I am currently building my own website called TANGO NOTES, a resource about tango music. Feel free to visit here:

Selected Tango Immigrant posts will continue to be up for the foreseeable future.

26 February 2013

Traditionalists have feelings, too

Guy at local milonga: "You really like tango music, don't you?"
Me: "Um. Yes!!!"
Me (in my head): "Now that's a strange question."


You've probably read the tango music discussions on blogs and Facebook - you know, the ones concerning "do we want more nuevo / alternative in the milongas or not?" In these discussions, there's always some person using words like "traditionalist", "tango music police" and similar - in a tone that seems quite sarcastic. These persons' comments usually imply that traditionalists are people who protect tradition just for tradition's sake, without any further thoughts, and that they are conservative, reactionary, dogmatic, narrow-minded and generally afraid of new stuff.

I'm sure that there are traditionalists that fit this description perfectly. I'm also sure that some traditionalists are writing stuff that is upsetting to those of you who love nuevo. And of course: there are lots of nuevo lovers who don't generalise!

But still. I'm becoming increasingly cranky from being labelled as something that I can't relate to.

The thing is: I'm not a traditionalist just for the sake of it. Basically, this is not my tradition - or, to put it differently: it doesn't have to be my tradition if I don't want to. I'm not an old porteño that experienced the Golden Age. I'm a modern Norwegian girl with no prior connection to the history of Buenos Aires. As an immigrant to the country called Tango, I can choose to be a rebel if I like.

As I've pointed out before, I only liked nuevo and alternative music in the beginning. Actually, I'm not sure if I would have continued dancing if it weren't for the nuevo tandas at the local milonga and my beloved Gotan Project CD.

But then something happened: I went to a class where the teachers danced to El Flete by D'Arienzo. And I thought: "Hey, this is fun stuff!" I went home and listened again to the few CDs I had and found more fun stuff I had ignored. The rest is, well, history - pun not intended.

During the last six years or so, I've discovered a whole world of qualities and emotions in the music from the Golden Age: The sharp and energetic rhythms of D'Arienzo, fleetingly touched with lyricism. The robust, down-to-earth sadness of Rodríguez with Moreno. The slight naïveness of Fresedo.

The reliability of Canaro, paired with the milk chocolate-y voice of Maida and the incredibly cute "po-po-po-s" from a muted trumpet. The bandoneóns in some Donato tangos, sounding like birds. Oh, and these pianists. The majestic Carlos Di Sarli and the manic Rodolfo Biagi.

I've laughed when dancing to "Gato". I've found the perfect calmness with D'Agostino. Heck, I'll admit it: I've even cried. Not on the dance floor, but in broad daylight in front of my laptop, tagging Di Sarli's "Hasta siempre, amor". I don't even understand that much of the lyrics. It's all there in Horacio Casares' voice.

So I'll keep defending the traditional music. Not because it's traditional, but because it makes me dance through every emotion during a three hour milonga.

(and yes: I find some traditional tango music mind-numbingly boring. But who knows - I might like it at another stage of my life)

Links to the music:

Juan D'Arienzo instrumental 1936 - El Flete

Enrique Rodríguez canta Armando Moreno 1942 - Yo no sé por que razón

Osvaldo Fresedo canta Roberto Ray 1935 - Isla de Capri

Francisco Canaro canta Roberto Maida 1935 - Tu y yó

Edgardo Donato canta Horacio Lagos 1936 - Me voy a baraja

Carlos Di Sarli instrumental 1956 - Viviani

Rodolfo Biagi instrumental 1940 - El yaguarón

Edgardo Donato canta Horacio Lagos 1937 - Gato

Ángel D'Agostino canta Ángel Vargas 1944 - Esta noche en Buenos Aires

Carlos Di Sarli canta Horacio Casares 1958 - Hasta siempre, amor

22 February 2013

Illustrated: wanting to be a DJ

(click image for larger version)

Illustration by me - have a happy weekend everyone =)

8 February 2013

Paciencia - to walk or not to walk

(me, some years ago, dancing with friend to "Desde el alma" / Pugliese)

* pause / stretched tone in music *

Me to friend: "Stand still!!!"


Hopefully, I'm more subtle on the dance floor these days. But sometimes, I still want to say it: Stand still!!! This dance of ours isn't a questionnaire where you earn one point each time you hit a beat.

Actually, you may earn more points by passing over a few beats.

If you want to explore this, please join me on a guided YouTube tour with Noelia Hurtado and Carlitos Espinoza. They're strong musical dancers, and they almost seem to make standing still a trademark.

Oh, one thing before we start - when I say "stand still", I don't mean "freeze like a rabbit caught in the headlights"! You'll see in the videos what I mean.

So. Which musical elements could inspire us to stand still?

1 - The Singer

In my world, the tango vocalists are heroes - even if they weren't always meant to be (in the early tango years, the vocalists were just singing the last part of a tango, as estribillistas). These voices are so beautiful, and it would be nice to acknowledge their presence in the music!

In the first video, Noelia and Carlitos mark the point when the vocalist starts singing at 0:56.

Music: "Qué lento corre el tren" - Enrique Rodríguez canta Alberto Moreno 1943

2 - The Musical Theme and The Solo Instrument

There's a lot of musical food in instrumental tangos as well. In the next video, our dancers are showing us two things by stopping:

- something new and very pretty happens at 0:26 - the music gets softer and less staccato; a new musical theme is introduced.

- the start of the violin solo at 1:19.

Music: "Ya no cantas más" - Orquesta Francisco Canaro 1934

3 - The Musical Decoration

The next video is a milonga. Noelia and Carlitos seem to be marking the appearance of the singer at 1:46. But they're actually playing with something else: the long tones of the violin that go along with the singer.

Music: "Flor de Monserrat" / "Pobre negrito" (milonga) - Rodolfo Biagi canta Alberto Amor 1945

(music starts at 0:55)

4 - The Lyrics

Ok, this is a tough one for us non-Spanish speakers. But it might be achievable in some cases, even for us!

The tango in the last video is called "Paciencia", and we can hear this word very clearly in the song. The melody is even dragged out, with long tones, to emphasise the word more. It's double clever, really, since it actually means "patience". You can "see" the word at 2:08 and 2:23.

Music: "Paciencia" - Juan D'Arienzo canta Enrique Carbel 1937

(music starts at 0:40)

The music will always make suggestions for us to interpret. The only thing we need to do is listen.

One thing though: Even if we love the music, the flow we create together with our friends on the dance floor is more important. So we need to choose our moments of standing still with care.

4 February 2013

Download: Di Sarli timeline

In my last post, I wrote about how I think it's easier to learn tango music if you make a system for listening.

So last week, I tagged all my Di Sarli recordings from A to Z. As usual, I tagged each recording with year and album artist, so if I click the various columns in my Di Sarli folder in iTunes, it gets sorted by singer or year.

But it's still a lot of information to remember...

"We should have a timeline of all the singers", my bf said. "We could print it out and tape it to the fridge". I found this such a brilliant idea that I spent the weekend in Photoshop, designing a timeline.

The link below the picture is to the printable pdf version. It should work nicely for an A4 printout. If you think this could be useful for yourself or any of your friends, feel free to download, print and share!

All information is from the discographies at, and

Feedback and comments are most welcome! Everything has been checked, double-checked and cross-checked, but let me know if you find any errors.