Sunday, 17 November 2013

Orquesta Típica Victor (OTV) - Golden Age recordings

From its creation Orquesta Típica Victor was recording in Guardia Vieja style. The songs from that period were very simple and rhythmical, all the instruments were playing together - "a la parilla". Some other popular orchestras playing in that style were: Adolfo Carabelli, Sexteto Carlos di Sarli, early Francisco Lomuto and Francisco Canaro. In the middle of 30ies the style changed and Golden Age period started. The music became more sophisticated, melodic and romantic. Also OTV did follow that trend.

Songs from that period are probably less known among the dancers than the ones from the Guardia Vieja epoch. I like them a lot, both as a DJ and as a dancer. I'd like you to pay special attention to two of them.

"Una Vez" is the first one. I think that it is currently the most popular song of OTV from that period. It is truly beautiful, its melody usually brings all the dancers to the dance floor. It happens that some songs become popular in the milongas because of some famous couple's performance video on Youtube. I think "Una Vez" is an example of it. It got much more popular (at least at the milongas I was attending) after Noelia Hurtado and Carlitos Espinoza performed to it (link to the video below).

By the way: Noelia had also an important contribution to promoting another tango hit - "Invierno" by Francisco Canaro. At that occasion it was still with Pablo Rodríguez.

Another song to check is "Loca", a song better known from d'Arienzo's repertoire. The version by OTV is pretty much completely unknown. The quality of the recording available is not great and it is not easy to build a consistent tanda with it. I would rather leave playing it during marathons with crowd of experienced dancers.

Song examples:

Una Vez, Canta Ortega del Cerro, 1943
Bailan Carlitos Espinoza y Noelia Hurtado
Bailan Murat y Michelle Erdemsel

Bajo El Cono Azul, Canta Alberto Carol, 1944
Bailan Anita Monteagudo y Pablo Retamar

Tu Vida Es Mi Vida, Instrumental, 1937

Mi Taza De Café, Canta Alberto Carol, 1944

Loca, Instrumental, 1944

Adios Buenos Aires, Angel Vargas, 1938
Bailan Juan Carlos Martinez y Nora Witanowsky

Desesperanza, Canta Mario Pomar, 1939

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Orquesta Típica Victor (OTV) - Overview

From the beginnings of tango "industry" some of the recording companies were creating their own tango orchestras. Their main purpose was to represent the companies and make recordings. They usually did not perform in public. Example of such orchestras are: Orquesta Típica Brunswick, Orquesta Típica Columbia, Orquesta Típica Select. But by far the most famous one was Orquesta Típica Victor (OTV).

The orchestra was created in 1925 and existed until 1944. Throughout its history many of the best tango musicians worked there. Adolfo Carabelli was the first leader of the orchestra. Among other famous names we could find bandoneonists: Luis Petruccelli , Ciriaco Ortiz, Carlos Marcucci, Pedro Laurenz; violinists: Agesilao Ferrazzano, Elvino Vardaro, Antonio Buglione, Cayetano Puglisi. Most of those musicians have created their own orchestras after leaving OTV. Among the most important singers we should list: Roberto Díaz, Carlos Lafuente, Alberto Gómez, Ernesto Famá, Luis Díaz, Ortega del Cerro, Angel Vargas.

Between 1925 and 1937 the orchestra was recording in Guardia Vieja style. Later on it followed trend and moved to the Golden Age style. To read about the difference between those styles please check one of my previous posts: Guardia Vieja vs Golden Age.

In the repertoire we will find very wide selection of tangos but also many valses and a few milongas. In my next posts I will write more about them and give many examples...

For more detailed information please go to:
Todo Tango - Orquesta Típica Victor

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Guardia Vieja vs Golden Age - part 1

For quite some time already I wanted to write a post about terms that most of us have heard many times, but probably we don't always know what exactly they mean. Those terms are: Guardia Vieja, Guardia Nueva and La Época De Oro. Before writing more, once again I'd like to highlight that I'm am not an expert in the history of tango. My knowledge is based on some basic reading, talking to knowledgeable tango friends and mainly on listening!

While reading some texts about Guardia Vieja, Guardia Nueva and La Época De Oro, I came across several different, sometimes contradictory definitions. Some sources define Guardia Vieja (Old Guard) as the period in the history of Tango covering the years 1880 - 1920. Then comes Guardia Nueva (New Guard) and lasts from 1920 till 1960. La Época De Oro (Golden Age) is not mentioned at all. Even though this classification may be correct, from our perspective (21st century tango dancers and DJs) it does not seem to be very logical and useful.

Another definition cuts the history of tango music in the following way: Guardia Vieja 1880-1925, Guardia Nueva 1925-1935, La Época De Oro 1935 - 1955. This categorization is much closer to my heart and seems much more logical.

And how do I see it? The period before 1925, was the time when the music we are dancing today in milongas was being formed. It starts at the end of the XIX century with "payadores"- folk artists singing accompanied by a guitar. Later came the trios: a flute, a guitar and a violin. Later the bandoneon was added. The big revolution came when the piano replaced the guitar (both of them are string instruments). When I check my collection, I can hear the piano for the first time in recordings of Roberto Firpo's orchestra from 1919. And this was the moment when the tango music started reminding the music we all know today. During the next 5-6 years, the music did evolve further. Together with the music also technology improved. Around 1925 we are ready! The music has developed in a way that it is interesting for the dancers and the quality of the recordings allows us to use it in the milongas.

So the period before 1925 is very important in the history of tango, but it is not that important for us as dancers and DJs. The period between 1925 and 1935 is what I call Guardia Vieja. The music at that time is rhythmic and fairly simple. Most instruments play together and the same (a la parilla). The most important orchestras from this period are: Orquesta Tipica Victor, Adolfo Carabelli, Sexteto Carlos di Sarli and my favorite Francisco Canaro.
In 1935 we have a big change: Juan d'Arienzo arrives with his new style. Many of the existing orchestras change their styles (e.g. OTV, Carlos di Sarli, Fresedo) and other new, great orchestras are formed. This is the best period in the history of tango music and for that reason it is called Golden Age. The music becomes much more sophisticated. Instruments become much more independent (that makes dancing to that music so interesting, we can choose different instruments to dance to). This period lasts until approximately 1960. Around that time tango dancing lost its popularity in Buenos Aires. This is the moment when dance and music take different directions. To a big extent this change of direction can be linked to the genius and great tango musician: Astor Piazzolla.

So here we are: 
- before 1925: music not yet for dancing
- 1925 - 1935: Guardia Vieja period
- 1935 - 1960: Golden Age period
- after 1960: music not for dancing anymore

Don't get me wrong. I don't mean that after 1960 there was no music recorded that can be used in milongas. Myself I do play occasionally some late d'Arienzo (instrumental, with Valdez or Ramos), late Pugliese (I love A Evaristo Carriego or La Mariposa), Calo (e.g. Que falta que me haces with Podesta). But those are rather exceptions.

In one of the coming posts I will focus more on Guardia Vieja and Golden Age period. I will share my experience as a dancer and as a DJ. For now check the song examples below...

Song examples:

Before 1925

Golden Age (1935-1960)

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Edgardo Donato - Milongas

In my previous post I have written a little bit about the theory of the milongas and one possible way of categorizing them. Now it's time to get more into practice:). I'm quite sure that Donato's milongas are in the top 3 most frequently played milongas in Europe (with Canaro and d'Arienzo). The songs have a very warm and soft tone, which has probably quite a lot to do with the voice of Horacio Lagos and the use of the accordion.

The milongas of Donato are very playful and one never gets bored with them. Every time I hear  them, I immediately look for a partner to dance. While dancing, I always smile :). Very often I add some spice to the dance by doing some "extras" (e.g. special pause, change of level, etc...) - The music provides lots of opportunities to do them. Very often experienced followers who know the music well, expect those "extras" and to surprise them.... I don't do anything. It's a great game to play!

Amongst the songs you'll find quite a big variety in terms of speed. The slowest songs (El Torito, Papas Calientes or El Lengue) start with 80 bps. The medium speed songs are the most famous and popular ones (e.g. Ella Es Así or Porteña Linda). The fastest songs have really great energy: the most famous is surely La Milonga Que Faltaba.

Enjoy listening and .... dancing :)

Song examples:

Slow milongas:
El Torito, Instrumental , 1939
Papas Calientes, Instrumental, 1937
El Lengue, Instrumental , 1940

Medium speed milongas:
De Punta A Punta, Canta Horacio Lagos, 1939
Ella Es Así, Canta Horacio Lagos, 1938
Porteña Linda, Canta Horacio Lagos, 1940
Sácale Punta, Canta Horacio Lagos, Randona, 1938

Fast milongas:
Campo Afuera, Canta Horacio Lagos, 1940
Milonga Que Faltaba, Canta Horacio Lagos, 1938, Baila Loukas Balokas - Georgia Priskou
Repique Del Corazón, Cantan Horacio Lagos, Romeo Gavio, 1941

Sunday, 27 January 2013


It has been a while since my last publication in this blog. The last weeks have been very busy but now the time has come to start writing again! Originally, I was going to write a post about the milongas of Edgardo Donato. When I thought about the introduction, I realized that the topic can be interesting enough for a stand-alone post. So here it comes... Donato's milongas will follow very soon.

It is always very difficult to make any classification of the tango music. Any "label-putting" carries some risks (there are always some exceptions, we simplify the topic too much, etc...). But still I believe it is wise to classify the music, as it helps us understand the basics and learn more about it. So here comes my classification of milongas... I split them into the following groups:

1) Guardia Vieja style milongas
2) Milongas of d'Arienzo
3) Golden Age milongas

This split might seem very simplistic to many of you. But there's quite some logic behind it and many implications for both dancing and DJ-ing.

1) Guardia Vieja style milongas are the oldest ones. The first song I use while DJ-ing dates back to 1932 (Milonga Sentimental of Adolfo Carabelli). The milongas in this group are very light and playful. In general they are very easy to dance (especially the slow ones). They are perfect for all events and dancers of all levels should appreciate them. In this category we will find the milongas of:
  • Francisco Canaro (from 1930ies)
  • Edgardo Donato
  • Francisco Lomuto (most of them are really fast)
  • Orquesta Típica Victor (there are only 2 frequently played songs)

2) Milongas of d'Arienzo. You might be surprised why I put the milongas of one orchestra in a separate category. I think those songs are distinctive enough to treat them separately. They are less playful than the previous ones. The rhythm is dominant, they are very dynamic. One could even say that they are a bit "aggressive". They are relatively difficult to dance.

3) Golden Age milongas. In the beginning of 1940ies the tango music changes significantly. This change did not spare milongas. After the playful and rhythmical milongas of  the 1930ies, the milongas of the 1940ies become much more melodic. This is the main characteristic of this period. In some songs the rhythm is hardly present (e.g. Zorzal by di Sarli). Those songs are generally sophisticated, very difficult to dance and mainly advanced dancers appreciate them. In this category we will find milongas of many orchestras. E.g.:
  • Angel d'Agostino
  • Aníbal Troilo
  • Carlos di Sarli
  • Miguel Caló
  • Pedro Laurenz
  • Ricardo Tanturi
  • Rodolfo Biagi
Many dancers don't appreciate milongas from this category. I have heard several times comments such as: "this is bad, not danceable music" - that's obviously not the case. As a dancer, I'm not a big fan of Golden Age milongas, but I appreciate them and I know that it is valuable and important music (even if it is less playful and more difficult to dance). I think it would be great if the dancers knew tango music history and its evolution a little better. This would help them to understand and appreciate good tango music, despite their personal preference and dancing level.

Song examples:

1) Guardia Vieja style:

2) Milongas of d'Arienzo:

3) Golden Age Milongas:

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Tango DJ interviews

Today I have decided to write a post that will be completely different from the others. A few months ago SuperSabino, a great and popular DJ from Italy, came up with a very interesting initiative. He started interviewing tango DJs and the text of the interviews can be found at his blog:

Please visit the blog and read as much as you can. You will really find valuable comments that are interesting not only for tango DJs, but also for all the dancers.

I have been one of the interviewed DJs. If you are interested in reading my interview, you can check the following link:

All the DJs got the same set of questions. Four in particular attracted my attention :

1) Three orchestras that can not miss in one evening?
2) Your three favorite orchestras, which may also be different from the previous ones?
3) What are the three bands or singers you can not stand?
4) What is the band most underrated by the general public and which is the most overrated?

At the moment there are 28 interviews available. The DJs are from Argentina and Europe (mainly Italy, but many other countries are represented as well). I thought it could be interesting to put the ideas of those DJs together and see what is the outcome... So here are the results of my small analysis.

The question 1 and 2 were answered in the following way:

Question 1 Question 2
D'Arienzo 89% 57%
Di Sarli 89% 54%
Troilo 39% 25%
Canaro 21% 32%
Biagi 21% 25%
Pugliese 21% 50%
Fresedo 18% 29%
Calo 4% 11%
D'Agostino 4% 4%
Tanturi 4% 7%
Laurenz 4% 14%
Demare 0% 4%
Lomuto 0% 7%
Garcia 0% 4%
OTV 0% 4%
Varela 0% 4%
Rodriguez 0% 7%
Piazzolla 0% 4%

Pretty much all DJs agree that d'Arienzo and di Sarli are by far the most important orchestras. There are 7 orchestras that clearly come ahead, when talking about must-have-in-milongas music.

There is quite a big difference between personal preferences of the DJs (question 2) and what they think should be played in milongas (question 1). It terms of personal preference, Pugliese is much more appreciated, whereas d'Arienzo and di Sarli are appreciated a bit less, but they are still on the top of the ranking.

When asked about orchestras and singers that the DJ's "can't stand" the first comment in many cases was that "can't stand" is "maybe too much". But still there were some names given...The "winner" in this category is.... Alfredo de Angelis - 10 DJs mentioned they don't like him (either in general or some particular parts of his recordings). I'm not a big fan of de Angelis myself and actually I have been challenged about it by some readers of my blog.. It looks like I'm not alone in my preferences:). The second place in "the least appreciated" category went to.... Héctor Varela. His name was mentioned by 7 DJs (surprisingly I´m not a big fan of Varela either :). The third place went to Enrique Rodriguez with 2 votes only... Other orchestras mentioned (by 1 DJ each) were Firpo, Villasboas, Francini-Pontier, Malerba, OTV, Sassone.

Concerning the over and under rated orchestras: There isn't a common agreement on this topic. Troilo and Pugliese seem to be underrated in the opinion of DJ 7 and 4 respectively. Overrated orchestras: Varela (no surprice - 5 DJs) and Canaro (5 DJs). Those were the only frequently repeating answers. Quite many DJs say that some "older" orchestras (Canaro, Donato, Orquesta Tipica Victor) are overrated and too frequently played, in Europe in particular.

I think that if we put the comments of those 28 DJs together we will gain a huge amount of tango knowledge and experience. Those people come from different countries, are of different age and have different tango background. However, they have similar preferences and tastes. I think that the results is an indicator of what is good, valuable tango music and also what is less important and not that good.

This does not absolutely mean that we need to go against our personal preferences! If one loves and gets inspired by the music of de Angelis and Varela - that's great! The most important is to enjoy the dance and feel the music deep inside.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Héctor Varela

Orchestra: Héctor Varela

Singers: Jorge Falcón, Argentino Ledesma, Rodolfo Lesica, Fernando Soler, Armando Laborde,  Instrumental

Period: 1950–1979

Héctor Varela has recorded a few hundreds of songs, but only very few titles (10-12) are known to the wider tango audience. Between 1939 and1949 Varela played in d'Arienzo's orchestra, so there's no surprise that his own orchestra was playing very rhythmically. At the same time many songs are dramatic and the singers are very prominent.

I really like Varela's milongas. They are quite difficult to dance, but their energy and humor (e.g. in case of Hazme Cu-Cu) are great! Several valses are very good and it is worth listening to them.

DJ Comment

I think Héctor Varela is an example of "tango fashion". He became very popular some years ago. One could hear a tanda of his music at every big festival. I feel that recently he is becoming a bit less popular, giving space to some other "in-fashion" orchestras (like currently Donato Racciatti).

I am not the biggest fan of Varela's music. But I know that many dancers love it, so I play it occasionally. If I do it, it's normally in a bigger place with high number of tangueros. In my opinion this music is not appropriate for  small, local milongas. If you play a tanda of Varela you may increase the volume a bit, so that people feel more energy and get carried away...

Song examples:


Fueron tres años, Canta Argentino Ledesma, 1956
Bailan Fabian Peralta - Lorena Ermocida
Diego Riemer - Mariana Dragone

Fumando Espero, Canta Argentino Ledesma, 1955

Muchacha, Canta Argentino Ledesma, 1956

Qué Tarde Que Has Venido, Canta Argentino Ledesma, 1956


Una Lagrimita, Canta Jorge Falcón, 1973

Igual Que Dos Palomas, Cantan Argentino Ledesma, Rodolfo Lesica, 1953, Bailan Sebastian Jimenez Maria Ines Bogado

Gota de lluvia, Cantan Argentino Ledesma, Rodolfo Lesica, 1956, Bailan Sebastian Arce Mariana Montes


Con Flauta Y Guitarra, Cantan Jorge Falcón, Fernando Soler, 1973
Con Flauta Y Guitarra, Cantan Armando Laborde, Rodolfo Lesica, 1973
Bailan Sebastian Arce - Mariana Montes

Haceme Cu-Cú, Cantan Jorge Falcón, Fernando Soler, 1973

Azúcar, Pimienta Y Sal, Cantan Jorge Falcón, Fernando Soler, 1973

Silueta Porteña, Canta Argentino Ledesma, 1956