Playlist: 11 August 2018 (Redmarley)

Genre Song Year Artist(s)
Tango Hotel Victoria 1935 Francisco Canaro (Instrumental)
Canaro 1935
El pinche 1935
El buey solo 1935
Tango Nueve de julio (1°) 1935 Juan D’Arienzo (Instrumental)
Retintín (1°) 1936
Lorenzo 1936
El flete 1936
Vals No te olvides de mí corazón… 1945 Miguel Caló (Raúl Iriarte)
El mismo dolor 1945
Flor de lino 1946
Tango El cuarteador 1941 Aníbal Troilo (Francisco Fiorentino)
Maragata 1941
Pájaro ciego 1941
Tabernero 1941
Tango Quejas de bandoneon 1941 Rodolfo Biagi (Instrumental)
El yaguarón 1940
El estribo 1940
El entrerriano 1941
Milonga El porteñito 1943 Ángel D’Agostino (Ángel Vargas)
Así me gusta a mí 1942
Entre copa y copa 1942
Tango Nada más que un corazón 1944 Pedro Laurenz (Carlos Bermúdez)
La madrugada 1944
Me están sobrando las penas 1944
Más solo que nunca 1944
Tango El chamuyo 1938 Edgardo Donato (Instrumental)
El estagiario 1938
Cantando bajito 1938
Pasión criolla 1939
Vals Ay Aurora! (1°) 1939 Juan D’Arienzo (Alberto Echagüe)
Recuerdos de la pampa 1939
Castigo 1939
Tango Junto a tu corazón 1942 Carlos Di Sarli (Alberto Podestá)
Al compás del corazón (1°) 1942
La capilla blanca (1°) 1944
Nada 1944
Tango Tres y dos 1946 Aníbal Troilo (Instrumental)
Buen amigo 1946
Bienvenida 1946
A la parrilla 1948
Milonga Milonga del novecientos 1933 Francisco Canaro (Ernesto Famá)
Yo me llamo Juan Te Quiero 1934
Milonga sentimental 1933 Francisco Canaro (Ernesto Famá & Ángel Rámos)
Tango Una emoción 1943 Ricardo Tanturi (Enrique Campos)
Muchachos comienza la ronda 1943
Palomita mía 1943
Oigo tu voz 1943
Tango Buscándote 1941 Osvaldo Fresedo (Ricardo Ruiz)
Vida querida 1940
Solo tú 1941
Rosarina linda 1940
Vals Volvió la princesita 1932 Orquesta Típica Los Provincianos (Luis Díaz)
Un placer 1933 Orquesta Típica Los Provincianos (Carlos Lafuente)
A tu memoria, madrecita 1934 Orquesta Típica Los Provincianos (Luis Díaz)
Tango Farol 1943 Osvaldo Pugliese (Roberto Chanel)
El tango es una historia 1944
El sueño del pibe 1945
Fuimos 1946
Tango Champagne tango (2°) 1952 Carlos Di Sarli (Instrumental)
Bar exposición (2°) 1952
Cara sucia (1°) 1952
Cuidao con los cincuenta (2°) 1952
Milonga Con mi perro 1946 Rodolfo Biagi (Alberto Amor)
Por la güella 1948 Rodolfo Biagi (Carlos Saavedra)
Flor de Monserrat 1945 Rodolfo Biagi (Alberto Amor)
Tango Esta noche en Buenos Aires 1944 Antonio Rodio (Alberto Serna)
Dónde estás, corazón? 1944
Parece mentira 1944
Rosa celeste 1944
Tango El internado (3°) 1954 Juan D’Arienzo (Instrumental)
Jueves (2°) 1955
La catrera (3°) 1955
Loca (3°) 1955
Vals Valsecito de antes 1952 Domingo Federico (Armando Moreno)
Cumpleaños de mi madre 1953
Pobre novia 1955
Tango Ventanita de arrabal 1927 Juan Maglio (Instrumental)
La copa del olvido 1927
Tuito es mentira 1927
Perfume de mujer 1927
La cumparsita 1931 Orquesta Típica Brunswick (Instrumental)

A week of preparations for a DJ Set

DJ Clive Harrison
DJ Clive Harrison

Every DJ has their own way of putting together a DJ set. Some plan everything in advance (or do so some of the time); others might just choose a few opening tandas (and they might not do even that in advance) and then select music as an event unfolds – aiming to choose music that seems to best reflect or serve the dancers’ preferences/needs in the moment.

Quite a lot of completely bogus claims are made for the superiority of the latter approach, and there are not many DJs around that can make consistently better choices on the fly. My advice to inexperienced DJs has always been to compile sets in advance until you are sure that you can produce better ones, live. And, of course, there are lots of points between the two extremes, and no intrinsically right solution.

I tend to compile a complete set in advance, so that I can have it duplicated to my phone (as a backup device) in the event of equipment failure. I have had to use my backup, once; and as we were only twenty minutes in, the evening would have come to a rather premature end had I not had it.

As often as not, I end up using the set I had compiled, largely without change – but I’m usually DJing in a familiar venue, and I know what to expect. I can, and do, change sets on the fly, but often the changes are minor ones – substituting a tanda here or there – rather than going off on a tangent that has no way back, and demanding continued fresh choices for the rest of an event. One of the fallacies of ‘live’ DJing is that a DJ can magically ‘read’ the energy of the dancefloor, and ‘know’ what the dancers’ current response means in terms of their next preference. Individual dancer’s responses are rarely homogeneous, in that way, anyway, and ‘reading’ the response to ‘A’, rarely says anything useful about the likely response to ‘B’.

If you play a tanda that clearly has not hit the spot, the signs may be all too obvious: there are fewer couples dancing than you had expected, and the noise of conversation may have risen above the norm. Xyz, over in the corner, has shot you a dirty ‘WTF’ look – and you know you have erred. The obvious solution, is not to immediately play a similar tanda by the same orchestra – but surely no one, anywhere, ever, was going to do just that. You have to pick yourself up, and perhaps check whether that next tanda, already planned, really is a good idea (and change it, if you think not) – and that’s about the best you can do.

So in the period leading up to an event, most DJs will at least be thinking about what they might play. Really nervous ones, new to the game, may have planned everything in detail, weeks before. I used to be like that – but it gets easier – and I reckon that I take about half an hour, these days, to compile a four-hour set. If I am doing it ‘live’, under the pressure of knowing that the tanda now playing will end in six minutes, oops, no, now four, and that I have to select something – I find that the task will take all my attention, pretty well, all night. And I don’t believe that I make better choices, most of the time, and feel quite unembarrassed to say so.

Saturday: Una emoción

There’s a week to go before the next Milonga at Redmarley and I’m putting together an outline of my DJ set – and the challenge is always to whittle down all the possibilities to just four hours of great music. My sets are created more-or-less to a formula: a certain proportion of different musical styles, periods, orchestras and singers. The thing with a formula is that it can easily become formulaic, but I try and play up the creativity of the process. There are obvious and easy choices, but you can’t play the same handful of ‘greatest hits’ all the time, but no one will thank you for playing a whole load of unknown repertoire that you have ‘discovered’ either. It’s harder than you might guess.

Anyway, no milonga could omit a tanda from Tanturi. The choices are several: he worked with two really great singers, Castillo and then Campos. Tango enthusiasts usually have a very firm and settled view over their preference. Mine is for Campos (but I play and enjoy both). After Campos, came other, lesser, singers, and generally I don’t play those. If there’s only time for one Tanturi tanda, why play a 2nd rate one? The few instrumentals are good too, but there aren’t many, so you can only play them now and again.

The tanda I have chosen opens with Una emoción, recorded in 1943 – a fantastic song and great for dancing. The other songs all come from a tight time period: August to November 1943. I have always believed that the most powerful building-block of a good tanda is the relationship between the songs, and choosing repertoire recorded in a short time period gives you a coherent style and feel that is hard to beat. Other DJs have a different approach – and in matters of taste, there can be no right or wrong – but it’s a good thing that individual DJs develop a strong musical character and that dancers get to know what to expect (at least in general terms).

Sunday: La capilla blanca

Nearly every DJ set I play has a tanda featuring the golden voice of Alberto Podestá. He recorded with several leading orchestras, most notably Di Sarli, Caló and Laurenz, so it’s no hardship. La capilla blanca, recorded with Di Sarli in 1944 is one of the highlights of the repertoire of the mid-40s – sophisticated and urbane music that just makes your heart melt.

Di Sarli recorded the song, again, in 1952 with Mario Pomar, and that is a very fine version too. Choices, choices …

I give the songs in my tango library a star rating, and unlike TripAdvisor reviews, the five-star ratings in my collection are very few and far between. A five-star song is very special, usually in more than one way. I just checked: I have just forty five of them (out of several thousand). All four of the songs in the Di Sarli/Podestá tanda in my forthcoming set at Redmarley on Saturday have five, precious, stars. In fact, it would be worth going just to dance them – but just make sure that when the preceding cortina fades, you’re not one of the lost souls who are checking your phone, chatting to your friends and oblivious to that mirada from your favourite partner, or otherwise not focussed on the reason to you went: to dance La capilla blanca.

Monday: Pobre novia

Nearly everyone loves valses. Pobre novia was recorded in 1955 by the orchestra of Domingo Federico with singer, Armando Moreno (who is more usually associated with the orchestra of Enrique Rodríguez). Federico’s orchestra is not very well known, but after leaving the orchestra of Miguel Caló in 1944, he produced a steady stream of fine recordings for just over a decade (and intermittently, for years after that) – and they deserve to be heard more often than they are.

There’ll be time for four vals tandas in my DJ set at Redmarley on Saturday, and I’m planning a nice spread of styles and periods, with vals recordings spanning 1932-1955. One of those tandas will be by Caló, providing a point of stylistic similarity with Federico, while the others are well-contrasted. Juxtaposing the familiar with the less so, making connections through linked musicians – putting together a set that is both varied and coherent – is part of the challenge and fun of constructing a DJ set.

Of course, you can (and should) just take the music at face value and enjoy the dancing, but many sets are built around one or more themes, and when you are DJing regularly at one venue (as I am currently doing at Redmarley), there is the opportunity for a theme or programming idea to run through several sets – although I’m probably the only person aware of the underlying structure. I keep notes, and know exactly what I have played, where and when. I guess that makes me a nerd: Oh well…

Tuesday: Maragata

For a tango artist of the first rank like Aníbal Troilo – who produced recordings of the highest quality from 1938 to 1971 – it seems a bit odd that dancers and DJs seem to favour the recordings from just one year: 1941, mostly vocals, featuring the voice of Francisco Fiorentino. I checked my own notes. I have played forty Troilo songs over the last twelve months, recorded between 1938 and 1949 and yet no fewer than fourteen of them were recorded in 1941 (and I play a wider range than many DJs). This thing is that they are so good! He had one of the greatest vocal partnerships in tango: Troilo and Fiorentino virtually invented the cantor de orquesta role (certainly no one did it better) and the music perfectly captures the upbeat and exciting pace of tango music at that time.

Tango music slowed down, considerably, over the following couple of years and strangely enough, I have only played a handful of songs from 1942 or 1943 in the last year. It seems that I steer away from his transitional phase – although I hadn’t really been conscious of doing so. By 1944, of course, Fiorentino had left Troilo for a solo career – the vocalists over the next few years were Alberto Marino and Floreal Ruíz – but the flame never burned as brightly, again. Other notable singers followed, but by the late-1940s Troilo’s orchestra was developing in directions that didn’t much suit social dancers, and my interest wanes to almost nothing. So 1941 it is for my set at Redmarley on Saturday.

The ‘Troilo tanda’ (if there is to be only one) is often the highlight of a DJ’s set (at least for me – perhaps its just me?). Rather like Pugliese (and for many of the same reasons), Troilo has to be sequenced very carefully as the music has such a strong character. Maragata is a wonderful song, strongly rhythmical and with lots of syncopated accents. Every section of the orchestra is on top form and Fiorentino makes it all sound so easy. Great stuff!

Wednesday: Ventanita de arrabal

In about 1926 the ‘new’ electrical recording technology reached Argentina and suddenly the quality of sound recordings was transformed into something that could sound really very good, compared with being invariably awful. A song that received multiple recordings in 1927 was Ventanita de arrabal: two by singers Corsini and Gardel (with guitar accompaniment), and three (purely instrumental) by the orchestras of Canaro, Lomuto and Maglio. It’s a pleasant but unremarkable song; the studios produced hundreds of such recordings, every year, and there was nothing especially distinctive about more than a handful of them – they are largely unplayed today.

Ventanita de arrabal seemed to disappear into obscurity, but then in 1950 it resurfaced in several new vocal recordings, most notably with Pugliese (Vidal), but also by Del Piano (Vargas) and Pedevilla (Serpa). Troilo recorded it in 1952 (Casal) and again in 1965 (Reyes). There were others, too, so the song obviously had qualities that were recognised by at least two generations of tango musicians, including several of the first rank.

Some DJs play quite a lot of ‘early tango’. They have their fans, but they are in a minority. Some will play nothing recorded before 1935 (tango ‘begins’ with D’Arienzo, you see, and doesn’t seem to last very long, as they won’t play anything much after 1945, either). Thankfully, they are in a minority too. Even within the usually accepted limits of ‘traditional’ tango music there is a wide variety of music styles and periods, spanning the very earliest electrical recordings, right through to the beginning of the digital recording era. Some tango musicians, like Pugliese and Fresedo were around for the whole of that time. Of the music I select to play in my DJ sets, a high proportion (around two thirds) is drawn from the decade 1935-44, but I always play a tanda or two of earlier music and a slightly higher ‘quota’ from the later period (which is much longer, in duration).

At the end of the evening at Redmarley on Saturday, I’m planning to play a really lovely instrumental tanda from the sextet of Juan Maglio (Pacho) – one of tango’s real old-timers – and the tanda opens with Ventanita de arrabal. For the recording date, the sound is more than acceptable, but I have done quite a lot of work on making it sound better. For all sorts of reasons, the pitch at which many vintage recordings were made was not always faithfully reproduced on shellacs played at 78rpm; and as the music captured on shellacs was later transferred to vinyl, and then CD, further pitch errors crept in. Probably more than 80% of commercial tango recordings available today are audibly out of tune (really, and sometimes laughably so). Everything that I play has been pitch-checked (and corrected), and I also use specialist software to help minimise the clicks and crackle that are the inevitable product of the shellac medium, as the clicks are nothing to do with what could be heard in the recording studio.

I’m pretty happy with the sound of this Maglio tanda, but as an experiment, I have gone further and processed the sound in pseudo-stereo. It opens up sometimes-congested musical textures and creates a feeling of space around the instruments. I want to see how an effect that can be heard in a domestic setting transfers to a larger venue – and if you’re there, and notice, I’d be interested to know what you think of the finished result. Of course, if you just don’t like early music, you can take the announcement of the last tanda as your signal to change shoes and leave, and then you won’t have to face the dilemma of whether also to stay an extra couple of minutes to help stack a few chairs at the end of the evening.

Thursday: El porteñito

Lots of tango dancers are a bit wary of milonga tandas – and then along comes D’Agostino.

El porteñito is perfect in every way: a 5-star jewel of a milonga. It takes a very steady pace and its gentle rhythms are just irresistible. If you don’t want to dance it, there’s something very wrong with you, or you’ve just done one milonga workshop too many, lately.

Almost everyone can identify the unique sound of the orchestra of Ángel D’Agostino (even if they couldn’t put a name to it) in about two seconds flat – it’s utterly distinctive. The partnership of the two Angels: Ángel D’Agostino and his best singer, Ángel Vargas, was almost remarkable – there are no duds – and the orchestra is rightly a firm favourite of many discerning dancers for its subtlety and finesse. These are not qualities normally associated with the milonga genre, but D’Agostino’s touch was sure and the magic just works.

Whatever you do, don’t sit out the tanda at Redmarley on Saturday.

The Redmarley milonga is usually held in the evening of the 2nd Saturday of the month at The Village Hall in Redmarley D’Abitot in rural Gloucestershire (GL19 3HS). It’s easy to reach from a wide area, being just five minutes from the junction of the M50 (J2) with the Ledbury Road (A417).