When you are faced with the task of choosing the equipment for a new milonga, or upgrading the existing one, the lack of information is not the biggest problem that you are going to face. There are numerous reviews of sound equipment in the online forums, there are technical characteristics on manufacturers sites, and specific recommendation as well. The problem is, however, that most of this information is relevant to either club sound systems or live stage sound systems. The club sound systems are mostly intended and built for very loud reproduction of rock, techno, etc. music, which is quite different by its characteristics from the Golden Age tango music. The high-quality stage sound systems, or cinema sound systems would have been ideal for our purposes, but the price of such a system is way beyond the reach of most of the milonga organizers.
Nevertheless, the sound of many milongas venues can be significantly improved without breaking the banks of the organizers. This article is an attempt to show, how it can be done. It is based on my personal experience of studying various milonga venues across the globe, and assembling or helping to assemble several successful installations by myself.
The question “which sound card should I get” arises periodically in various DJ forums. The answers are often reduced to “I use card X, it’s the best!”, with an inherent possibility of a local religious war. The truth, however, is that nowadays there are plenty of good sound cards out there, with very reasonable prices and widely varied feature sets, and so you can make much better choice by looking at the specific features of the card that you need, rather than listening to someone’s opinions on what is “the ultimate best”.
In my not so long career as a tango DJ I have owned 9 (nine) various sound interfaces, and tried out even more. In this article, which emerged out of the Sound Engineering for Tango DJs seminars, and discussions in several Tango DJ groups, I will try to present a feature-centered, rather than opinion-based view on various classes of sound cards, suitable for Tango DJs, without delving too much either into the misty worlds of audiophile legends or stepping onto perilous grounds of digital sound quality issues.
In 1943 Juan D’Arienzo recorded a new disc, which was sold in 17,000,000 copies. Even by today’s standards this number is insane… and, in the domain of tango music, the record has never been beaten. The disk contained immortal “La Cumparsita” on side A, and milonga milonga “La puñalada” on side B. Interestingly enough, both of them came not from Buenos Aires, but from Montevideo.
Only nine years ago, Francisco Canaro, in the middle of a live performance unleashed on unsuspecting dancing public “Milonga Sentimental”, thus giving birth to a new dance. Before that, milongas were only sung, but never danced. Even the first recording of “Milonga Sentimental”, which Canaro made with Ada Falcón in the end of 1932, was in a pure cancion fashion. But now, in 1933 milonga is a new dance, and it is quite a trending dance, indeed.
On a warm summer night at the very beginning of 1938, a young lady was absentmindedly playing random chords with unmistakably Gipsy flavor on her piano, accompanying the movements of a light curtain on a window, wide open to the garden. Her mother, who was knitting in the same room, suddenly exclaimed: “But this is so beautiful! You must make this into a tango!”
Maruja Pacheco Huergo, and that was the name of the young lady was by no means a stranger to the tango world. She was a classically trained pianist with over 500 recordings of different rhythms, a lyricist, a composer and a script writer. Later in the same year she will be also awarder a prestigious title Miss Radio. But this night, as her mother suggested, she was working on an elusive melody, which, by the first rays of the morning sun has been shaped into her most famous tango – “El Adiós”.
Танго-оркестры традиционно называют себя orquesta tipica. Донато назвал свой оркестр “Эдгардо Донато и его ребята”. В Буэнос-Айресе отношение к его оркестру было смешанным, и на то были свои причины. Донато просто не замечал общепринятых правил и не вписывался в готовые схемы, ни тогда, ни сейчас. Женщинам не место в танго-оркестрах? Ответ Донато – Лита Моралес. Танго-революция Д’Арьенцо в 1936? Донато предвосхитил ее в 1933, такими танго как El acomodo, Tierrita, Qué hacés, qué hacés! и пр. Вокальные дуэты в середине сороковых? У Донато было вокальное трио еще в 1939, и бэк-вокал с 1933. Бандонеон – душа танго? А у Донато солировал залихватский аккордеон. “Танго – это грусть, выраженная танцем”? Энрике Диссеполо сказал это отнюдь не про Донато – за всю историю своего оркестра тот записал два, от силы три грустных танго, а текст его самого известного танго, A media luz, это и вовсе путеводитель по злачным местам Буэнос-Айреса. Пик Золотого Века? В середине 1942 оркестр Донато практически исчез с радаров больше чем на год… а когда он все-таки вернулся, это уже был совсем другой Донато…
“Edgardo Donato y sus muchachos” – and this was the proper name of Donato’s orquesta tipica – was, indeed, a very atypical one. Not so highly regarded in Buenos Aires it simply did not fit into any rule or schema. No female singers in tango orquestas? Lita Morales all the way. D’Arienzo revolution of 1936? Donato anticipated it in 1933 with “El acomodo”, “Tierrita”, “Qué hacés, qué hacés!” etc. Singers duos in the mid-forties? Donato had a trio in 1939, and a backing vocal since 1933. Bandoneon is a soul of tango? Indeed, but how about a solo piano accordion in a tango orquesta? “El tango es un pensamiento triste que se baila”? Enrique Discepolo definitely did not mean Donato – for the whole life of his orquesta he recorded two… maybe tree sad tangos in total… and the lyrics of his most recognized tango “A media luz” is nothing more than an illustrated guide to the city’s bawdy places. The peak of the Golden Age? In 1942 Donato orquesta vanished from the recording studio for well over a year… when he came back it was a very different Donato…
Теплой летней ночью в первых днях 1938 года, молодая женщина рассеяно перебирала клавиши фортепиано, в такт слегка колышащейся занавеске на открытом окне выходящем в сад. Ее мать, услыхав необычную мелодию с легко различимым цыганским привкусом, бросила вязать и воскликнула: “Какая чудесная мелодия! Из нее получится замечательное танго!”
Маруха Пачеко Хуэрго – именно так звали нашу героиню – знала о танго отнюдь не понаслышке. Композитора, поэтессу, сценариста, и пианистку с классичесим образованием, записавшую более 500 произведений в самых различных жанрах еще ждала престижная награда “Мисс Радио 1938”. Но этой ночью, по совету своей матери, Маруха погрузилась в музыку, нащупывая ускользающую мелодию, которая с первыми лучами солнца превратилась в ее самое известное танго – El adiós.
In 1917, a group of students approached Roberto Firpo, on his tour to Montevideo, and showed him a march, composed by their friend, 17-years old Gerardo Matos Rodriguez. Firpo liked it, and so he extended Rodriguez theme with a counter melody from his own tango, added a quote from Giuseppe Verdi’s “Il Trovatore”, premiered the new tango before the ink dried out on the paper, and, thus La Cumparsita was born. Then Firpo sent the score to a publisher, under the single name of Rodriguez, and recorded it in the same year. Since then, pretty much every tango orchestra had La Cumparsita in their repertoire. Juan D’Arienzo alone recorded “La Cumparsita” five times with his orchestra, and two more times with his earlier sexteto. The 1943 D’Arienzo recording sold 17 million copies.
Моя знакомая, милонгера из Сан-Франциско, не устает повторять – на любой танго-вопрос найдется ответ в танго лирике. Конечно, это утверждение относится прежде всего к вечнозеленым вопросам об отношениях на и за пределами милонг, интерпретации кодигос и т.д. Тем не менее, у двух вопросов из диджейских форумов, “когда появились танго диджеи?” и “когда возникли танды и кортины?” также есть свои, вполне определенные ответы в самих танго.
1. Когда появились танго диджеи?
В январе 1931-го Мерседес Симоне, а вскоре вслед за ней и ОТВ с Висенте Грисерой записали восхитительное танго Victrolera со словами Мелесео Переса на музыку Паскуаля Клаузи: https://youtu.be/BEnhPM1T7mM
Victrolera, noviecita de mi vida,
por qué te fuiste un día
y huiste con otro amor.
si yo tanto te quería
que eras alma y vida mía,
volvé, volvé victrolera
que me mata el dolor…
Виктролера, подруга моей жизни,
Отчего, в один прекрасный день ты покинула меня
И сбежала с другим?
Я так любил тебя,
Ты была моей душой и моей жизнью,
Вернись, вернись виктролера,
И положи конец моим страданиям…
“Fumando espero” was born in 1923, in Barcelona, Spain. Its parents were the composer Juan Viladomat and the lyricist Felix Garzo. Originally written for the theatrical play, the tango had rather explicit lyrics that caught attention of Tania – a famous tango cancion singer, who introduced it to Buenos Aires in 1927. Rosita Quiroga was the first to record it in September of 1927, and the triumphal march of “Fumando Espero” began: Orquesta Tipica Victor, Francisco Lomuto, Francisco Canaro, Osvaldo Fresedo, Ignacio Corsini… but soon thereafter this delightful tango was completely forgotten, pretty much as its heroine, who falls asleep in the arms of her lover, while smoking, until several unrelated events happened in the course of the next 25 years…
Smoking is a pleasure, genial, sensual…
Smoking I wait for the man I love,
Behind the glass of pleasant windows.
And while I smoke my life is in suspension
Because puffing the smoke usually makes me drowsy.
A friend of mine, milonguera from San Francisco, likes to repeat – if you have a tango-related question, you will undoubtedly find an answer in the universe of tango lyrics. While this statement is mostly related to “profound questions”, about relations in and out of milongas, interpretations of codigos, etc. there are two trivia questions, often asked in the DJ forums – “when the first tango DJs emerged?” and “when the custom to play tandas separated by cortinas appeared?” that also have unambiguous answers in the tangos themselves.
1. When the first tango DJs emerged?
In January 1931 Mercedes Simone, and, later in the same year, Orquesta Tipica Victor with Vicente Crisera recorded a delightful tango “La Victrolera”, with lyrics of Melecio Peres to the music of Pascual Clausi: https://youtu.be/BEnhPM1T7mM
Victrolera, noviecita de mi vida,
por qué te fuiste un día
y huiste con otro amor.
si yo tanto te quería
que eras alma y vida mía,
volvé, volvé victrolera
que me mata el dolor…
Victrolera, girlfriend of my life,
Why did you leave one day
And run away with another love?
I loved you so much
That you were my life and soul,
Come back, come back victrolera
And put an end to my pain…
On a night that was free of rehearsals and performances, Pedro Laurenz was chilling out in Café El Parque, where his friend, violinist Jose de Grandis was playing. Later in the evening Grandis showed Laurenz the verses he recently wrote, and Laurenz, quite impressed by the drama, unfolding in the lyrics of “Amurado”, immediately composed the first part of the music. The chorus was not so easy, but Laurenz knew precisely who was going to help him with it…
… A few years ago, in 1920, Pedro Blanco Acosta, after spending his youth in Montevideo, returned to Buenos Aires. His first musical instrument was violin, but, persuaded by his brothers, he started learning bandoneon, the instrument that was gaining huge popularity on both banks of Rio de Plata. Soon he was playing in now forgotten Luis Casanovas orquesta, together with yet-to-become known Edgardo Donato. Later on, he polished his skills alongside El Tigre del Bandoneon, Eduardo Arolas. However, upon return to Buenos Aires, his new idol became his namesake and fellow, Pedro Maffia. There was seemingly nothing in common between the impulsive, nervous Acosta who developed a flashy, picturesque style of playing, and calm, rather grim Maffia capable of extracting the most gentle and delicate sounds from almost motionless bellows of his bandoneon. Besides, in 1924 Acosta was little known, but Maffia was already a celebrity, playing in prestigious Cafe Colon with fashionable sexteto Julio De Caro.
There is a certain class of technical problems that you may face while DJ-ing in various milonga venues, namely:
- You increase the volume, yet, people who sit close to the not-so-well positioned speakers complain that the music is hurting their ears
- You increase the volume, and something, such as false ceiling, or speaker’s cabinets, or stage itself starts vibrating
- You increase the volume, but the organizer tells you that you just cannot do it – the neighbors are going to complain or call the police, or both
- You play some “airy” orquesta, such as Biagi, and realize that the audience simply does not hear half of what you play, so you increase the volume and… any of the above starts happening.
To Paul Bottomer, the creator and the driving force
behind “Today’s Tango Is…”, with appreciation.
Juan D’Arienzo and Rodofo Biagi met in the end of 1935, overnight turned upside down the whole tango world… and broke up only two and half years later, in the middle of 1938. The common legend about the break up tells us that one evening, when the orquesta was performing vals “Lágrimas and Sonrisas”, Biagi was on fire, and the crowd would not stop applauding, until Biagi rose from his sit, and produced a slightest bow. Maddened D’Arienzo jumped to Biagi, and whispered to his ear, “I am the only star in my orquesta! And you are fired!” While this incident indeed might have taken place, if we look at the history of their recordings, the story might look just a bit different…
The very first recording session occurred on the last day of 1935. At this day they recorded vals “Orillas del Plata” and tango “Nueve de Julio” (9th of July). Now, 9th of July is the Independence Day, commemorating the signing of the Independence Act by the Congress de Tucuman in 1816. However, the events leading to this act started with the the May’s Revolution of 1810, followed by six years of the Independence War. Was D’Arienzo indeed making a statement of an upcoming tango revolution by choosing “Nuevo de Julio” for his first recording with Biagi? Was it “just” a foresight? Or was it a pure coincidence?
Have you ever heard Luis Armstrong played in a traditional milonga? Did he really sing tango? As a matter of fact, he did, and his “Kiss of fire” was quite a popular number, indeed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAMpxy1EAc8
Now, how about Russian chanson? Could you recognize which tango is played here? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K7woFQTbu68
Well, as you have guessed, both “Kiss of Fire” and “Na Deribasovskoi otkrilasya pivnaya” (this is the name of the second tango) are remakes of “El Choclo”, one of the oldest published tango, composed by Angel Villoldo, and, probably, the most popular tango after “La Cumparsita”. So popular that at least on one occasion, and it was during the World War I, “El Choclo” was confused with the Argentinian anthem, and played where the anthem was due.
The best-known romance in the whole tango history, between the green-eyed beauty Ada Falcon and handsome Francisco Canaro began as long back as in 1929, and lasted for almost ten years. If you are interested in the details, there is a documentary “Yo no sé qué me han hecho tus ojos”, shot in 2003, and a whole chapter in M. Lavokah “Tango Stories” book, dedicated to this story. But we will fast-forward to September 28, 1938, the date of Ada’s last recording session with Canaro, after which their romance officially ended. The two tango she had chosen for the session were “Nada más” (Nothing more) and “No mientas” (Don’t lie). The last time Ada addressed the man she loved for a decade with those heart-breaking words:
I desire nothing, nothing more
Than you not leaving me face to face with my life.
And die I will if you leave me
Because without you I won’t know how to live.
So, who were the authors of this amazing tango? I bet you would never guess…
When De Caro brothers, Julio and Francisco, formed their sexteto in 1924, and Julio proclamed “El tango también es música”, they very quickly rose to fame. Complex arrangements and harmonies, virtuoso violin of Julio, breathtaking bandoneon duo of Pedro Maffia and Pedro Laurenz (see “Tango stories: Amurado”), and firm hands of Francisco – both on the piano and on the management, just in a few months brought their sexteto into the rank of the most desired tango orquestas in Buenos Aires.
In April 1927 brothers were approached by Brazilian impresario Juan Carlos Pinto with an offer to play in Rio de Janeiro. Because of the contractual obligations in Buenos Aires, Julio “politely declined” the offer, by asking an incredible amount of 2000 pesos for a single night. To everyone’s surprise, the very next morning they received the confirmation and the tickets to Rio.
В статье описывается простая и эффективная техника для достижения наилучшего звучания танго Золотого Века. Конкретнее, нас интересует период электрической записи на грампластиках на 78 об/мин, с 1926 по 1949 год. Эта техника предлагает набор простых правил, позволяющих получать легко повторяемый результат, на любой милонге, для любой записи, с минимальными изменениями между тандами. Она была неоднократно опробована на милонгах в Торонто, и дополнена советами и замечаниями от диджеев со всех уголков планеты. Я уверен, что эта техника позволит вам, как и мне, существенно улучшить качество вашего звука, и при этом, тратить значительно меньше времени как на настройки эквалайзера, так и на эмоционирование по поводу плохого качества записи, неадкватной акустической системы, и т.д.
This article is about a simple and effective technique for getting the best sound out of your tango recordings. More specifically, we are targeting the electric recording era, from 1926 to 1949. The technique defines a set of simple rules which allow to obtain repeatable results in any tango venue, on any recording, with minimal adjustments between the tandas. It was tried and tested in several milonga venues in Toronto and further improved with the feedback from the DJs from all over the globe. I strongly believe that it can dramatically improve your sound, and, at the same time, you would spend less time tweaking the equalizer, cursing the bad recording and/or inadequate sound system, etc.