|Denver Festival lives!|
The Alternative Music
The historic festival is alive!Denver Tango Festival has already been a legend when we were tango newbies - actually, I am on record saying that my birth as a tanguero happened right there, a dozen festivals ago. In fact, Tom Stermitz's organizer's prowess left its mark not just in his hometown, but continents and oceans away, from Russia (where the nation's oldest and strongest festival, Moscow Milonguero Nights, has been godfathered by Tom) to San Diego with its famous New Year's festival, originally Tom's brainchild as well.
|My rookie's milonga many,|
many years ago. And I still
consider a year without dancing
in the slanted rays of Sun at
Cheesman, a year not fully lived
But it's also true that the tango festival organizers' world had changed dramatically in the past two decades. There are myriad festival-goers' options now, and the tangueros know almost in real time who's heading where, what's hot, what's not. For, ultimately, it is the guest list which makes the festival. And to stay hot and to attract the cool guests, one must constantly innovate, be generous and personable, always ratchet things up, always keep abreast with the trends - or better yet, set the trends, and never let the fickle Fortune look at you dismissively. In hindsight, Denver Tango Festival already showed signs of slow decay and of the organizers' inattention even when we first visited it 7 years ago. The oldtimers would already tell you that it used to bigger, that it used to be a trend-setting novelty, but by the late 2000's it's become a dependable, solid but kind of stolid thing. Frictions within the community didn't help things either, and by fall 2014, the grand old fest was at the edge of the abyss.
|The power of the locals, DEN 2015:|
John Miller and Nick Jones introduce a miraculously restored Victrola;
Jesica Cutler crafts the festival banner, as Pugliese watched approvingly;
Martin Rybczynski outshone all of the DJs in my personal perception
The alternative conundrum
|Defamiliarization :) :|
Victor Shklovsky, who coined the word,
with his wife Serafima. The 1950s.
But these two cool goals don't come without a major liability. For great many tangueros, one of the best things about the milonga culture is exactly this Great Wall of the cultural divide separating the tango universe from the popular and contemporary cultural influences and from the music forms from outside Argentina, and they love being safe and predictable in the beautiful bubble of the Golden Age. They don't volunteer into the surprising discoveries of, eh, defamiliarization. They may or may not join a fully alternative milongas, as a matter of an informed conscious choice ... but the "mostly classic / part alternative" format has worse pitfalls. The guests generally don't know if an alt tanda is coming, and if they are prepared to dance but choose to sit it out, then it may drain some of the energy. Moreover, I try hard to select the moods, the rhythms, and the textures of the consecutive tandas to generate a good flowing wave of energy, a predictably accelerating and decelerating but unstoppable momentum. But it is a lot harder to create a parallel wave experience for those dancers who skip all alternatives, so they may be shortchanged in this respect, too.
The relative unpredictability and the sheer variety of the alternative tango music lead to one more inseparable yin-yang pair of a pro and a con. Generally it makes little sense to weigh the opening bars of an alt tanda to decide who exactly is the perfect partner for this music. You know the drill, "X is a superb Di Sarli - Podesta tango follower, or Y is just right for a fiery vals of Biagi's". It is a cliche, and IMHO it is largely a fallacy, yet another automaton stereotype which detracts from our creativity. Sure thing this "Y" could be great for this specific flavor of music, but if it's all you ever dance with him, without variation, then you are probably missing out. Anyway, with an alternative tanda, you better "expect the unexpected" & throw most of these prejudicial who's-good-for-what ideas out of the window. The result is a better social openness, and it is a big pro in my book. But the flip side is that it's much harder to mix the alt tandas, to make sure that "the unexpected" doesn't become "the haphazard" or even "the untenable". (On the contrary, in the classic tanda mixology, a DJ needs to watch out for "the predictable" not to segway into "the unexciting" and "the contrived").
To cut the long story short, the flow-of-energy magic resulted in the final setlist being 25% non-classical - which is lower that 35% requested by the host, but still a LOT higher than anything I played to date (Interestingly, Adam's supposedly "50:50" milonga two days before also came at about 30% non-classic?).
The playlist with comments01. Quinteto Don Pancho "El garron" 1938 2:27
02. Quinteto Don Pancho "Alma en pena" 1938 2:46
03. Quinteto Don Pancho "Champagne tango" 1938 2:30
I re-cut cortinas to various lengths between 33 and 45 seconds based on my visual memories of the floor of the Avalon Ballroom. Having played them, I can now conclude that just about 30 seconds would have been perfectly OK for this venue (and it can be as short as 20" for the earliest tandas with the lighter attendance)
|The dance floor of the Avalon|
fills up fast!
05. Carlos Di Sarli - Roberto Rufino "Cascabelito" 1941 2:34
06. Carlos Di Sarli - Roberto Rufino "Tristeza Marina" 1943 3:09
07. Carlos Di Sarli - Roberto Rufino "Charlemos" 1941 2:30
08. Leonid Utesov "S Odesskogo Kichmana" 1935 0:44
I had a sheepish thought. You see, people come early to Halina's milongas. But they head straight to the dining hall, bypassing the dance floor - because they know that the best food won't last. Tonight, there is a stupendous black bean soup, fantastic quinoa, ham ... and the bread is just about to come out of the oven ... and ... (well you know where I got some inspiration for our local events ;) ). In any case, I was making a guess that nobody will dance the first three tandas because they'll go eat, and that I will get a chance to sneak in some contentious alt set and nobody will even notice :) But ... the dancers already fill the floor during the Di Sarli tanda. Therefore, they need a good classic tango warmup. Therefore, my 3rd tanda will be alternative almost in the name only. Yes, this stuff doesn't get played at the regular classic milongas. But .... I think it should be. Hats off to Alex Krebs!
09. The Alex Krebs Tango Sextet "Largas las Penas" 2011 3:02
10. The Alex Krebs Tango Sextet "Negrito (milonga)" 2011 1:53
11. The Alex Krebs Tango Sextet "Ella Es Asi" 2011 2:32
12. Zhanna Aguzarova "Old Hotel cortina long" 0:38
13. Ángel D'Agostino - Ángel Vargas "Ahora No Me Conocés" 1941 2:35
14. Ángel D'Agostino - Ángel Vargas "Solo compasion" 1941 2:58
15. Ángel D'Agostino - Ángel Vargas "Ninguna" 1942 2:59
16. Lidiya Ruslanova "Valenki 5 (cortina)" 0:36
"It looks like they love it!": A DJ's myopia?
I know what to do if, G*d forbid, el gente refuses to dance to my tanda. But now I see the full floor, I see the people dancing well to the music, Nobody is making grimaces. No obscene gestures. Do I have to assume that the people like the music? What other body cues do I have to watch for? Experienced DJs out there, can you share your advice?
Of course I can't help remembering a classic Russian meme: "The mice took jabs from the spines, cried, but kept on eating cactus". It means, if one *really* hates something, then how come one would't stop doing it?
18. Feist and Ben Gibbard "Train Song" 3:03
19. Alacran "Reflejo De Luna" 2010 3:44
20. "Katyusha" 0:33
Should I have called these valses alternative? Of course, it is a fav BsAs orchestra, and it is the late 1930s and early 1940s ... but Enrique Rodriguez remixes old Europe's folk hits here, from a Russian gypsy romance to an Andalusian buleria. And, strictly speaking, his orchestra isn't even a tango tipica - it was officially "an orchestra of all different rhythms"! ( It is also time to celebrate the upcoming Armando "Muñeco" Moreno's birthday, May 29th. He joined the orchestra of Enrique Rodriguez at the age of 18 and kept returning there to record more hits. Alas I didn't have time for another tanda with Moreno! I love so many of his tangos, valses, and foxes!)
21. Enrique Rodriguez - Armando Moreno "En el volga yo te espero" 1943 2:40
22. Enrique Rodriguez - Roberto Flores "Las Espigadoras (vals)" 1938 2:47
23. Enrique Rodriguez - Roberto Flores "Los Piconeros (vals)" 1939 2:47
24. Leonid Bykov "Smuglyanka" 0:33
And of course Fresedo's birthday is also in May
25. Osvaldo Fresedo - Roberto Ray "Isla de Capri" 1935 3:16
26. Osvaldo Fresedo - Roberto Ray "Canto de amor" 1934 3:25
27. Osvaldo Fresedo - Roberto Ray "Sollosos" 1937 3:27
28. Lidiya Ruslanova "Valenki 2 (cortina)" 0:33
I haven't played these more rhythmic Tanturi's for too long!
29. Ricardo Tanturi - Alberto Castillo "Decile Que Vuelva" 1942 2:33
30. Ricardo Tanturi - Alberto Castillo "Asi Se Baila El Tango" 1942 2:36
31. Ricardo Tanturi - Alberto Castillo "La vida es corta" 1941 2:25
32. The Red Elvises "Cosmonaut Petrov 1 (-3dB)" 1999 0:28
33. Fool's Garden "Lemon tree" 1995 3:09
34. Israel Kamakawiwo'ole "Over The Rainbow" 2001 3:32
35. Souad Massi "Ghir Enta" 2008 5:06
36. The Blues Brothers "Theme From Rawhide (long vocal cortina)" 1980 0:33
37. Carlos Di Sarli - Roberto Rufino "La Mulateada" 1941 2:22
38. Carlos Di Sarli - Roberto Rufino "Zorzal" 1941 2:40
39. Carlos Di Sarli - Roberto Rufino "Pena Mulata" 1941 2:27
(A DJ's nightmarish oops here - my deepest apologies for it. A cut for flamenco, with a switch to a different computer, has been requested, but just as I switched, the dancer whispered that she wasn't ready! Hurriedly returning to my laptop and to an appropriate next tanda, I fatfingered a few seconds of the previous tanda's milonga before correcting it to a cortina. Blush.)
40. Leonid Utesov "S Odesskogo Kichmana" 1935 0:44
41. Orquesta Tipica Victor (dir. A. Carabelli) "Nino bien" 1928 2:43
42. Orquesta Tipica Victor (dir. A. Carabelli) "Che, papusa, oi" 1927 2:37
43. Orquesta Tipica Victor (dir. F. Scorticati) - Angel Vargas "Adios Buenos Aires" 1938 2:36
44. Alla Pugacheva "Million Scarlet Roses (cortina long)" 0:39
cut for a birthday vals followed by a flamenco demo
45. Alfredo De Angelis - Carlos Dante - Julio Martel "Sonar y Nada Mas" 3:06
46. Leonid Utesov "S Odesskogo Kichmana" 1935 0:44
and a community / waterfall dance tanda of Canaro classics:
47. Francisco Canaro - Roberto Maida "Recuerdos de Paris" 1937 3:12
|Some of Florian Hermann's compositions|
available from a 1900 German sheet music catalog
48. Francisco Canaro - Roberto Maida "Ojos negros que fascinan" 1935 2:51
49. Francisco Canaro - Roberto Maida "Mi noche triste" 1936 2:45
50. Victor Tsoy "Gruppa Krovi (cortina)" 0:36
Two very different pieces of Bregovic in the following tanda - in Polish with a beautiful voice of Kayah, and in English, from the soundtrack of Kusturica's failed American movie, "Arizona Dream". All three pieces are on the long side, making a nearly 15-minute tanda, and I stand by ready to cut it to just two songs if the energy comes short - but no, the whole floor is dancing.
51. Pentatonix "Say Something" 4:39
52. Goran Bregovic - Kayah "To Nie Ptak [Not a Bird]" 1999 4:40
53. Goran Bregovic - Iggy Pop "In the Deathcar" 1999 5:13
55. Juan Maglio Pacho, Jorge Cafrune "Chacarera loca de Ledesma" 0:27
56. "Chacarera del Rancho" 2:21
57. "Chacarera del violin" 2:12
58. Leonid Bykov "Smuglyanka" 0:33
59. Juan D'Arienzo - Alberto Echagüe "Ansiedad" 1938 2:38
60. Juan D'Arienzo - Alberto Echagüe "Mandria" 1939 2:26
61. Juan D'Arienzo - Alberto Echagüe "Que importa" 1939 2:17
62. "Kuznechik Cortina" 0:39
A Polish and Russian 1930s-1940s tanda. Lots of tragic stories behind it - not just the heartbreak of the lyrics which the Polish poets so perfected starting in the 1920s. It is a relatively low energy tanda but it always strikes a chord with the people with Eastern European musical affinities. We travel to Poland - then Russia - then Romania and Latvia with these songs.
|Artur Gold & Jerzy Petersburski orchestra, Warsaw, ca. 1930|
Jerzy Petersburski, a composer and pianist, belonged to a Polish Jewish clan with a telling surname, the Melodists. His 1928 "Tango Milonga", a dream of the faraway Argentina, has become an international hit in the West, but his best remembered tango in Poland and Russia is "To ostatnia niedziela" ("This is the Last Sunday"), a song of separation and the end of love. The 1939 military defeat of Poland sent Petersburski on an escape route East to Białystok, where he was enlisted into the Soviet Belorussian State Jazz Ensemble. There, he composed Poland's favorite waltz, "Blekitna Chusteczka" ("Blue Handkerchief") which has become even more deeply ingrained in Russian conscience with the folk lyrics as the song of the heartbreak of the War.
(from Sophisti ezine)
Mieczysław Fogg's life story is amazing and inspiring - his voice helped to propel the 1928 "Tango Milonga" to world fame, and he was still touring with concerts in the post-totalitarian times right until his death in 1990! He fought with the Polish Resistance, he sang at the barricades of the Warsaw Uprising, he has become Righteous among the Nations for saving a Jewish family from the death camps, and he has been repeatedly voted the best radio singer both before WWII and during the People's Republic times.
63. Jerzy Petersburski - Mieczysław Fogg "To ostatnia niedziela" 1936 3:19
|Eddie Rosner soon after his return from Gulag labor camps. Having lost his teeth to scurvy,|
he had to re-learn to play trumpet with dentures. 1955.
64. Eddie Rosner - Georgy Vinogradov "Zachem (Why)" 1944 3:11
|A memorial plaque at the King of Tango's Riga home has been unveiled in 2013|
I already mentioned that Strok's "Dark Eyes" has also been interpreted by an Argentine tango orchestra decades later (Florindo Sassone, 1968)
|Before Leschenko became famous as a singer, he|
was a professional folk and exotic dancer
65. Frank Fox Tanzorchester- Piotr Leschenko "Chernye Glaza (Dark Eyes)" 1933
66. "Katyusha" 0:33
67. Francisco Lomuto - Jorge Omar "Damisela encantadora (vals)" 1936 2:58
68. Francisco Lomuto - Instrumental "Noche de ronda (vals)" 1937 2:34
69. Francisco Lomuto - Fernando Díaz, Mercedes Simone "Lo que vieron mis ojos" 1933 2:22
70. Leonid Utesov "S Odesskogo Kichmana" 1935 0:44
71. Sexteto Carlos Di Sarli - Ernesto Famá "Flora" 1930 2:44
72. Sexteto Carlos Di Sarli - Ernesto Famá "La estancia" 1930 3:25
73. Sexteto Carlos Di Sarli - Ernesto Famá "Chau pinela" 1930 2:41
74. Zhanna Aguzarova "Old Hotel cortina long" 0:38
75. Miguel Caló - Raúl Berón "Jamas retornaras" 1942 2:31
76. Miguel Caló - Raúl Berón "Tristezas de la Calle Corrientes" 1942 2:46
77. Miguel Calo - Raul Beron "Que te importa que te llore" 1942 2:44
78. The Blues Brothers "Theme From Rawhide (long vocal cortina)" 1980 0:33
79. Francisco Canaro - Roberto Maida "Milonga criolla" 1936 3:00
80. Francisco Canaro - Roberto Maida "Tangon (slow milonga)" 1935 3:17
81. Francisco Canaro - Roberto Maida "Milonga triste" 1937 3:33
82. Victor Tsoy "Gruppa Krovi (cortina)" 0:36
Two Argentine bands and one from Portland OR find a match in this almost-classic, high energy tanda. "Fervor", the mid-2000s phenomenon, got named after Borges's book. Their main album, "Quien sos", has several interesting dramatic danceables. "Ojos", led by a strikingly looking pianist, Analíá Goldberg, are known to play live at the milongas. Their "El adiós" is one of kind piece IMHO, a standout far surpassing most of the rest of their records.
83. Orquesta Tipica Fervor de Buenos Aires "E.G.B." 2007 2:26
84. The Alex Krebs Tango Sextet "La Yumba" 2011 2:57
85. Analíá Goldberg y Sexteto Ojos De Tango "El Adiós" 3:13 2011
87. Lucio Demare - Juan Carlos Miranda "Sorbos amargos" 1942 3:22
88. Lucio Demare - Juan Carlos Miranda "Mañana zarpa un barco" 1942 3:22
89. Lucio Demare - Juan Carlos Miranda "No te apures, Carablanca" 1942 3:29
90. Zhanna Aguzarova "Old Hotel cortina long" 0:38
91. Osváldo Pugliese - Roberto Chanel "Rondando Tu Esquina" 1943 2:48
92. Osváldo Pugliese - Roberto Chanel "Corrientes Y Esmeralda" 1944 2:49
93. Osváldo Pugliese - Jorge Maciel "Remembranza" 1956 3:41
94. Juan D'Arienzo - Instrumental "La cumparsita" 1951 3:49
... and a whole set of the apres-dancing, last drops of wine, last-hugs and furniture-moving music. The first song, a remix of a 1947 milonga sureña classic, feels really personal for me, with a lot of stubborn defiance, a bit of sadness, and no need for silence. And the long, long roads. Es demasiado aburrido seguir y seguir la huella...
95. Paco Mendoza & DJ Vadim "Los Ejes De Mi Carreta" 2013 3:23
96. Eendo "Eshgh e Aasemaani" 2011 3:31
97. Goran Bregovic "Maki Maki" 2009 3:33
Adiós, Colorado! Los ejes de mi carreta nunca los voy a engrasar.....