COME TO MY MILONGA OR TANGO DIES   4 comments

A Manifesto by Nena Pezonchico
(Agitator, troublemaker and a mistress of exaggeration in the rarest of thin air)

Tango is in trouble. Living in our own world of music and dance, we are failing to see it. The milongas in Buenos Aires are full. And when they are not, the practicas are (100-300 people). But in the real world, outside of the milongas, the picture looks very different.

Argentines, essentially, are boycotting the tango. Many even hate it. Out of 100 radio stations in Buenos Aires, only one plays tango music. Argentine companies do not use tango music in their TV commercials, preferring rock, foreign or national. And Argentine people that love tango music are in despair. They no longer have hope that the young Argentines will embrace the tango. Many also have lost hope in the Europeans. But they have a lot of hope in the Americans and their belief in how stupid Americans are at dealing with things they don’t understand.

Many Argentine people that are involved with the music of tango, such as tango historians, taxi drivers and pizza delivery guys, who may not even dance themselves, feel that the Americans have a genuine interest and love for tango music. It appears that many people from the US are buying a lot of tango music, and not just the most obvious selections, but things that are rare, and they know what they are buying because they have been looking for it. These Argentine tango historians look at the American dancers and DJs with respect and hope they don’t wise up. They believe that if anyone can save the tango, it will be the Americans that love it.

There are many young people (18 +) in Buenos Aires, who dance beautiful traditional tango with great style and energy, and they do not dance “nuevo” or dance to electronic tango (both of which seem to be the domain of dancers outside of Argentina). Instead, they love to dance to Donato, Canaro, Lomuto, etc. But there are not enough of them to keep tango from oblivion. That’s where the Americans come in.

This complexity demanded a great skill from the DJ when there was recorded music in the milongas all those decades ago. It is that same special quality that we bring to you at my milonga.

Our DJ does not DJ from a play list. Instead, he creates his tandas in advance, which allows him to match all the songs according to singer, date of recording, ‘mood’, tempo and key. He never selects consecutive tangos that are in the same key. He insists that it is the job of the DJ to maintain proper sound and volume at all times. He is a sound engineer at heart with a laptop choke full of mp3s.

We hope that you will come and enjoy this beautiful music. We hope that the men will learn what music makes them the best dancers in the world. For the ladies, we wish that every dance reminds them how beautiful, alive and happy they feel in this music. And we hope that every one of you, who loves tango, accepts the monumental challenge of keeping it alive by dancing it and knowing well its poetry and music.

Come to my milonga because you don’t want to be held responsible for the death of the tango.

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Posted March 12, 2009 by Alberto & Valorie in HUMOR

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4 responses to “COME TO MY MILONGA OR TANGO DIES

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  1. The milonga will never die, the best efforts of a twenty five year junta could not kill it. Now it spreads all over the world, Only this week we welcomed the milonga to Wales.

    • You’re dead on on the fact that the renewed interest in tango confirms its resiliency and everlasting attributes as a phenomenon that, across many generations, has surged to incredible peaks of popularity followed by crushing chasms in which all indications pointed to its irremediable death.
      One thing that must be corrected is your wrong assumption that the tall tale about the junta’s effort to kill the milonga is true. For many of us, who lived and witnessed friends and relatives disappear forever during one of the darkest periods of political, economic, and social unrest in the history of the country, it was a horrifying time span that began in 1976 and ended in the 1980’s. We know that the military regime targeted people for wearing long hair, attending college and being suspected of leftist thinking. Nobody was ever killed, tortured or otherwise dehumanized because of going to a milonga.
      The milongas suffered the consequences of a state of siege and an edict that prohibited public gatherings. People wanting to get married had to obtain a special permit from the police after providing a list of attendees so their personal backgrounds could be checked.
      You should consider keeping in mind that contributing to spread and perpetuate myths like that for the sole purpose of sounding like a tango expert is cruel, insensitive and offensive to a nation that still today mourns the loss of lives of people who are still unaccounted for.

  2. The tall tale as you put it is being perpetrated by many, and while I am happy to be corrected, I certaintly meant no offence to “the lost”.
    Are the words of the song Epoca by Gotan not stating exactly this “viente cinco anos, no se existe”
    and in your words “The milongas suffered the consequences of a state of siege and an edict that prohibited public gatherings”.

    • Well, it was not my intention to single you out on this, and I’m certain that you meant no offense in repeating something that seems to be right out of the travel guide to exotic lands. Assuming that there was a concerted effort to ban, proscribe or forbid the playing and dancing of tango music, that in itself would be totally irrelevant in any conversation about tango except by the morbid desire to associate a simple social dance with an exotic and checkered background. As it happened, the only reason why the live performances of orchestras and the public milongas went out of business for a long period, was because the political climate was not conducive for people to risk being arrested during the frequent raids that the secret police did at all public places. The excuse of looking for terrorists or extremists gave them free rein to detain anybody without cause or habeas corpus. People stayed home, and public venues shut down, tango, jazz, rock and roll, etc. Simple as that, not just the tango but every conceivable artistic activity.
      Gotan is a commercial product from France and the UK fusing reggae rhythms with synthesized bandoneon sounds and some idiot woman chanting slogans which in context mean nothing, except stereotype the city of Buenos Aires and its inhabitants. They exploit the culture vulture tendencies of many foreigners. Nobody can take what they do seriously much less assign them historical authority.
      Now, the lyrics of EPOCA simply make reference to twenty five years ago, and suggest that things were really bad. The air was bad, it says, they were bad times. If someone disappeared, it will reappear in a new self. Somebody existed, and they believe it died, somebody existed without actually existing, but no matter what, life has a way to reinvent itself. That is a loose interpretation of the meaning of the song. Nowhere there is even a hint that there was an concerted attack against the tango, or that the tango was the target of persecution. The only mention of the word tango is a voice they heard singing words of peace, which makes sense because the tango is the music of Buenos Aires. It’s very unlikely that the same message could be conveyed by a kid singing a cumbia.
      I hope some of this provides food for thought, and actually inspire your good intentions to educate someone else who repeats the tale of the junta going after the tango.
      Best regards,
      Alberto

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