Where and when …

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Clive Harrison Tango DJ

Tango Matiné Letchworth – Sunday, 31 March 2019 (2pm – 6pm)

  • Jackman’s Community Centre, Ivel Court, Letchworth Garden City, SG6 2NL (Map & directions here.)
  • Organiser: Letchworth Tango Academy
  • You can see the playlist from my DJ set here.

 


La Vida! – Tuesday, 19 February 2019 (7:30pm – 11pm)

  • St Paul’s, Hills Road, Cambridge, CB2 1JP (Map & directions here.)
  • Organiser: CamTango
  • You can see the playlist from my DJ set here.

Etonathon – Sunday, 30 December 2018 (2pm – 6pm)

  • Old Windsor Memorial Hall, Straight Road, Old Windsor, SL4 2RN (Map & directions here.)
  • Organiser: Thames Valley Tango
  • You can see the playlist from my DJ Set here.

La Vida! – Tuesday, 4 December 2018 (7:30pm – 11pm)

  • St Paul’s, Hills Road, Cambridge, CB2 1JP (Map & directions here.)
  • Organiser: CamTango
  • You can see the playlist from my DJ Set here.

Redmarley Milonga – Saturday, 10 November 2018 (7:30pm – 11:30pm)

  • Redmarley Village Hall, The Causeway, Redmarley D’Abitot, GL19 3HS (Map & directions here.)
  • Organiser: Three Counties Tango
  • You can see the playlist from my DJ Set here.

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).

Three Counties Tango | Milonga

DJ Clive Harrison
DJ Clive Harrison

I’ll be DJing at the Redmarley Milonga on Saturday, 7 July 2018 (7:30 pm – 11:30 pm). This will be my fifth set at Redmarley, and once again I’ll be using my four-speaker sound system to present a 100% traditional set of mainstream music from the very best orchestras and singers from the late 1920s to the mid-1950s.

Redmarley Village Hall is an attractive venue, just a few minutes’ drive (2 miles) from junction 2 of the M50 (with the A419 Ledbury Road). There’s plenty of parking. The full address is The Causeway, Redmarley D’Abitot, GL19 3HS. Entrada £10.

Redmarley Milonga May 2018
Redmarley Milonga May 2018

Redmarley Village Hall
Redmarley Village Hall

Playlists from previous sets at Redmarley:

Three Counties Tango | Milonga

DJ Clive Harrison
DJ Clive Harrison

I’ll be DJing at the Redmarley Milonga on Saturday, 9 June 2018 (7:30 pm – 11:30 pm). This will be my fourth set at Redmarley, and once again I’ll be using my four-speaker sound system to present a 100% traditional set of mainstream music from the very best orchestras and singers from the late 1920s to the mid-1950s.

Redmarley Village Hall is an attractive venue, just a few minutes’ drive (2 miles) from junction 2 of the M50 (with the A419 Ledbury Road). There’s plenty of parking. The full address is The Causeway, Redmarley D’Abitot, GL19 3HS. Entrada £10.

Redmarley Milonga May 2018
Redmarley Milonga May 2018

Redmarley Village Hall
Redmarley Village Hall

Playlists from previous sets at Redmarley:

Three Counties Tango | Milonga

DJ Clive Harrison
DJ Clive Harrison

I’ll be the DJ at the Milonga at Redmarley Village Hall, The Causeway, Redmarley D’Abitot, GL19 3HS (organised by Three Counties Tango) on Saturday, 12 May 2018 (7:30pm – 11:30pm). Entrada £10.

Redmarley Village Hall
Redmarley Village Hall

Redmarley Village Hall is an attractive venue, just a few minutes’ drive (2 miles) from junction 2 of the M50 (with the A419 Ledbury Road). There’s plenty of parking.

Music: 100% traditional, of course.

Tango Cotswold | Christmas Milonga

DJ Clive Harrison
DJ Clive Harrison

I’ll be the DJ at the Christmas Milonga at The White Hart Inn, High Street, Winchcombe, GL54 5LJ (organised by Tango Cotswold) on Saturday, 16 December 2017 (3:00pm to 6:30pm). Entrada FREE. Lunch is available (table booked for 1:30pm and Ann needs to confirm final numbers by Wednesday preceding).

I’ve put together a playlist so that I’ll be free to dance most of the afternoon – and I hope you’ll like it.

We’ve got about seventy songs, all recorded by the leading orchestras of the Golden Age (between 1932 & 1952, if you’re interested). They’re arranged in the usual tanda format, rotating tango, vals and milonga with three songs per tanda (so twenty-three opportunities to change partner!). There are tandas with twenty different orchestras (and nearly as many singers) featuring all the great names, together with one or two who may be less familiar.

I’ve chosen repertoire that will be familiar to many and have tried to present a mixture of all the main tango styles and periods. Tango music isn’t all serious and I hope to make you smile a lot, and laugh more than once. Listen out for an ‘other rhythms’ tanda (in lieu of milonga) that features a foxtrot, a polca and a candombe; and if the ladies are willing, a separate ‘ladies invitation’ tanda.

It should be a great afternoon, and I’m looking forward to it.

Three Counties Tango | Milonga

DJ Clive Harrison
DJ Clive Harrison

I’ll be the DJ, once again, at the Milonga at Redmarley Village Hall, The Causeway, Redmarley D’Abitot, GL19 3HS (organised by Three Counties Tango) on Saturday, 13 January 2018 (7:30pm – 11:30pm). Entrada £10.

I play exclusively traditional music, recorded by the great tango dance orchestras and singers of the Golden Age. I always try to maintain a balance of styles, periods and moods: great music that keeps discerning dancers wanting to return to the floor, tanda after tanda.

I am very proud of my tango music library, devoting much time to seeking out the best-sounding transfers currently available; but I go further, and have remastered most of my library, to reduce or eliminate the background clicks and crackle inevitably associated with vintage recordings. The music of tango is wonderful and dancers deserve to hear it at its best.

Redmarley Village Hall
Redmarley Village Hall

Redmarley Village Hall is an attractive venue, just a few minutes’ drive (2 miles) from junction 2 of the M50 (with the A419 Ledbury Road). There’s plenty of parking.

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El tango de la gente | Practilonga

DJ Clive Harrison
DJ Clive Harrison

I’ll be the DJ at the Practilonga at Upton Bishop Millennium Hall, HR9 7TU (organised by El tango de la gente) on Friday, 1 September 2017 (8pm – 11pm).

Entrada is £5. Simple refreshments & nibbles are provided but bring your own tipple if you wish.

I play exclusively traditional music, recorded by the great tango dance orchestras and singers of the Golden Age. I always try to maintain a balance of styles, periods and moods: music that keeps dancers wanting to return to the floor, tanda after tanda.

El tango de la gente


Click here for the playlist.

Three Counties Tango Practilonga (Upton Bishop)

DJ Clive Harrison
DJ Clive Harrison

I’ll be the DJ at the Three Counties Tango Practilonga at Upton Bishop Millennium Hall, HR9 7TU on Friday, 4 August 2017 (8pm – 11pm).

The Millennium Hall has an excellent floor, good facilities and is well lit for cabeceo. I’ll be playing music in the usual tanda cycle of TTVTTM, with three songs in each tanda.

Entrada is £5. Simple refreshments & nibbles are provided but bring your own tipple if you wish.

Tea Dance Sep-16


Click here for the playlist.

Colorao, colorao

Clive Harrison: Tango DJTroilo’s 1942 recording of Colorao, colorao is a little-heard masterpiece, but I’ve never played it when I DJ.

The problem is the non-availability of a complete, playable, transfer. Most transfers seem to derive from the same ultimate source in the RCA-Victor archives and for whatever reason (Michael Lavocah mentions in his 2014 book ‘Tango Masters: Aníbal Troilo’ that the source disc was badly damaged), the engineer just cuts 15s from a lovely bandoneón solo). Here’s a 30s clip taken from the current BMG CD, Tinta Roja. The edit (at 19s) is crude and it just doesn’t work:

In 2013, TangoTunes produced a new transfer from a shellac 78 source, and while it doesn’t have the same clumsy cut, there is significant separate damage to the source disc in the preceding vocal section. Here’s a 30s clip in which the damage is very obvious (from 5s), but you can hear the beginning of the bandoneón solo, missing from the other releases.

TangoTunes said at the time of its release, “We hope to find a new shellac for a new digitalization soon”, but no further version has been released. A new and complete Troilo edition (1938-48) is promised (probably for 2018), but it may use the same, damaged, shellac source, anyway.

The fidelity of the TangoTunes transfer is rather better than the available alternatives, although it has been over-processed and sounds a little ‘dull’. I find a treble lift of around 3dB from 1kHz helps considerably. By comparison, the BMG version (apart from showing obvious signs of clipping) has some unwelcome added reverberation and a rather tubby, mid-bass heavy balance. Nevertheless, I wondered, this morning, whether the two versions could be edited into one, complete, version, avoiding both the damaged section from the TangoTunes transfer (by substituting part of the BMG one), and having the rest of the performance uncut. Most people, familiar with the song from CD or download sources derived from the same ‘butchered’ original, probably don’t even know that the solo exists.

It took a bit of fiddling about: the level of the two versions needed equalising, the BMG version needed a bass cut to better match the tonal balance of the TangoTunes version, and I introduced some pink noise to better match the overall running noise of the later transfer. I synchronised the two versions, and introduced a fast cross-fade between the two versions, and then back again (rather that just cutting them together, which sounded too abrupt). I used Audacity for the editing, and this is what the relevant section looked like in the Audacity interface:

Editing Colorao, colorao in Audacity

I played around with the levels and equalisation until I was reasonably happy, and then exported the results, mixed down to a single mono channel as a lossless AIFF file. Here’s a 45s clip that matches the screenshot. You can hear the lead-in to the substitution, and the switch back, and I’m pretty pleased with the result.

My next job is to listen, again, to Troilo’s other recordings around the same period – the 1942 recordings make a steady transition from the faster, upbeat ‘hits’ of 1941 to the slower and more measured 1943 recordings – and then compile a tanda or two that successfully incorporates Colorao, colorao. Perhaps something like:

  • Fueye > Colorao, colorao > Malena > El encopao

I’m open to other suggestions.