The educated Tanguero

Essential Tango Knowledge

Tango in Russia


Tango, both the dance and the Music, has been exported to Europe as a new product very early during the tangomania periods in the first two decades of the 20iest century. Soon after, Tangos have been played by European orchestras and singers. This popularity has inspired European artists not only to cover Argentinean classics, but also to create their own music with a typical flavour of their own country. Popular Artists came from Germany, Poland, Finland, Russia and Mediterranean countries. Let´s start a little series of blogs looking at these international offspring of our beloved Tango and start this journey in Russia.

The Russian soul (душа , dusha), a concept created by Gogol, Tolstoj and Dostojewsky describes the Russian spirituality as filled with compassion, strength and depth [1], but also continuously suffering and somehow melancholic and deeply emotional. This view may be a relic from 19th century romanticism, but it is said that love and devotion are still the heart of the Russian soul [2]. This is the perfect base for Tango, expressing a great range of emotions from its poetic side.

Piotr Leschenko

The most known Tango singer in Russia was Piotr Leschenko (Пётр Константинович Лещенко ) [3], born close to Odessa in Ukraine in 1898 and deceased 1954 in a Romanian prison camp.  He was known as „The King of Russian Tango“, performing dances and singing to Guitar and Balalaika. Besides Tango, he also sung Gypsy music and traditional Russian songs, but also Foxtrots. As some of his music was not considered politically correct in the post-revolutionary Russia, he performed mainly abroad in whole Europe and lots of his songs were bootlegged and smuggled into Russia [1].

His most popular Tango was “Serdtse” (heart) but there are other Tangos maybe better suited for today’s Tango listeners. Interestingly, one of his composers was a polish composer Jerzy Petersburski, so there may be a connection to Polish tangos, which will be a subject in a future article.

Here some examples:


Russian Non-Tango songs.
If you go to European milongas, you will frequently hear old Tango music from all over Europe. This music is called “old world tango” or “world tango”. Many DJs play at least one tanda of this music and there may be songs from Leschenko as well. Interestingly, even traditional Russian songs are used as valses. Some of them are performed by a trio from Ukraine called Trio Scho. “Scho” (Шо) is a slang word from Odessa  meaning “what shall be?!” [4]. Actually the trio came from Poltawa and is now located in Berlin. The music can be found on CD, I may recommend this one [5].
Besides playing some Tangos from Leschenko, they recorded one of the most beautiful Valses you can dance to on milongas. The song “Milaja moja” (Милая моя, my sweetheart) is actually a modern Russian song, written by Juri Vizbor (Юрий Визбор) one of the famous Russian singer-songwriters [6].
Vizbor, who was born in 1934, wrote the song as a romantical ballad with the title “Solnishko Lesnoe” (солнышко лесное , forest sun). Here [7] you can listen to his original interpretation of this song (title no. 1). Here are the lyrics with English translation [8] and for those who want to play that song at a campfire, here are the guitar chords [9]. Interestingly, Vizbor plays the traditional Russian 7 string guitar [10].
Unfortunately, there is no (copyright) free resource to listen to the version of Trio Scho, which is usually played at milongas, so I will include two other more modern versions I found on YouTube. But maybe you will recognize the song in a milonga DJed by me (while dancing to it).













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