 1950s (e.g., Mi dolor 1957, Pavadita 1958). These are also played sometimes in milongas in North America. De Angelis tango instrumentals from the late 1950s have considerable emotional intensity and are enjoyed by many dancers worldwide.

The De Angelis orchestra also recorded tangos with vocals from the late 1950s that are acceptable for dancing (e.g., Lagrimas de sange 1955, Cafe para dos 1956). These are played rarely in the milongas of Buenos Aires, apparently at a slightly higher frequency in North American milongas.

There are few recordings of the De Angelis orchestra in the milonga rhythm that are suitable for dancing. One exception is El Otario 1950). It is not known whether this milonga or any others of the De Angelis orchestra are played in the milongas of Buenos Aires or in North America.

  • De Angelis best selections:
    • Valses with vocal duo by Dante & Martel
    • Tango instrumentals late 1950s

 

(13) Pedro Laurenz  [milonga.co.uk] [Todotango]  [ToTango]

The orchestra of Pedro Laurenz recorded some instrumental tangos (e.g., Arrabal 1937, Orgullo criollo 1941) and tangos with vocals (e.g., by Juan Carlos Casas: Amurado 1940, No me extraña 1940; by Albero Podesta: Garua 1943, Recien 1943) during the late 1930s and early 1940s that are suitable for dancing. The tangos of the Laurenz orchestra, particularly those with vocals by Podesta, are played sometimes in the milongas of Buenos Aires and North America; they have a clear and steady rhythm that makes them suitable for dancing.

There are several milongas recorded by the Laurenz orchestra during the early 1940s that are suitable for dancing (e.g., Yo soy de San Telmo 1943, Milonga de mis amores 1944). These are played sometimes in the milongas of Buenos Aires, usually in mixed orchestra tandas. They are also played sometimes in milongas in North America.

There are a small number or valses recorded by the Laurenz orchestra (e.g., Mascarita 1940, Paisaje 1943) that are suitable for dancing. These are played occasionally in the milongas of Buenos Aires, usually in mixed orchestra tandas. They are also played occasionally in milongas in North America.

  • Laurenz best selections:
    • Tangos with vocals by Podesta early 1940s
    • Milongas early 1940s
    • Valses early 1940s

 

(14) Osvaldo Fresedo  [milonga.co.uk]  [Todotango]  [ToTango]

The orchestra of Osvaldo Fresedo made numerous recordings that are suitable for dancing, mostly in the 1930s. These include tango instrumentals (e.g., La clavada 1933, Tigre viejo 1934) that have a clear rhythm for dancing. Tango instrumentals by Fresedo are played regularly in the milongas of Buenos Aires.

Also recorded were tangos with vocals by Roberto Ray (e.g., Vida mia 1933, No quiero verte llorar 1937). The mellow tone of these tangos provides a relieving contrast from more intense tango music. Fresedo tangos with vocals by Ray are played occasionally in the milongas of Buenos Aires.

In North American milongas tango instrumentals of the Fresedo orchestra and tangos with vocals by Ray are played more or less with about the same frequency, depending on the DJ. In North American milongas DJs occasionally also play tangos by the Fresedo orchestra with vocals by Ricardo Ruiz (e.g., Mas alla 1939, Buscandote 1941); it appears these are not played or rarely played in the milongas of Buenos Aires. Dancers in Buenos Aires milongas prefer the more rhythmic instrumental tangos of Fresedo orchestra recorded in the 1930s.

Fresedo also led a sextet that recorded some (mostly instrumental) tangos during the late 1920s and early 1930s (e.g., La cachila 1927, Tinta verde 1927). These are not played in the milongas of Buenos Aires, undoubtedly because they have low energy and occasional cessation of rhythm. These recordings are played on rare occasions by some tango DJs in North America.

The small number of milongas and valses recorded by the Fresedo orchestra do not appear to be played in the milongas of Buenos Aires. Some North American tango DJs will occasionally play milongas recorded by the Fresedo orchestra in the early 1950s (e.g., La trampera 1951, De pura cepa 1953). These milongas have a rapid tempo and a more subtle milonga rhythm, which may be the reason they are not played in Buenos Aires milongas.

  • Fresedo (orchestra) best selections:
    • Instrumental tangos 1930s
    • Tangos with vocals by Ray 1930s

 

(15) Lucio Demare  [milonga.co.uk]  [Todotango]

The orchestra of Lucio Demare has many recordings from the late 1930s through the mid 1940s that have a clear rhythm and constant tempo and therefore are suitable for dancing. This includes some tango instrumentals (e.g., Color de rosa 1941, El chupete 1942, and tangos with vocals [by Juan Carlos Miranda (e.g., Malena 1942, Al compas de un tango 1942), Roberto Arrieta (e.g.,  Soy un muchacho de la guardia 1942, Cancion de rango 1942) and Raul Beron (e.g., Moneda de cobre 1943, Una emocion 1943)]. These are played sometimes in the milongas of Buenos Aires and North America. The Demare orchestra also recored some tangos with vocals by Horacio Quintana (e.g., Solamente ella 1944, Torrente 1944) that are more or less acceptable for dancing. These do not appear to be played in the milongas of Buenos Aires, perhaps because the rhythm is not as distinct as in the earlier Demare tango recordings; they appear to be played on rare occasions in North American milongas.

The Demare orchestra also recorded some valses with a clear rhythm that are suitable for dancing (e.g., Al pasar 1943, No nos veremos mas 1943). These are played sometimes in milongas in Buenos Aires, as well as in North American milongas.

There may be only one recording by the Demare orchestra in the milonga rhythm that is suitable for dancing – La esquina 1938. This recording is played in Buenos Aires milongas on rare occasions as part of a mixed orchestra tanda; this is aso true for North American milongas. Some North American tango DJs occasionally play Negra Maria 1941, which has a somewhat indistinct rhythm, and Carnavalito 1943, a folk melody; neither of these recordings are played at a detectable frequency in Buenos Aires milongas.

  • Demare best selections:
    • Tangos with vocals by Arrieta, Beron or Miranda early 1940s
    • Valses early 1940s

 

IV. Low Priority Orchestras

The recordings of these orchestras are designated as low priority for selection at a milonga because, in general, they possess one or more of the following characteristics: (1) lack of a clear rhythm, (2) variable tempo, (3) low energy, (4) limited availability and familiarity of recordings. However, occasional use of some recordings of these orchestras may be appropriate, as identified below.

 

 (16) Francisco Lomuto  [milonga.co.uk]  [Todotango]

The orchestra of Francisco Lomuto made numerous recordings during the 1930s and 40s. Few of these are played in the milongas of Buenos Aires, most likely because many of them lack sufficient energy to motivate dancers (e.g., Indiferencia 1933, Caricias 1937). Some exceptions include a few instrumental tangos (e.g., Sentimiento gaucho 1942, Catamarca 1943) and tangos with vocals (e.g., Nostalgias 1936, Madreselva 1938). Tangos recorded by the Lomuto orchestra are played at a somewhat higher frequency in the milongas of North America.

In contrast, there are several recordings of the Lomuto orchestra in the milonga rhythm that have high energy and are suitable for dancing (e.g., No hay tierra como la mia 1939, Parque Patricios 1941). These are played occasionally in the milongas of Buenos Aires, as well as in milongas in North America.

There are a few valses recorded by the Lomuto orchestra that are suitable for dancing (e.g., Lo que vieron mis ojos 1933, Bajo un cielo de estrellas 1941. These are played on rare occasions in the milongas of Buenos Aires and in North American milongas.

  • Lomuto best selections:
    • Milongas late 1930s and early 1940s

 

(17) Orquesta Tipic Victor / Adolfo Carabelli  [milonga.co.uk]  [Tododtango]

The Orquesta Tipica Victor, led initially by Adolfo Carabelli, made numerous recordings of tango music from the late 1920s to the early 1940s; Carabelli had his own orchestra that made recordings during the early 1930s. The recordings of the Carabelli orchestra sound similar to those of Orquesta Tipica Victor, and therefore these can be grouped together in the same tanda. There are instrumental tangos (e.g., Che papusa oi 1927, Fumando espero 1927) and tangos with vocals (e.g., Rodriguez Peña n.d., Don Juan 1932) recorded by OTV, and tangos recorded by the Carabelli orchestra (e.g., El trece 1932, Mi evocacion 1934) that are acceptable for dancing. These are played occasionally in Buenos Aires milongas. Probably they are not played often because they lack sufficient energy to motivate dancers. Recordings of OTV/Carabelli are played more frequently in North American milongas, depending on the DJ.

There are some valses recorded by OTV that are suitable for dancing (e.g., Sin rumbo fijo 1938, Temo 1940). These are played occasionally as part of mixed tandas in Buenos Aires. They appear to be played rarely in North American milongas.

  • OTV/Carabelli best selections:
    • Valses by OTV late 1930s – early 1940s

 

(18) Roberto Firpo  [milonga.co.uk]  [Todotango]  [ToTango]

Roberto Firpo led a quartet that made many recordings during the 1920s, 30s, 40s, and 50s; most of these are instrumentals. Some of the tangos and milongas of the Firpo quartet are rhythmically complex and it may be difficult for many dancers to achieve a connection to the music (e.g., the tango El enterriano 1937, the milonga Milonga orillera 1948). On the other hand, there are some tangos (e.g., El internado 1938) and milongas (e.g., La mulita 1956) that have a clearer rhythm and therefore are more or less acceptable for dancing. Also, there are several valses recorded by the Firpo quartet that have a clear rhythm and are acceptable for dancing (e.g., El aeroplano 1936, Olga 1946). Nevertheless, the music of the Firpo quartet is rarely if ever played in the milongas of Buenos Aires. Some North American tango DJs occasionally play the music of the Firpo quartet.

Firpo also led a larger orchestra which made a relatively small number of recordings. One may occasionally find recordings of valses from the Firpo orchestra (e.g., Barreras de amor 1936, Entre los ceibos 1937) that are suitable for dancing, These are played occasionally in milongas in Buenos Aires and North America.

  • Firpo best selections:
    • Valses of the Firpo orchestra late 1930s

 

(19) Ricardo Malerba  [Todotango]

The orchestra of Ricardo Malerba recorded some tangos in the early 1940s that have a clear and constant rhythm and therefore are suitable for dancing (e.g., Gitana rusa 1942, Remembranza 1943). These are played occasionally in the milongas of Buenos Aires, as well as in North American milongas. There may be only one milonga recorded by the Malerba orchestra – Mariana 1942 that is suitable for dancing; it is played on rare occasions in the milongas of Buenos Aires and North America as part of a mixed orchestra tanda. There appears to be one vals recorded by the Malerba orchestra – Corazon de artista 1943 – that is suitable for dancing. It is not clear whether this recording is played in the milongas of Buenos Aires or in North American milongas. The recordings of the Malerba orchestra receive limited play at milongas because there few recordings generally available from which to select.

 

(20) Jose Garcia  [Tododtango]

The orchestra of Jose Garcia recorded some tangos in the early 1940s that have a clear and constant rythm and therefore are suitable for dancing (e.g., Junto a tu corazon 1942, Esta noche de luna 1943). These are sometimes played at milongas in North America. The music of the Garcia orchestra is played rarely (if at all) in milongas in Buenos Aires. It is primarily the limited number of recordings and the unfamiliarity with the music of this orchestra that is probably responsible for limited play in the milongas of Buenos Aires.

 

(21) Alfredo Gobbi  [Todotango]

The orchestra of Alfredo Gobbi recorded some instrumental tangos during the late 1940s that have a clear and constant rhythm and therefore are suitable for dancing (e.g., La viruta 1947, Racing Club 1949). These are played occasionally in the milongas of Buenos Aires and in North American milongas as well. However, there are other Gobbi recordings that have a variable tempo and therefore are unsuitable for dancing (e.g., Orlando Goñi 1949, El andariego 1951). These are played on rare occasions in the milongas of Buenos Aires, perhaps more so in North American milongas. Overall, there are few recordings in any rhythm by the Gobbi orchestra that are suitable for dancing.

 

(22) Enrique Francini – Armando Pontier  [Todotango]

The orchestra of Enrique Francini and Armando Pontier recorded a few instrumental tangos during the late 1940s that have a relatively clear rhythm and a relatively constant tempo and therefore are more or less acceptable for dancing (e.g., Arrabal 1946, Boedo 1947). These are played on rare occasions in the milongas of Buenos Aires and in North American milongas. However, in general, the recorded music of the Francini-Pontier orchestra (e.g., Pichuco 1946, A los amigos 1950) lacks a sufficiently clear rhythm and a sufficiently constant tempo to be suitable for dancing.

 

(23) Julio De Caro  [milonga.co.uk]  [Todotango]

The sextet of Julio De Caro made many recordings, mostly instrumental tangos, from the late 1920 to the early 1930s.  Because of a characteristic varying tempo and subtle rhythm, it is difficult to dance to much of the music of De Caro (e.g., Boedo 1928El arranque 1934). The music of De Caro also often has low energy. Recordings of the De Caro sextet do not appear to be played at all in milongas in Buenos Aires. They are played on rare occasions in milongas in North America. It is recommended that tango DJs bypass the recordings of the De Caro orchestra in selecting music for dancing at a milonga.

 

La Cumparsita  [Todotango]

In Buenos Aires milongas, as well as nearly all milongas around the world, the last song played for dancing is La cumparsita (e.g., Tanturi 1940, Biagi 1942, D’Arienzo 1943, Troilo 1943D’Agostino 1945, Rodriguez 1953,   Di Sarli 1955, De Angelis 1961, D’Arienzo 1963). These referenced recordings are played frequently in milongas in Buenos Aires and in North America. In Buenos Aires milongas, usually this is the last song of a complete 4 song tanda of tango. Another option is to play La cumparsita by itself, preceded by a cortina ending the previous tanda. Some tango DJs play 2 versions of La cumparsita, a practice which presumably originated in Buenos Aires. It may be useful for the DJ to announce that La cumparsita is being played. This allows dancers to find their favorite partner for dancing at the end of the milonga, which appears to be a tradition in tango.

 

Basic Principles and Pitfalls in Music Selection and Tanda Construction

Music selected for dancing in milongas should have a clear rhythm and constant tempo. It is also advantageous for dancer participation to play music that has some emotional intensity. Familiarity of the music to dancers is also important in bringing dancers out onto the dance floor. Overall, a tango DJ should consider what music is typically played in Buenos Aires milongas.

There is one obvious discrepancy between the standards for music selection and the recommended recordings of tango orchestras stated above. Tango instrumentals of the Pugliese orchestras from the 1950s, which have a variable tempo, are recommended for play at a milonga under the condition that there are experienced dancers present who know the music, can anticipate the changes in tempo, and adapt their dancing accordingly. It is the emotional intensity of this music that makes it popular for dancing at milongas in Buenos Aires and worldwide (although not all tango DJs in Buenos Aires select this music for play at milongas). In general, dancers in Buenos Aires milongas who dance to 1950s Pugliese know the music and can connect to it; many dancers do not dance to this music. In North American milongas, dancers who do not connect to this music populate the milonga dance floors in high numbers. Pugliese tango instrumentals from the 1950s (and even later, where the music has even more pauses) often are played without regard to the ability of dancers to connect with it. North American tango DJs should take into consideration the expertise and knowledge of dancers in selecting music for dancing.

There are other aspects of the music preferences of dancers and tango DJs in Buenos Aires milongas that may or may not have relevance for tango DJs worldwide. There are some idiosyncrasies and biases of Buenos Aires tango dancers that are part of the local culture and therefore influence dancer participation at a milonga. The tango music of De Angelis may be avoided because it was music played accompanying the carousel during the Golden Age (i.e., it is not considered to be serious music for dancing tango). Fresedo played music for the wealthy. Rodriguez played mostly in the Argentine countryside (‘the provinces’) rather than in Buenos Aires (although there does not appear to be lower dancer participation when the music of Rodriguez is played in Buenos Aires milongas).

One interesting observation is that more instrumental music is played in Buenos Aires milongas than in North American milongas. There is a (perhaps mythical) belief that this is because porteños understand the lyrics and tango lyrics are sad (often tragic) and there is a limit of tolerance to such emotional intensity. In Buenos Aires milongas it is not unusual for tango DJs to play instrumental tangos of the orchestras of Demare, Tanturi, and Rodriguez, which are played at lower frequency in North American milongas, and Fresedo tangos with vocals by Ray are played much less frequently (and instrumental tangos more often) than in North American milongas. Even for the popular tango music of the Di Sarli orchestra, instrumental tangos from the 1940s are played more often than in North American milongas.

The recommendations made in this post is that with respect to the qualities of music for dancing, 1940s tango instrumentals by Rodriguez and Di Sarli, and 1930s tango instrumentals by Fresedo could be played more often in North American milongas; also, based on musical qualities, North American tango DJs need not avoid playing Fresedo tango with vocals by Ray. However, North American tango DJs would probably find more satisfied dancers by playing less music from the orchestras of Lomuto and OTV/Carabelli, which are overplayed in North American milongas, eliminating play of music from the 1920s, from the Firpo quartet, and De Caro sextet, and limiting to rare occasions the play of music from the orchestras of Gobbi and Francini – Pontier.

Selection of music from the most preferred tango orchestras needs to take into account that not all music of the best orchestras for dancing is optimal for dancing. This is the rationale for identifying the best selections from each orchestra above. There are obvious best choices for every milonga – 1940’s tangos with vocals from Di Sarli, late 1930s instrumental tangos and valses from D’Arienzo, 1930s milongas from Canaro, early 1940s tangos from Troilo, 1940s instrumental tangos from Pugliese, to mention the best, the recordings that most satisfy dancers. Not all recordings from these orchestras are optimal or even suitable for dancing. The same applies to other popular tango orchestras. Tango DJs need to have knowledge of the repertoires of the tango orchestras of the Golden Age and choose recordings wisely for play at milongas.

Tango DJs should observe the response of dancers to the music selected for dancing. Preferred music is that which brings dancers out onto the floor and to which the dancers connect to the rhythm. However, there are some inherent problems in using these principles as the sole guide for music selection. At North American milongas (particularly local community milongas), some dancers will dance to just about any music and some dancers will not be able to connect to music which has the clearest rhythm (e.g., Di Sarli and D’Arienzo). Many local tango community milongas are works in progress. Addressing this issue is beyond the scope of this post.

With regard to tanda construction, in Buenos Aires milongas tandas of tango consist of 4 recordings, milonga of 3, and vals usually of 4, but sometimes 3, depending upon the DJ or the milonga. In North American milongas, vals tandas of 3 recordings are more common. Tandas of 3 for vals allows construction of more consistent tandas from the same orchestra. Using mixed tandas (with music from several orchestras) provides more freedom in constructing vals tandas of 4, although this requires more skill to maintain tanda homogeneity. In some North American tango communities, tango tandas of 3 recordings are standard. This is often done for shorter milongas (less than 3 hours), allowing more change of partners. It is also done when there is gender imbalance (Clint Rauscher). The argument against tango tandas of 3 recordings is that a tanda develops a relationship between dancers; if a good connection develops, a tanda of 3 recordings seems too short.

The recordings included within a tanda should be homogeneous in rhythm (e.g., intensity of accented beats, contrast in intensity between major and minor accented beats) and in tempo. This does not mean that the rhythm and tempo are identical (which they can never be exactly), but that there is not a wide range in rhythm and tempo within a tanda. Recordings included within a tanda should also have a similar emotional intensity. Emotional intensity is subjective, but dancers tend to have similar interpretations of the emotional intensity of the music.

Although there are exceptions, achieving the goal of tanda homogeneity generally requires selecting recordings from the same orchestra during a narrow time interval (a few years). If an orchestra had different singers, there are often differences in musical qualities (rhythm, tempo, emotional intensity) among the different singers. For example, one should not mix tangos with vocals by Castillo and by Campos within the same tanda of Tanturi, or tangos with vocals by Casas and by Podesta within the tanda of Laurenz. Therefore, to maintain homogeneity within a tanda, it is usually best to include recordings with the same singer. Nevertheless, it is possible in some cases to create tandas of tangos from the same orchestra with different singers that maintain a sufficient degree of homogeneity (e.g., D’Arienzo: Paciencia with Enrique Carbel 1937 and Indiferencia with Alberto Echagüe 1938;  Biagi: Golgota with Teofilo Ibañez 1938 and Humillacion with Jorge Ortiz 1941).

Some tango DJs have recommended structuring tandas to include only vocal tracks or only instrumental tracks. Usually this maintains the greatest homogeneity. However, sometimes it is possible for some experienced tango DJs to include instrumental and vocal tracks within the same tanda that have the same musical qualities. For example, consider the following tanda of tangos by D’Arienzo [Mandria (vocals by Echagüe) 1939, Yunta brava (instrumental) 1939, Ya lo ves (vocals by Maure) 1941, Maipo 1939 (instrumental)], which even includes tangos with vocals from two different singers.

Creating tandas of milonga and vals using recordings from the same orchestra from the same period with the same singer having the same qualities of rhythm and tempo is more difficult, due to limited availability of recordings. Therefore, some tandas of milonga and vals played by DJs at Buenos Aires milongas are ‘mixed’, i.e., include recordings from different orchestras, or with different vocalists from the same orchestra). Some examples of mixed tandas with recordings that have a similar rhythm and tempo, as well as emotional intensity, are presented here for vals (Donato: El vals de los recuerdos 1935, D’agostino: Esquinas porteñas 1942, Tanturi: Marisabel 1942, Troilo: Soñar y nada mas 1943) and milonga (Laurenz: Yo soy de San Telmo 1943, Biagi: Flor de Montserrat 1945, Troilo: Papa Baltazar 1942). Sometimes these mixed tandas can have greater homogeneity than a tanda constructed entirely from recordings of the sane orchestra. Nevertheless, it is relatively easy to construct homogenous tandas of milonga from the same orchestra for Canaro, D’Arienzo, Di Sarli, and Donato, all of which are high priority for selection for milonga; for vals there are more options (e.g., Biagi, Calo, Canaro, D’Arienzo, De Angelis, Demare, Donato, Laurenz, Tanturi, Troilo), particulatly for vals tandas with 3 recordings. North American tango DJs use mixed orchestra tandas less frequently than do Buenos Aires tango DJs and often construct tandas from the same orchestra that are not homogeneous. North American tango DJs should consider pIaying mixed tandas more often, but they should be used with caution, paying attention to tanda homogeneity.

One of the most common errors committed by Tango DJs is mixing songs with different tempos within the same tanda. This is particularly common for tandas of milonga (e.g., playing Canaro’s Milonga sentimental 1933 and La milonga de Buenos Aires 1939) in the same tanda. The first recording in a tanda of milongas should indicate whether the tempo is going to be slow or fast, indicating whether it is reasonable or not to dance milonga con traspie, which might affect the selection of a partner. The mixing of recordings with different tempos can also occur when constructing tandas of tangos from the same orchestra (e.g., Di Sarli’s tango instrumentals: Catamarca 1940 and El jaguel 1943; Rodriguez’s tangos with vocals by Armando Moreno: En la buena y en la mala 1940 and Yo tambien tuve un cariño 1942). Selection of partners for tandas of tango (and vals) also may depend on the tempo of the music.

It is also important for a tango DJ to play music that is familiar to the dancers. This is particularly important for the first recording of the tanda, because it should be designed to draw dancers out onto the floor. The same can be said of the last recording of the tanda, after which the dancers leave the floor with a feeling of satisfaction. There are some tangos, milongas and valses that are played repeatedly at milongas. (Most of the recordings referenced in this post are familiar to experienced tango dancers.) Familiarity with the music enhances the ability of dancers to attain a good connection with the music; dancers also know what is coming in a particular piece of music and therefore can improvise more easily on the music. Some tango DJs attempt to play a wide range of music from any given orchestra, or play music from a diversity of orchestras, including those whose recordings are not well known. This practice results in dancers not being familiar with much of the music played at a milonga, creating difficulty in establishing a connection with the music, resulting in dissatisfaction and perhaps even early departure.

It is useful for a tango DJ to have a set of prepared tandas to insert into the music program over the course of a milonga. Presumably these have been developed from listening to them and ideally by dancing to them outside the milonga setting. Some tango DJs have discussed ad lib creation of tandas at the milonga (e.g., Mike Lavocah, Clint Rauscher). This strategy requires intimate knowledge of the music and is likely to provide a suboptimal linking of songs for any but the most experienced and knowledgeable DJs.

Lists of recommended tandas have been provided by Stephen Brown [Dallas, TX], Dereck del Pilar [Tucson AZ] and Clint Rauscher [Atlanta GA]. Note that not all listed tandas follow the guidelines stated in this post. Nevertheless, these lists of tandas can serve as raw material for developing tango DJs. There are numerous tandas posted on YouTube that may or may not be suitable for dancing (e.g., not suitable for dancing: Tanda of the day, Tanda of the week). Tango DJs should be cautious in using tandas posted on YouTube. In any case, the DJ should listen carefully at home before playing a tanda at a milonga, whether taken from someone else’s list or self-constructed.

 

Selection of Cortinas

The purpose of the cortina played between tandas is to vacate the floor so that dancers have a clear view across the floor to select a partner for the next tanda using the cabeceo. In order to signal the end of the tanda, the music used for the cortina should be clearly distinguishable from the music of the tanda. Therefore, nontango music should be chosen for the cortina. Selection of music lacking a clear and constant rhythm (e.g., free jazz, new age music) is often appropriate for this purpose. Nuevo tango music, tango canciones (e.g., songs of Carlos Gardel), and tango electronico should not be used for cortinas because some dancers will dance to it, unless it is certain that within a particular community or at a particular tango festival no one will dance to this type of music. If dancing does occur during a cortina, the DJ can inform the dancers that this is the cortina and request that they leave the floor. In any case, the music played for a cortina should not have a rhythm to which dancers would dance some dance in that community; e.g., use of swing or salsa music as a cortina is ill advised because it will elicit dancing from some milonga attendees who do not understand the function of the cortina. Nevertheless, this is done in some tango communities, where swing or salsa music is played between tandas of tango music, not as a cortina to clear the floor, but as music allowing dancers who dance dances other than tango an opportunity to come out onto the floor and dance these other dances. Playing music other than tango music, particularly tropical Latin (mostly cumbia), jazz, rock-and-roll, and chacarera is common in Buenos Aires milongas; however, these are grouped into sets of 3 or 4 songs that are separated from tandas of tango music by cortinas. If a milonga organizer wants to provide music of other rhythms for dancing (e.g., swing and salsa) and does not want to structure this music into sets (i.e., playing only one recording of ‘other rhythm’ dance music), the DJ should still use a cortina to clear the floor before and after the ‘other rhythm’ dance music is played, or provide a sufficiently long period of silence to signal to dancers that it is time to leave the floor.

The cortina should be long enough to clear the floor. This can range from about 30 seconds to 2 minutes, depending upon the size of the dance floor and the number of dancers on the floor. Many North American DJs use cortinas that are shorter than 30 seconds in length, which doesn’t give dancers enough time to return to their seats to be prepared for initiating the cabeceo at the beginning of the next tanda.

There is an advantage to using the same cortina throughout the duration of the milonga. This is what is commonly done in Buenos Aires. In this manner, milonga attendees can immediately recognize that this is the cortina and leave the dance floor.

 

Summary and Conclusions

The Tango DJ plays an important role in providing an enjoyable dance experience to dancers at a milonga. Providing music without a clear rhythm, with a varying tempo, without emotional intensity, leaves dancers feeling disconnected and uninspired, perhaps sitting in their seats and going home early. Much can be learned from Buenso Aires tango DJs regarding the best music to select for dancing. Surveys of tango DJs worldwide and of the preferences of tango dancers are also informative. There is agreement that recordings of the orchestras of Carlos Di Sarli (1940s, 1950s), Juan D’Arienzo (late 1930s, 1940s), and Anibal Troilo (early 1940s), the instrumental tangos of Osvaldo Pugliese (1940s), as well as milongas by the orchestra of Francisco Canaro (1930s) are popular with dancers and preferentially played by tango DJs worldwide. Assuming careful selection and experienced dancers, the instrumental tangos of Pugliese recorded in the 1950s are also an appreciated addition. Tango DJs contribute significantly to the enjoyment of dancers by including the music from these orchestras at every milonga. Selecting at least 2 tandas from each of these 5 orchestras is unlikely to dissatisfy dancers. In fact, a DJ could provide the following tandas of music:

  • Di Sarli 1940s tango with vocals (Rufino, Duran and/or Podesta)
  • Di Sarli 1950s tango instrumentals
  • D’Arienzo 1930s tango instrumentals
  • D’Arienzo 1930s vals instrumentals
  • D’Arienzo 1940s tango with vocals by Maure
  • Canaro 1930 (fast and/or slow) milongas
  • Troilo early 1940s tango (instrumentals and/or vocals by Fiorentino)
  • Pugliese 1940s tango instrumentals

which would comprise about 40 – 50% of the music for a 3 to 3.5 hour milonga. Dancers probably would not complain, sit in their seats, or go home early with a music program consisting primarily of these selections. (Dancers would probably want to hear additional music with vocals, and this can be provided in the remaining music for the milonga.)

Additional tandas from these orchestras which dancers would find enjoyable could be selected from among the following:

  • Di Sarli 1940s milongas with vocals by Rufino
  • D’Arienzo 1930s milongas
  • Canaro late 1930s tangos with vocals by Maida and/or Fama
  • Pugliese 1950s tango instrumentals
  • Troilo 1940s valses with vocals by Fiorentino and/or Ruiz
  • Troilo 1940s milongas

particularly in a milonga of longer duration (4 – 6 hours).

Nevertheless, tango DJs should be careful in selecting music from these essential orchestras beyond the selections mentioned here, as there is some music recorded by them during the Golden Age (e.g., Di Sarli 1950s tangos with vocals, D’Arienzo late 1940s – 1950s, Troilo late 1940s – 1950s, Canaro valses 1930s, Pugliese music with vocals) that has less than desirable characteristics for dancing (usually varying tempo and/or unclear rhythm).

As an alternative or in addition to these selections, depending on the duration of a milonga, the remainder of the evening’s music could be comprised of selections from other popular tango dance orchestras, including, as preferred selections:

  • Tanturi 1940s tangos with vocals by Castillo and/or Campos
  • Tanturi 1940s valses with vocals by Castillo
  • Biagi late 1930s & 1940s tangos
  • Biagi late 1930s & 1940s valses
  • Calo early 1940s tangos with vocals by Beron, Iriarte, Otiz & Podesta
  • D’Agostino 1940s tangos with vocals by Vargas
  • Rodriguez 1940s tangos with vocals by Moreno

Additional good selections could include:

  • Donato 1930s milongas
  • Donato 1930s valses
  • De Angelis 1940s valses with vocals by Dante & Martel
  • De Angelis 1950s tango instrumentals

A tango DJ also occasionally could provide good selections from

  • Fresedo 1930s tango instrumentals
  • Fresedo 1930s tangos with vocals by Ray
  • Laurenz 1940s tangos with vocals by Podesta
  • Demare 1940 tangos with vocals by Arrieta, Beron or Miranda

It is apparent that there is an ample supply of inspiring Classic Tango music available from the most popular tango dance orchestras of the Golden Age. Most of this music is familiar to experienced dancers, thereby allowing them to connect more readily to the music, feel its emotional intensity, and improvise movements based on the ability to anticipate rhythmic subtleties and variations in the melody. If a relatively small selection of recordings from these preferred orchestras is played time after time at the same milonga, inexperienced dancers who are regular attendees will become familiar with the best tango music for dancing.

In attending milongas in North America, it often appears that some tango DJa are more interested in demonstrating that tandas of music can be constructed from a wide variety of tango music than to provide dancers with the best music for dancing. Although one can find music from the orchestras of Lomuto, OTV/Carabelli, Malerba, Garcia, Gobbi, and Francini-Pontier (and perhaps even from Julio de Caro) to which dancers will dance, this music is offered at the expense of playing additional tandas of music from Di Sarli, D’Arienzo, Troilo, Pugliese and Canaro. It is also surprising that tango DJs in North America sometimes reach back into the 1920s to extract recordings from the OTV, De Caro, Firpo, Fresedo, Canaro, Di Sarli (sextet) and other ensembles to play at a milonga. With poor recording quality and (often) lazy tempos, this music often keeps the most experienced dancers in their seats. Dancers need more inspiration to come out onto the dance floor.

A DJ may think that playing too much familiar music is boring (and there are some dancers who demand musical diversity at milongas), but there is something interesting about tango dance music as a form of popular music – many experienced tango dancers say that the classics of tango dance music never become boring. There is so much depth in the music, both in terms of musical composition and in terms of the emotional richness conveyed, that it never becomes boring.

North American tango DJs can learn much from tango DJs in Buenos Aires, who concentrate on the most inspiring and popular danceable music from the major tango dance orchestras. Not all tango music is created equal. The best music for dancing is always welcome.