Tango BA Festival

The annual tango festival is underway this month, culminating with the world tango championships at Luna Park on August 21.  Tango enthusiasts from around the world descend upon Buenos Aires for classes, concerts, talks, movies, and the competitions.

One of the many open milongas during Tango BA 2019

A view of the Salon Mayor at Usina del Arte in La Boca where there were daily milongas.

I checked the Tango BA site for the program and found lots of concerts by tango orchestras.  There are more of them this month at Usina del Arte and Centro Cultural Kirchner that the rest of the year.

Orquesta Tipica de Ernesto Franco, bandoneonist of the Orquesta de Juan D’Arienzo.

Sexteto Mayor (ensemble for Tango Argentino that traveled the world in the 1980s), Quinteto Real (formed by the late Horacio Salgan, now led by his son), Color Tango celebrating 30 years, José Colángelo, the last pianist with Anibal Troilo’s orchestra, and Ernesto Franco and his orchestra, the 90 year old bandoneonista who played in Juan D’Arienzo’s orchestra, are only a few of the those on the festival program.

Jose Conangelo (last pianist with the Orquesta Anibal Troilo) and his quartet along with the Franco Luciani (harmonica) trio for the final concert of the Festival 2019 at Usina del Arte.

I haven’t gone to dance at a milonga in a year, but I went yesterday to one held by the festival in the Abasto shopping mall, near the home when Carlos Gardel lived with his mother.  The milonga was advertised on the site:  At the Patio del Zorzal, Gladys and Oscar Zalazar will conduct a dance class for all levels; then there will be an Open Milonga with recorded music spun by DJ Andrés Valenzuela, followed by a dance exhibition featuring Jesús Velázquez and Natacha Poberaj.

An area on the first level of Abasto was set aside for the milonga with chairs and tables around it.  The Zalazars invited people to participate in their class.  A foreign visitor and I decided to have coffee and talk instead of watching it.  When we returned, the milonga floor was full of dancers of all dance levels.

There was no word in the promotion that this milonga was “contemporary tango” music, which I learned much later from a person in charge.  It was easy to see that many were trying to dance because they came to dance, not because they were inspired by the music.  Plain and simple: the recorded music was horrible.

I started talking to seniors on the sidelines about the music.  They all agreed with me.  They wanted to hear tango music for dancing, not contemporary tango for exhibition.  When I had the opportunity to talk with the person in charge, I asked him why the DJ wasn’t playing dance music that the people wanted to hear.  He said this was organized as a milonga with contemporary tango, whatever that means.  Why? Did they expect to draw a younger crowd?  The majority of the dancers were over 60.  Many sat out in protest.  I asked one couple on the floor if they liked the music.  They replied, no.  So why are you dancing?  They immediately walked off the floor. More should have done so.  It would have sent a strong message that this is not the kind of music real tango enthusiasts want for dancing.

I recall a story Alito shared with me years ago.  He said, “in my era, if the DJ played DiAngeles or any orchestra not for the milongas, he could be taken out to the street and shot.”  That’s how demanding the milongueros were about the music.  If they didn’t like the tanda, they did not dance.  It was a strong message to the DJ that he had to play the music they wanted or else the floor was empty.

If the music presented for dancing doesn’t have a strict tempo, it’s not for dancing.  The milongas in Buenos Aires that offer this kind of quasi-tango, the level of dancing will suffer.  Dancers need and require the best tango music available.  The music of the golden age of tango is available everywhere in the world.  There is no reason not to provide it for dancers everywhere.

D’Arienzo, Troilo, Calo, Di Sarli, and other orchestra recordings will never go out of style.  These recordings endure for one reason: it’s great music for dancing.  Substituting inferior music that attempts to compete with the greats will only bring on the demise of tango and the milongas.   Any DJ that avoids and rejects the golden age music has no respect for tango.  It’s only a job.

5 Responses to “Tango BA Festival”

  1. Stig Djerf Says:

    Alfredo De Angelis?

  2. jantango Says:

    Yes. Please excuse the misspelling of his surname. Many decades ago, his orchestra was considered music for the neighborhood carousels, not the milonga as it is today.

  3. Chris Says:

    Like any orchestra, De Angelis’ music is liked by some and disliked by others, but the idea it is “not for the milongas” is a myth.

    De Angelis is certainly in the Top 20 of orchestras of played in BA milongas. For vals in particular he’s very popular. His 1961 Cumparsita is one of the most often played,.

    Here’s a De Angelis tango tanda from one of BA’s top DJs Dani Borelli.

    Que buena es : Alfredo De Angelis, singer Julio Martel : 1943

    De igual a igual : Alfredo De Angelis, singer Julio Martel, reciter Néstor Rodi : 1944

    Rendido Alfredo De Angelis, singer Julio Martel : 1945

    Rosicler : Alfredo De Angelis, singer Julio Martel : 1946

  4. jantango Says:

    Ricardo Vidort and Alito Candamil both told me that De Angelis’ music was played in the plazas where children rode on the carousels. You can see the carousels present in the plazas today, but they play other music.

  5. Chris Says:

    Jan wrote: “Ricardo Vidort and Alito Candamil both told me that De Angelis’ music was played in the plazas where children rode on the carousels.

    Janis, tango was played everywhere. Streets, radio, cafes, homes, taxis…

    None of that means it was “not for the milonga”.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s