Review: DANGO

Review: DANGO

Finnish tango is a known quantity, albeit somewhat exotic. Have you heard about Danish tango, though? No? Here's your chance.

The bandoneonist Stine Helkjær Engen, who plays with Andariega, has released a unique album called Dango. Quoting:

DANGO is a musical concept born out of a desire to unite two worlds; the Danish Song Treasure and tango.
This has be done by creating tango versions of the best Danish melodies.

And that's exactly what you will get.

The music in detail

The vals Canción de primavera opens the album with a comfortable beat and uncomplicated melody sung by Marisol Martinez. The combination of Spanish lyrics and decidedly non-latino theme is a play of contrasts that amuses but does not shock. I think that the dancers will find this easy to express with their feet.

Man binder os på mund og hånd suggests slow movements at the beginning; once the major theme kicks in, the instruments become more lively, and one can dance the rest on the normal walking tempo. We hear Danish now as sung by Camilla Marie Dahlgreen. Towards the end, the beat slows down, and the dancers would again be prompted to cut their speed by half. I caught myself wondering whether the melody, despite its tango arrangement, is a step too far from what I'm likely be motivated to dance to.

Another vals follows: Vida tan fugaz, with Marisol Martinez and in Spanish again. Quite sweet and also very short, ending somewhat unexpectedly after the 2 minute mark, because the singer comes in at 1.32", and so one would expect her story to take longer :)

Alt hvad hun ville var at danse takes back to Denmark and is the only performance by a singer credited as "Favne". Even as the melody and the language is distinctly non-tango, the arrangement prompts me to get on my feet this time.

Bailemos el final completes the vals tanda on this album - thank you, Stine, for making it easier to play from this album at the milongas :) It is even shorter than the second one, ending at just 1.45". However, it feels more "complete" as Marisol Martinez comes in early.

I felt that Det var på Capri works convincingly as a tango, perhaps because the theme sounds derived from, or is actually a source for, an actual tango song, a name of which unfortunately escapes me (I did check a few 1930s Canaros but nothing popped up). I would love to know the whole story behind this track. Be it as it may, it is the most convincing tango of the lot. (Update: it's a re-imagining of Isla de Capri by Fresedo - thank you so much for the hint, Stine!)

And finally, we hear some Andariega - in Midt om natten. According to credits, the band-leader Luigi Coviello arranged the final song on the album. His signature is all over it. Correction: no, actually #6 is Coviello's arrangement. Still, the last piece does sound the most like Andariega to me. :)

I found the piece convincing but for listening only. Somehow it feels very intellectual, removed from the dance floor. Maybe too urgent, too serious? I don't know.

In closing

I have been amused and entertained by this album. It would seem impossible to marry the Danish and Argentinian traditions, except a skilled arranger can certainly make it so. And I would expect that Stine is now firmly rooted in both.

I am thankful for the vals tanda, and would be happy to mix one or two other Danish-language tangos with perhaps some Finnish tango. Yes, I know Scandinavia is not like one thing, but it might work for my Central European audience. Either way, this is going to be an occasional treat, a surprise for the dancers. I'll see how they like it!

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