The new tango orchestras

I didn’t understand what new tango orchestras are doing until I read Pablo Bassi’s article in Argentime magazine.

Bassi points out how they don’t look anything like the orquestas of the Forties, especially with female members.  They have different instrumentation, new arrangements, and lyrics that relate to current times.  The average age of these musicians is 30, and their audiences are just as young.  They need to develop a following for their music as the orquestas tipicas once did.  The older generation complains that they can’t dance to their music.  These young musicians want to find their own musical identity.

Big orchestras gave more harmonies for an impressive sound for dancing.  The orquesta tipica  had at least three bandoneones and four violins; Carlos Di Sarli had as many as eight violins to create his signature sound.  The social and economic crisis in Buenos Aires during the seventies resulted in orchestras being downsized to smaller ensembles, and the music changed as well.

Times change and so does the music.  Today’s generation of musicians aren’t going to interpret tangos the same as sixty years ago.  They are putting their own mark on the music.  This takes dedication to write new arrangements for new instrumentation.  They no longer play the romantic themes of the Golden Age.  That’s why their music does not come close to what the older generation wants to hear — me included.

Even if the musicians tried to have a clearly defined style for their orchestra, their experiences and musical tastes influence their arrangements and performances.  They naturally sound up to date because they are.  They prefer to innovate, not imitate the original.  Even the standards of the orquestas tipicas took years to develop.

I’m a diehard traditionalist when it comes to dance music.  I prefer to listen to the jazz and tango classics of the Forties, the most creative period in dance music history.  The Bassi article has offered many reasons to give the new tango orchestras some attention.  They’re trying to express their experiences and put their mark on tango.  I hope they respect tango’s musical structure so it’s worthy of being called tango.  The future will confirm whether that is the case.


3 Responses to “The new tango orchestras”

  1. b Says:

    When I lived in BsAs I always looked forward to Wednesdays when I could go dance to these guys at Maldita Milonga in San Telmo. Even though it was considered a nuevo milonga I always danced traditionally there and danced as much as I wanted. Although one time when I took a younger woman into an embrace, she said, “I’ve never danced close-embrace before, only open.” I said, “Well, open embrace isn’t really tango, is it?” She laughed and we had a nice tanda.

  2. T Says:

    “I hope they respect tango’s musical structure so it’s worthy of being called tango”

    What is the structure? What are the other defining characteristics of tango music?

  3. jantango Says:

    Tango has a unique musical structure. One defining characteristic are the two final notes (dominant and tonic — chan chan) of every composition. There are courses for musicians. Talking about it doesn’t mean much unless you study music.

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