The educated Tanguero

Essential Tango Knowledge

Tango DJing Part 4: The Tango Collection


Collecting Tango Music

Without Tango music, it is impossible to DJ and without a lot of that, it is impossible to create a structured Milonga. So Tango DJs have to collect Tangos in a certain way. Additionally, it is of high importance for Tango DJs to have a good knowledge of Tango history and especially the history of the big orchestras.

Tango is played by small to big orchestras. Interpretations like Gardel´s songs, i.e. a singer who accompanies himself on a guitar, can be real Tango gems, but will be very rare at a Milonga and this applies for some duos (like Troilo/Grela or Ziegler/Sinesi) as well. The traditional Tango orchestra is a Sexteto (2 violins, 2 bandoneons, double bass and piano) and during the golden age, this has been extended to big orchestras with more than 10 musicians. For dancing, the orchestras since around 1930 are used. Tango music can be classified in a couple of different phases. Usually I use this classification (based on the classification by Horacio Ferrer):

-Pre history of Tango (1865-1895)

-Guardia vieja (old guard) (1895 -1917)

-Translational Period (1917-1925)

-Golden Age (Guardia Nueva) (1925-1949)

-Tercera Guardia (Tango Nuevo) (1949-1968)

-Contemporary Tango  (1968-today)



(It is really difficult to classify, because many orchestras are present in different phases and change their character over time). A very good list of orchestras and their typical sounds and the most popular songs can be found at:

The world´s best page for information on Tango History is:

A good Tango DJ should know, which orchestras are to locate in which period. A couple (around 10-20) orchestras are usually played in Milongas and every DJ needs a good collection of their CDs. This is my list of top orchestras of the Golden Age (for recommendations of CDs, please refer to the list of Stephen and Susan Brown):

Alfredo de Angelis Rhythmic, Drama Example: “Pavadita”
Angel D´Agostino Softer rhythm Example: “Café Dominguez”
Juan D´Arienzo Pure Rhythm. Example: “9 de Julio”
Rodolfo Biagi Strong rhythm. Example: “Racing Club”
Francisco Canaro Rhythmic and at the pulse of his time. Example: “El Garron”
Miguel Calo Soft rhythm. Example: “Yo soy el Tango”
Julio de Caro  Example: “Derecho Viejo” Rhythmic style, more soft.
Lucio Demare Rythmic, Lyrical Example: ”Manana zarpa un Barco”
Carlos Di Sarli Elegant swinging rhythm. Example: “Bahia Blanca”
Edgardo Donato Rhythmic, early Golden Age Example: “El Acomodo”
Quarteto Firpo Old guard sound. Example: “Lagrimas” from 1940
Osvaldo Fresedo Mainly sweet rhythms. More lyrical. Example: “Tigre Viejo”
Pedro Laurenz Stronger Rhythms Example: “Alma de Bohemio”
Francisco Lomuto Old Guard Sound. Example: “Nunca mas”
Orquesta Tipica Victor True sound of old guard, traditional. Example: “Nino bien”
Osvaldo Pugliese Strong and dynamic rhythm, dramatic. Example: “La Yumba”
Enrique Rodriguez Slow catchy rhythms, nice contrecanti. Example: “La Gayola”
Ricardo Tanturi Softer rhythm, more emotional. Example: “Noches de Colon”
Anibal Troilo Example: “Quejas de Bandoneon” Smooth rhythmic sound.
Hector Varela Late Golden Age Example: ”El Flete”


Tango Nuevo has been created by Astor Piazzolla and numerous orchestras are playing his tunes, so recommended is the master himself. Not easy to fit in, even in a more modern Milonga.


Astor Piazzolla     Modern Rhythms Example: “Libertango”


Contemporary Tango is played after 1968 and there are many orchestras to name. Just a couple of them:


Color Tango Pugliese 2.0 Example: “Yunta de Oro”
Orqu. Tipica Fernandez Fierro Dissonant and angry Example: ”A los que se fueron”
Sexteto Mayor Classical and sophisticated Example: “Mala Junta”
Trio Hugo Diaz  Sophisticated Example: “Gran Hotel Victoria”
Tango Andorinha Modern Sound Example: “Lagrimas y Sonrisas (vals)”
Lalo Schifrin Dynamic and strong Example: “A J.C.Copes”
Juan Jose Mosalini Dynamic and modern Example: ”Bordoneo y 900 (milonga)”
El Arranque Modern Sound Example: ”Madame Ivonne”
Alberto di Paulo Dramatic Example: “Despues del Carneval”


Neotango is a dynamic mix of new club music with traditional Tango. Some people hate it, some think it is a natural development.


Gotan Project More than lounge music Example: “Epoca”
Bajofondo Invitation to remix….. Example: ”Pide Piso”
Otros Aires Strong rhythm Example: ”Amor que se baila”
Electrocutango Rhythm Example: “Felino”
Carlos Libedinsky Strong rhythm Example: ”Vi Luz y Subi”

Because most of the “normal” Milongas will have a focus on Golden Age, a DJ has to concentrate to build a strong collection of Golden Age Tangos.

A very useful service is the website of Anton Sukhanov, where you can prelisten to the intros of common Golden Age Tangos:

Starting to collect means to buy CDs. Some recommendations can be found at this page:

Generally, the Tango-DJ web page is also helpful:


Please be aware of two facts: You will have to collect over a long time and you will need a lot of time to do the grabbing and tagging to organize your collection. Even a small tango collection will surely give you hundreds of hours work. This is one of the reasons, why typically tango DJs do not share their collections.

Many tango labels put in a lot of effort to clean and restore tango treasures and make them playable at Milongas. As a collector, I love the noise and hiss of traditional shellac discs. A Tango from 1930 necessarily has this sound and there is nothing wrong with that. But if you play as a DJ for dancing couples, the sound has to be clear and the rhythm to be easily recognizable. Here modern Re-Editions are helpful. These editions provide traditional songs acoustically restored for CD-Editions. Please consult this page for more information:

Visiting Buenos Aires ? Some places to look for Tango CDs:

Tango´s, Lavalle 582
El Ateneo, Florida 629

Next time we will look at the process of planning and designing a Milonga Playlist.

And now: Good luck building your collection of Tango music.


Sincerely, your Tango DJ,

-Ricardo (“El alemán”)


Attention: Please do not use pirated Tango music. Without support from only few collectors, the Tango labels will not be able to provide us with new and traditional Tango music, especially newly restored editions will not be possible if collectors do not support the labels.

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