Why I like to go to a pub for tango

When you say tango, two images pop up competing for my attention.

One of them has dancers clothed to impress drinking the Argentine tea and dancing elegantly in a ballroom. Moving with utmost precision and always trying to wow the onlookers.

Another captures people in everyday clothes drinking wine and beer and dancing with joyful abandon. Nobody is posing for a shot by the present photographer. The goal is simply to have fun.

These two scenes are arbitrary and I am only presenting them to discuss how I choose to differentiate tango music, not to critique any particular milonga.

This is important to emphasize since I have no intention to ever pass judgement on my dancers. Instead, when estimating a given piece of music for its dancing potential, I judge the imaginary ronda it's creating inside my head.

Salon Tango

The 1930s Fresedo with Osvaldo Ray invariably creates a vision of a salon teeming with artistocrats. The signature harp seems to confirm that; you won't find a harp in a pub.

I find the image off-putting. I imagine a high-brow social function involving too much pretense and formality. How would I ever relax enough to dance with joy in such environment?

Yes, I am aware many will find Fresedo / Ray to be sweet, gentle, and facilitating great intimacy on the dance floor. To me, this type of music is a straitjacket.

Pub Tango

We don't have many aristocrats among us today, and I find the best examples of a "pub-style tango" among contemporary bands.

To hear what I mean by that, listen to Conjunto Berretín perform "Retintín" on this grainy video from 2006, although, perhaps ironically, they are actually performing not in a pub but in a public library.

Their "Garufa" from the album "Tango for Lovers and Fools" embodies the "pub" spirit even better but I did not find a publicly available video; here it is on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/track/4tLI0ujf2X8mvd13E1No0B

The scene inside my head is now populated with smiling, relaxed, and perhaps a bit drunk crowd. A place that is an open field for all kinds of tango expression.

Conclusion, if there ever can be one

This is not only a subjective argument, it is a description of my personal artistic preferences. As a DJ, I am creating a narrative whether I am conscious of it or not, and I prefer to understand how I myself think about the music I play. Which is one of the motivation behind this blog: to help myself think about tango music.

To be sure, both the "salon" and "pub" spirits belong to tango, which is self-evident by the fact that they exist and prosper. My typical evening set will indeed include many tandas of gentle, "dressed-up" music such as Di Sarli or Lomuto that would fit well in the imaginary "salon".

Ultimately, though, I want the evening to be fun and uplifting and will use the "pub-style" music to drive it in that direction whenever I see too many serious faces around.