Tango music is as varied and versatile as the dance. It includes many styles created by more unknown than known composers and lyricists, interpreted by countless orchestras, spanning more than a century. Unique melodies, harmonies, instrumentation and rhythms comprise the central nervous system and heartbeat of tango.
In Buenos Aires tango music is played in stores, cafes, hotels, cabs, buses, etc. Locals know every melody, harmony, inflection and nuance of every song. Seasoned milongueros masterfully match their choreography to the mood, tempo and rhythms of every piece. Their music is an integral part of Argentine life.
As our tango life progresses, we develop preferences for orchestras, songs and styles. Skilled DJs include a variety of each and plan their playlists to please most of the people most of the time. Some favorites we could listen to over and over, while others, not so much. Preference of music is a matter of taste. There is no right or wrong. All of it is “authentic” and to like or dislike this or that song, style or orchestra does not affect its value or validity in the overall picture.
Some arrangements defy us to remain seated, and some have a certain part, or maybe even one note, that we especially like and specifically listen for. Styles range from serious to playful, romantic to dramatic, melancholy to melodramatic, compositions to match every emotion and mood.
Some arrangements lead us through a musical journey that builds toward a resounding finish. Then…at the very end there is mini-pause just before the final, barely-audible note. Pure genius. Pure tango. Pure Argentine.
Some arrangements include sound effects that are related to the title. Examples: El Huracan, Fueges Artificiales and El Amancer by Edgardo Donato, Roberto Firpo and Carlos Di Sarli, respectively.
Some favorites are selected for listening, others for dancing; some for both and some for the orchestra, style or era. Composers, arrangers, lyricists, vocalists, and conductors guide us through compositions we interpret in our personal way. Knowing Spanish is a bonus for understanding lyrics and creating choreography that matches the tone and emotions of vocals.
In tango, the music is our leader. Its variety, richness and texture create an aural kaleidoscope for listening, dancing, and appreciation.