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Friday Music: Tango – Too Hot for TV, by JD

Friday, March 9, 2018 0:22
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Back in the ‘good old days’ of black and white television the BBC had a show called Come Dancing. It was first broadcast in 1952 and featured, if my memory is not failing me, a sort of competition format with couples dancing things like waltz and foxtrot, an injection of ‘glamour’ into those grey post war years. The dancing was stiff and formal but stylish in a restrained way. They would also include a ‘latin’ section with samba and tango but again in a genteel and formal manner.

It was after I went to work in South America that I began to see those ‘latin’ dance styles in a new light. They were anything but formal and restrained, quite the opposite in fact!

There was a television channel called TangoTV and it was fascinating and informative but also insidious. Music from Carlos Gardel to Mercedes Sosa and old film of dancers in smoky bars revealed the soul of the music and I was drawn into understanding that soul.

A colleague at work filled me in with more information. It was, he said, their equivalent of the Blues in the USA. The music of those at the bottom of the heap, the rural poor and the slaves in the north and the porteños in Buenos Aires. They were down but they were most defiantly not out.

Most alluring of all was the dance form. As with the dancing to the music of the Blues, so with tango; it was the vertical expression of a horizontal desire and no attempt was made in either case to disguise the fact.

What you might have seen on your television screens, as the BBC showed it from the fifties and even now, is not the way tango should be danced. All stiff legged and stylised jerky movement, they resemble clockwork penguins. The real thing is probably too uncomfortably erotic for the BBC. There should be a smooth fluidity in the movements to give it the necessary sensuality.

As far as I know, TangoTV no longer exists but there is this which could be a development of the idea.  And, as with all forms of music, it changes and evolves but the spirit remains. Most recently it has begun to embrace an electronic/techno style, the first of the following videos includes references to many well known melodies of the past and, being Argentina, there is a football reference also!

The Gotan Project began life in 1999 and they were probably the first to marry the tango to electronic/techno beats. Their most famous number is Santa Maria (del Buen Ayre) and has been featured many times in films and TV shows. There are many versions of it on YouTube but this one here is outstanding. It is a live performance, mixed with video clips, running almost nine minutes and features the finest modern jazz piano I have heard in a long time!

“Hay milonga de amor
hay temblor de gotán
este tango es para vos.
Buenos Aires
El Puerto de Santa Maria del Buen Ayre”



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