A blog post by Pablo, from Death of Tango with Pablo (Wed 11 AM – 1 PM)
The week of April 15th was a wonderful week.
For the first time since I became a tango music freak about 5 years ago, one of my favorite tango bands, 34 Puñaladas, came to New York City to play three concerts in four days.
They are based in Buenos Aires and have now existed for 15 years, and while they have toured Europe and Australia, this is the first time they made it to the North America.
Their music and lyrics are full of references to the roots of tango music and to the way it was understood almost 100 years ago. However, they improvise about half of the music they play in their concerts, and there is also a very contemporary feeling to what they write.
Not only did I have the chance to see them in concert three times in a week, but I also got the opportunity of knowing them personally.
I chatted with them over beers and dinner after every one of their concerts, learning a lot about the music world. It was during these conversations, and the conversations I had with other people in attendance at the concerts, that I got the inspiration for this note.
Charity starts at home
But it was not only the local musicians who surprised me with their absence. It is also my impression that there is a sort of divide between the “academic” and the “folkloric” tango groups in Argentina. The “academics” don’t appreciate the “folklorics” because they are not as well-versed in music theory and they don’t write (in the view of the “academics”, at least) innovative music that pushes the limits of the genre. “Folklorics” don’t like “academics” because they monopolize (in the view of the “folklorics” now) the tango scene of Buenos Aires and don’t allow for others to permeate in and participate.
These two groups of people constantly engage in a battle to show what is the essence of tango music. The reader might think that his is constructive, because the competition fosters creation. However, I think that these groups take it to a certain extreme, damaging the tango community and hampering the possibility to really build something unique. Once again, collaboration between these groups, even if a hostile one, would create more spaces to play tango music, more coherent festivals, more advertisement, and overall a clearer picture of what the Buenos Aires tango community is.
Union creates strength
No matter the point of view of the discussion, tango is not as popular as it was in the 1950′s. I am sure we can argue about the reasons for hours. We can also agree or disagree about its current trend: is it becoming more or less popular in the past 10 years? Regardless of the outcome of that debate, we can be sure that a large majority of society ignores this issue completely. And that includes Buenos Aires, the birthplace of tango music.
So if the market for tango is really small, we need to make a big decision: do we continue to argue about the “correct” way of making tango, and continue to grasp that little market, or do we construct a strong movement that may appeal more to new aficionados?
I choose the latter.
Let us know what you think about tango and its future at email@example.com, and listen to Pablo’s show ‘Death of Tango’ Wednesdays 11 PM to 1 AM.