The educated Tanguero

Essential Tango Knowledge

Tango DJing 1.0: Preface


I am Tanguero since 1992 (learned initially from Fabiana and Ricardo y Nicole in Germany) and know a little bit of the Milonga scene. I have attended Milongas and Practicas in Germany, Luxemburg, France, Netherlands, Spain, Poland, Singapore, Dubai, Australia, New Zealand, USA and Buenos Aires. In all these Milongas the most important things for me are the people and the music. Without both there would be no Milonga. What makes me happy in a Milonga is the closeness of a dance partner in my arms and the deep immersion into the world of music, the rhythm of the piano, the emotional variety of violins, bandoneons and the voice of a singer, the contrecanti and the syncopations, the variety of styles, musical personalities and emotions…. All that is provided by the best Tango orchestras of the golden age and well looked after by just one person – the DJ.

There is a book out there with the name “last night a DJ saved my life” (published in 1999 by Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton) [1] which deals with the history of DJing in the 20th century, but also is based on a song by Indeep from 1982. The title of this book also depicts exemplary what role a DJ has in a Milonga (even if the book doesn´t deal with Tango music). A DJ actually can save a poor Milonga or completely fail an otherwise great Milonga. That is why everybody wants to be a DJ, but also shy away from the responsibility. Sometimes I make my jokes about every person who owns the second Tango CD is already a DJ. This is on one side really nasty (and I deeply apologize) but on the other side it is very true. There are more Milongas out there than the 500 people open air Milongas with real professional DJs. I personally think the majority of real Milongas have 20-40 visitors and there are plenty of them. Small Milongas organized by small Tango Clubs but all well prepared from the heart of the Tango soul and warm and welcoming to occasional guests. Most of these small Milongas do not have the money to pay for the DJing, so generally somebody from the club has to fulfil this role. If it comes to the need of having a DJ most Tangueros want to do, but more experienced Tangueros also notice the responsibility of this role. Actually it takes a long time to acquire the knowledge about Tango music you need to do the job, and good DJs like good wines ripe with the years. I have started DJing in my ballroom club and later as a dance instructor for ballroom, latin and tango I had to play music for classes and parties at a big German University. I had plenty of time to get ready for my role as occasional Tango DJ and I would have loved to get a guide teaching me the basics.

So as I am running this blog (because sometimes I have too much time for writing) and as a teacher, it actually is my job to teach, here are my 5c on the topic of Tango DJing. Tango DJing is not at all like modern general club DJing. There is no scratching, blending or beat matching but a good Tango DJ needs to know a lot of more than 80 years of Tango history and all the cultural background of Tango in general. This little tutorial (?) deals with the very basics of that and is not a guide for DJ superstars, but it is written for all the brave people in small Tango clubs who are asked, forced or begged to prepare music for the monthly Milonga.

This little tutorial is based of former blogs. Since I am blogging in two languages, I had the strong feeling that I really have to revise my former writings and create something more concise and coherent, so this is the second edition, which I want to dedicate to the Tango community.

So please, proceed from bedroom DJ to Tango DJ and next time when I am at your Milonga, please save my life or at least save my evening.



-Richard (DJ Ricardo)




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