Wednesday 3 February 2016

Good vs. popular DJs

What makes a good DJ? What makes a popular DJ? Are all popular DJs good? Are all good DJs popular? I think those are very interesting questions and I will give you my answers to them. Although it is difficult, I don't want to sound too judgemental in this post. I will just share my humble view here. :)

I think that not all popular DJs are good. And there are many great DJs that are not popular. In this text by “popular” I mean being invited to play frequently at quality events. How is that possible? It does not sound fair and right, does it?

In my opinion there is only one element that makes a good DJ: the music he or she plays. As simple as that, nothing else. But there are several elements that make popular DJ. I would classify them under 3 headings: music, personal aspects and self-advertising. The music is the most important, but personal aspects are also very influential. Self-advertising is probably overrated, but also plays a role. In a more visual way this would look like:

A good DJ
A popular DJ
Personal aspects

As music that DJs play is the most important element, it deserves a separate post. I hope to write it soon. :)

You might be surprised but I strongly believe that personal aspects are almost as important as musical choices when we talk about reasons of popularity. Those personal aspects are: positive attitude, smile, physical attractiveness, dancing skills, number of friends, charisma, etc. All of them are absolutely positive, but don't make anybody's music better.

So why do those elements play such a big role? There are 2 reasons for that. The first one is very obvious: positive, smiling, attractive, dancing well people with charisma and friends add value to events. They attract more participants, make events more successful and enjoyable.

In my opinion today's tango world becomes a market, similar to the one for consumer goods or services. More and more often tango events become brands with a clear marketing strategy behind. Tango DJs are an important part of this strategy (e.g. the coolest DJs for the coolest event).

The other reason why personal aspects to a significant extent make a DJ popular is... organizers' ignorance. Some organizers simply don't have any clue about music or don't pay enough attention to it. I have witnessed instances when DJs were invited based on a recommendation of a friend of a friend of a friend :).  This is disrespectful to participants and risky for events' success.

The last element is self-advertising. Putting it in a commercial way: a DJ is a service provider and services sell better if they are advertised. There are 2 ways of advertising: direct (e.g. contacting organizers and asking them a job) or indirect (e.g. making a lot of fuss on Facebook, having a Youtube channel or a blog). Hang on... I have Facebook page, Youtube channel and you are reading my blog. Does it mean I...? :)

I don't have any problem with DJs' self-advertising. What I don't appreciate is when DJs push themselves (e.g. dancing or being extremely nice to someone just because he or she is an organizer).  I'm also a little bit bored with all DJ social media that don't offer any interesting content, merely advertising (e.g. FB pages with nothing else but DJing schedule or Youtube channels republishing songs that have been published many times in the past).

To summarise... All 3 elements (music, personal aspects and self-advertising) do have impact on a DJ's popularity. It is understandable why the latter 2 factors play a role. At the same time it is very unfortunate that they are so important. Some really great DJs don't play at events frequently only because personal aspects and self-advertising are not playing in their favour. And vice-versa some medium DJs play often mainly because they are cool, attractive, because they dance well or advertise a lot. I don't think this is a big issue, but it is important that tango dancers and organizers aware of it. More awareness in this topic might mean more conscious choices and better music at events.

Friday 22 January 2016

Domingo Federico

It's been a while since my previous post. Once again I want to give it a try and write more frequently. Let's see how it goes :).

I'd like to share with you some words about Domingo Federico. I think his music is amazing and it is not appreciated as much as it should be. In his early years, Domingo became interested in playing violin and bandoneón. His father gave him first classes. After some years, he eventually became a bandeonist. In 1941 Federico joined the famous orchestra of Miguel Caló. In 1943 he formed his own orchestra and started recording one year later.

For more detailed biographical and discographical information please go to:
Todo Tango - Domingo Federico

Most of Federico's songs (especially earlier ones) are melodic and romantic, some of them are dramatic. At the same time they have a very characteristic pulsing rhythm. I think it is this very unique combination of melody and rhythm that makes music of Domingo Federico so special.
My favourite recordings come from the 1940ies, but there are a few pearls from 1950ies. There are also some recordings from 1968-69, but they are less interesting and I would not play them in milongas.

The most important singer of the orchestra was Carlos Vidal. He recorded around 30 songs, of which several are masterpieces. It is pretty easy to build a good tanda with those songs: with good ingredients a dish is likely to taste well :).

All songs below are with Carlos Vidal:

And an amazing vals sung by duo Vidal and Oscar Larroca:

Several instrumental songs from 1944-45 are also worth mentioning:

And some other songs that should be a must in repertoire of each self-respected DJ :). Building those songs in a tanda takes a bit more experience, but give it a go!

An absolute hit of many marathons and festivals:

Another great song similar to Leyenda Gaucha:

The only tango recorded with Enzo Valentino:
Cualquier Cosa, 1951
But what a tango!

A great version of Y Todavía Te Quiero sung by Armando Moreno (the same who was recording with Enrique Rodríguez:

The most romantic song by Domingo Federico! Sung by Oscar Larroca (the same who will later sing the famous Volvamos A Empezar with Alfredo de Angelis):

Saturday 21 March 2015

Miguel Caló with Alberto Podestá

In the previous post I wrote that one of Caló's contributions to tango is discovering great singers Raúl Berón and Alberto Podestá. I'm particularly grateful for the second one, since he is one of my favorite singers.

I split recordings of Podestá with Caló into early and late ones. Early recordings cover only 4 tangos. In my opinion it is a mixed bag. "Yo Soy El Tango" is very light, almost kitschy. "Percal" is deep and very emotional. The other 2 songs: "Si Tu Quisieras" and "Dos Fracasos" are somewhere in between.

Alberto recorded those songs under the name of Juan Carlos Morel. Podestá was name after his mother. At that time in Buenos Aires there were some other singers with this name and Alberto wanted to avoid confusion. It was Carlos di Sarli who convinced him to use name Podestá. He said: "Kid, from now on you will be Alberto Podestá and out of all singers with this surname only you will endure".

The late recordings cover period from 1954 till 1972, the year when Miguel Caló passed away. Among recordings from this period we will find "Qué Falta Que Me Hacés" - possibly the best tango of all times! This song has everything a great tango should have: beautiful melody, a dose of drama, perfect orchestration, clear & regular rhythm. And let's not forget about the voice of Podestá. Sounds like a perfect recipe for a hit!

Apart from tangos, Podestá recorded with Caló's orchestra a few very popular valses... I will write about them some other time. Stay tuned :)

Early recordings:

Percal, Miguel Caló canta Alberto Podestá, 1943
Yo Soy El Tango, Miguel Caló canta Alberto Podestá, 1941
Dos Fracasos, Miguel Caló canta Alberto Podestá, 1941
Si Tu Quisieras, Miguel Caló canta Alberto Podesta, 1941

Late recordings:

Qué falta que me hacés, Miguel Caló canta Alberto Podestá, 1963
Bailan Javier Rodríguez y Geraldine Rojas

El Bazar De Los Jugetes, Miguel Caló canta Alberto Podestá, 1954
Cómo Le Digo A La Vieja, Miguel Caló canta Alberto Podestá, 1954

Saturday 14 February 2015

Miguel Caló - Overview

Miguel Caló is a name each tanguera and tanguero should be very familiar with. He is best known for his beautiful Golden Age recordings from 1940ies. But that is not all, we should know more...

Caló started his musical career in mid twenties. In 1926 he joined the orchestra of Osvaldo Fresedo, as a bandoneon player. A year later he joined Francisco Pracánico. His first own orchestra was created in 1929, but the project did not last long. Only 3 years later, in 1932, the second attempt of creating orchestra was successful.
Miguel Caló should be appreciated for his great musical legacy. Further more, he had another contribution to tango by introducing two greatest singers in the history: Raúl Berón and Alberto Podestá.

To learn about Caló´s music in more systematic way, I suggest to split his work into 3 parts:

- early recordings (1932-1938)
- Golden Age recordings (1940ies)
- late recordings (1950-1972)

Golden Age recordings are very famous and you will hear them in most milongas. The music from the other two periods is much less known, but also very interesting and worth discovering.

For more detailed biographical and discographical information please go to:
Todo Tango - Miguel Caló

In the next post I will start with Miguel Caló and Alberto Podestá...

Monday 9 February 2015

European Tangos part 1

The opinions on European tangos are very mixed. Some conservative tangueros don't consider them appropriate for milongas. Other, more “progressive” dancers and DJs simply love it! A few years ago a festival organizer advised” me not to play any non-Argentinian music because the dancers don’t appreciate it. Playing it turned out to be a great success :).

As usually, I think that the best approach is in-between. European tangos should be played in milongas, because they add variety and make milongas more interesting for the dancers. At the same time those tangos should not be abused by playing them too often. The dispute between "conservative" and “progressive” sides is not so important anyways… Vast majority of dancers will probably not realize that they are hearing and dancing to European music :).

In this and few other posts I will present you some of my favorite European orchestras and tangos. Some of them are famous and popular. Others are unknown, but worth discovering.

The most famous and frequently played European orchestra is Rafael Canaro. Some time ago I have written a post about him:

Jean Auguste Pesenti was a leader of another orchestra, which I would like to present in this post. Unfortunately, I can’t find any online information about this ensemble. You can find several interesting recordings below:

Sunday 25 January 2015

Aníbal Troilo with Francisco Fiorentino

If you go to any milonga with traditional music, you will probably hear at least one tanda of Troilo. If you do, there is a high chance that Francisco Fiorentino will be a singer.

Francisco Fiorentino started his career as a bandoneonist, not as a vocalist. In 1928 he joined the orchestra of Francisco Canaro. The orchestra leader realized that Fiorentino is a talented singer. Since then, for several years Fiorentino did both playing and singing in orchestras of Juan Carlos Cobián, Roberto Firpo, Pedro Maffia, Juan D'Arienzo, Roberto Zerrillo, Minotto Di Cicco and Francisco Canaro.

In 1937 Fiorentino joined the orchestra of Troilo and stayed working with him until 1944. This was the top period in his career. Afterwards, he created his own orchestra lead by Astor Piazzolla, but it did not turn out to be a success. For more detailed biographical and discographical information please go to:
Todo Tango - Francisco Fiorentino (available only in Spanish)

I split the recordings of Troilo with Fiorentino into 2 groups: early (from 1941 till 1942) and late (from1942 till 1944). It is much easier to build consistent tanda if you stick to songs from one period only. More experienced DJs can obviously mix them.

Songs from early period are very rhythmic and fast (65-70 beats per minute). They are full of syncopations. A tanda of songs from this period will never fail. Both beginners and advanced dancers will enjoy it and the energy in the room will go up! From this period comes the famous recording of En Esta Tarde Gris.

Songs from late period are very melodic and slow (58-65 beats per minute). If played in milonga, some of them can be challenging for less experienced dancers. You can use tanda of recodings from that period after a tanda of milonga, when you want to calm down the dance floor and bring more emotions.

Song examples:

Early period:

En Esta Tarde Gris, canta Francisco Fiorentino, 1941
Bailan Gaston Torelli y Noelia Hurtado

Tinta Roja, canta Francisco Fiorentino, 1941
Bailan Paulina Cazabon y José Luis Gonzalez

El bulín de la calle Ayacucho, canta Francisco Fiorentino, 1941
Bailan Javier Rodriguez y Andrea Misse

Late period:

Malena, canta Francisco Fiorentino, 1942

Cada Vez Que Me Recuerdes, canta Francisco Fiorentino, 1943

Sosiego en la noche, canta Francisco Fiorentino, 1943

Friday 23 January 2015

Aníbal Troilo - Overview


Aníbal Troilo´s orchestra is put by most experienced dancers and DJs in top 4 of the best and most important  formations in the history of tango (together with d´Arienzo, di Sarli and Pugliese). I´m actually quite surprised that I have not written about it before. :) I feel that this orchestra is recently  becoming more popular and is now "in fashion".

Troilo formed his first own band in 1938. Before he played with many famous and influential tango musicians: the violinists Juan d'Arienzo, Julio de Caro, Alfredo Gobbi and Elvino Vardaro, the pianist Osvaldo Pugliese, the bandoneonists Ciriacio Ortiz, Juan Maglio, Luis Petrucelli.

Troilo had been recording between 1938 and 1971. The most famous recordings come from the 40ies: instrumentals and those with singers Francisco Fiorentino & Alberto Marino. But there is more to discover. Recordings with singer Floreal Ruíz (1944-1948) are very good and danceable. Some of the instrumentals from the 50ies can be also used in milongas. The rest of the recordings are very interesting, but mostly only for listening.

The orchestra of Troilo is one of the few that has a large selection of  tangos, valses and milongas. Valses are very popular and can be heard frequently in regular milongas, festivals and marathons. Milongas are good and danceable, but for some reason they are not regularly  played. As a dancer,  I don´t enjoy them much and I don´t use them as a DJ. The floor usually gets pretty empty when you hear them. :
If you are a tango DJ or a music collector you should definitely get the 16 CD collection "Obra Completa en RCA". Most of you will need  only the first 7 CDs (recordings up to 1948). Later recordings are less interesting from dancing perspective. The covers of those CDs look like the following:

For more detailed biographical and discographical information please go to:
Todo Tango - Aníbal Troilo

In the next post I will start from presenting Troilo´s work with Francisco Fiorentino. As a teaser, you´ll find a few of my favorite songs below...

En Esta Tarde Gris, canta Francisco Fiorentino, 1941

Tinta Roja, canta Francisco Fiorentino, 1941

Lagrimitas De Mi Corazón, cantan Edmundo Rivero y Floreal Ruiz, 1948