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