Troilophilia – On this grey afternoon

Probably one of Troilo’s most known, most played and most loved tracks, En esta tarde gris (On this grey afternoon). Fiorentino’s voice shines through and the track has a mix of rhythm and pace, and the deep message of sorrow and solitude. Troilo’s versions are light-years ahead of other orchestas who attempted to play this track. Yes, you read it right, versionS. There is a version that rarely gets played in milongas, recorded almost 30 years after that gem with Fiorentino. And it is about this version that I want to talk about. The version with the infamous “El Polaco”.

You hear it and from the word go the music is completely over the top! The pace is much slower, and the instruments are much more noticeable. They go up to almost delusional and sometimes low like in a depressive state. Sometime oppressive and sometimes oppressed.

The other difference is that Goyeneche starts singing straight away, using the might of his broad voice, unlike Fiorentino, who gave the track a whole cycle until he started to start with this beautiful enchanting tones.

Check here the you tube clip
Que ganas de llorar
en esta tarde gris,
en su repiquetear
la lluvia habla de ti.
Remordimiento de saber
que, por mi culpa, nunca,
vida, nunca te veré.
Mis ojos al cerrar
te ven igual que ayer,
temblando al implorar
de nuevo mi querer,
y hoy es tu voz que vuelve a mí
en esta tarde gris…
Although this track is sang by male voices, they illustrate the thoughts of a woman, who has fallen in love by a man who left…
She is saying, I want to cry in the grey afternoon, the sound of the rain falling reminds me of you, I regret knowing that, for my fault, I will never, never see you again…” When my eyes close, I see you just like if it was yesterday, and I hear your voice in this grey afternoon.
– triste me decías –
que en esta soledad
no puede más el alma mía…
y apiádate de mi dolor,
que estoy cansada de llorar,
de sufrir y esperarte
y hablar siempre a solas
con mi corazón.
pues te quiero tanto,
que si no vienes hoy
voy a quedar ahogada en llanto…
no puede ser que siga así,
con este amor clavado en mí
como una maldición.
“Come”, sadly you asked me. And in this solitude my soul can’t bear it any longer. She continues, Come and take pity on my pain, because I am tired of crying, of suffering waiting for you, and of always talking alone with my heart. Come, I love you so much, and if you don’t come today I will drown in my tears. It cannot carry on like this, with this love stuck to me, like a curse.

Usually I end my posts saying that I do not understand why this or that track is not played more often. Not this time. I am actually quite glad that I hear this very seldom. I have only played this version twice in the 300+ sets I have DJed. This track is an A bomb. It should only be played at the right milonga of the right event when the right people are there. Or you will risk an empty dance floor. Remember of the first rule of DJing – you play for the dancers!


The Maderna antibodies

There have been some antibodies against Maderna. Just the mention of the name brings up the most overplayed tango (is it really a tango?) of the moment – Merceditas. Just mention the name Maderna to some people and I have seen them saying they won’t go to an event where it is played.
There is more to Maderna than Merceditas, though. He was the piano behind Caló’s greatest years. Caló’s orchestra was characterised by technically very advanced individuals and after 1945 they started leaving to form their own orchestras. Maderna first, Francini together with Pontier, Domingo Federico after…
Straight after he left Caló, Raul Iriarte – the voice behind some of Caló’s nicest tangos – followed him for a short stint. The music sounds a lot like Caló (especially the piano!) but there is a little bit more complexity, the relentless rhythm of Caló is elongated in some parts and the music less predictable.
The antibodies come to the orchestra Simbolo Maderna, which is often amalgamated with Orquestra Maderna. There is an explanation. Maderna sadly died very young in a car accident, I believe in 1951. The members of the orchestra were so distraught they could not continue playing without him, so they hired a new pianist and renamed the orchestra Simbolo Maderna (Maderna Symbol). This is the orchestra who produced the infamous and loved Merceditas. By the way, Merceditas is not a tango, it is a popular canción (folk song) from the Argentinian coastline. It was adopted by many countries, in particular Brazil, and its lyrics translated to many languages.
Inutil is a track that I really really like. I had heard before but heard it properly when a performer asked me to play it and I didn’t have it! He produced it in a USB stick and it has been part of my portfolio ever since!

Enjoy Maderna!



Troilophilia 5 – Naranjo en flor

This is an amazing and beautiful tango. Played by many orchestras, sang by many singers, but to me, none comes close to the orchestra of Anibal Troilo and the voice of Ruiz. Maybe because it was my favourite track of the first tango CD I ever owned, 14 years ago – Café Argentina. It was by listening to this track I got used to my favourite Troilo trademark – the utter perfection of all instruments playing together. This Troilo orchestra was in their peak, the weight of all instruments in the music is like the most complex desert recipe – down to the smallest detail!

The music starts with all instruments together, the double base giving it a deep ground and all instruments folding in like a drop of ink spreading in water. And then Ruiz with his soft voice kicks in.

Era mas blanda que el agua, 
que el agua blanda, 
era mas fresca que el rio, 
naranjo en floor… 
Y en esa calle de estio, 
calle perdida, 
dejo un pedazo de vida 
y se marcho…

Softer than water, fresher than a river,  like an orange blossom, that’s what she was. And in a summer day she walked away leaving behind a piece of life…

Primero hay que saber sufrir,
despues amar, despues partir
y al fin andar sin pensamiento…
Perfume de naranjo en flor,
promesas vanas de un amor
que se escaparon en el viento…

First you have to suffer, then love and then leave and walk without thinking. This is the cycle of a love who walked away, and possibly one of the most striking verses of the universe of tango. And whilst he thinks, the scent of orange blossom in the street reminds him of the empty love promises that, like the orange blossom scent, vanish in the wind…

Despues, que importa el despues
Toda mi vida es el ayer
que me detiene en el pasado,
eterna y vieja juventud
que me ha dejado acobardado
como un pajaro sin luz.

After, what does the afterwads matter when all his life is the memories of yesterday that incarcerate him in the past. All his life was spent loving this woman and now he feels coward to face life, like a bird in the dark.

This is probably one of Troilo’s tangos where the instruments take very little prominence. There is a little Troilo solo at 2:10, which is given more relevance as the double base is now played with the fingers rather than bow.

The lyrics were quite different from those used in tango tracks. The orange blossom is the scent of a lost love, unlike the usual backgrounds of the street corner, the park bench, the street light or the compadrito…

Other orchestras, from Laurenz to Bajofondo have played this track but I think none comes close to Troilo’s. Goyeneche did a very very popular version with Stampone’s orchestra and another with Piazzolla but I think that it is geared to showcase his voice and less suited for the milonga…

Judge it by yourself and feel the orange blossom scent in the air…


Troilophilia 4 – Y dicen que no te quiero

This is no flimsy tango. This is robust, like a good deep and full bodied red wine. But hidden in this bouncer-like appearance lie a few gems of pure beauty. The magnificent solo in the bandoneon from 0:40 to 0:55, the sweet voice of Ruiz, the way how the violins provide a soft velvety floor to this music whilst the piano provides corners to contain this beast of lyrics.

The piano. There is a piano solo from 2:20 to 2:40 but it sounds very different form piano solos in D’Arienzo or Biagi. This is a part of the music where the piano comes unashamedly to the front, but not hammer-like. This is because the violins are there to provide a counter music, a surrounding field of velvet fluffiness. Just like the love he has for his lover but no one understands.

The lyrics are very powerful and Ruiz, with romantic but adult voice is the perfect choice to sing them. This is the lament of someone who is complaining that people are talking he doesn’t love his woman because they are not together. He laments, saying that people judge to fast and easily, hurting him deeply, maybe without realizing how much. I think the most striking is the part where he says that so many of the ones condemning they don’t live together, live together and don’t love each other… Very powerful.

Y dicen que no te quiero
porque no me ven contigo…
Si supieran que en el alma tenemos
nuestros sueños aferrados…
Si supieran que los dos nos queremos
aunque estemos separados…
¡Cuántos hay que estando juntos no se aman
y no saben de este amor que hay dentro mío!…
¡Y dicen que no te quiero
porque no me ven contigo!…

And they say I don’t love you
because they don’t see us together…
If they knew that in our soul we have
our dreams joined together…
If they knew we love each other
even though we are apart…
How many who live together don’t love each other
and don’t know the love I have inside me!
And they say I don’t love you,
because they don’t see us together!

In terms of powerfulness, compare the Troilo version with Biagi, both recorded in 1947. Biagi sounds very casual, dry and almost unsympathetic to the lyrics.

Why this tango does not make it more often to dancefloors, dear friends, I do not know. Maybe it will change! 😉

Una emocion


It was a deep change for the orchestra of Tanturi. The crazy late 30’s and early 40’s were characterised by wild, energetic and fast music. Even more if you had the most wanted tango singer, the one who made hearts melt in the female part of the milongas – Castillo.
But Castillo left to go solo and the music very soon started to slow down – a general phenomenon in all orchestras. And it was at this time that a sweet voice in the body of Enrique Campos joined the Tanturi orchestra.
The music has a very good cadence, far from the rush of energy of the previous years. There is now more space for Tanturi to emerge in the piano, something present in early instrumentals but almost forgotten with Castillo. There are more contra tiempos, which make it more complex, and the different instruments are now more integrated, rather than different solos. The voice sings with the instruments, rather than on top of them.
“Una Emocion” was maybe made very famous by Geraldine Rojas and Pablo Veron as they danced to this track and the ending credits in Assassination Tango, the first modern non Argentine film showcasing tango with a non-tango script. The reason why they danced it is because milongueros love this track. It’s not just the music, which is great, but the lyrics, which elevate tango (esta unión de notas y palabras – a union of music and words) to the feeling that carries life through.

“Vengan a ver que traigo yo
en esta unión de notas y palabras,
es la canción que me inspiró
la evocación que anoche me acunaba.”

“Come see what I bring
in this union of notes and words;
it’s the song that inspired me
the memories that rocked me to sleep last night.”

Killer first verse. He is like the Messias bringing the recipe for inspiration for the shortcomings of the past! It continues:

“Envuelto en la ilusión anoche lo escuché,
compuesta la emoción por cosas de mi ayer,
la casa en que nací,
la reja y el parral,
la vieja calesita y el rosal.”

“Enfolded in a dream, I heard it last night
the emotion composed of my yesterdays
the house I was born in,
the window grates and the grape arbor,
the old carousel and the rosebush.”

This is a very common theme with Campos’ verses. That listening to old tangos brings him the memories of the good old days. Is it maybe because this is deep into second world war and things look pretty grim? Or because he is in love? With these Argentinians, one can never know!

It continues

“Su acento es la canción de voz sentimental,
su ritmo es el compás que vive en mi ciudad,
no tiene pretensión,
no quiere ser procaz,
se llama tango y nada más.”

“Its accent is the song of a sentimental voice
its rhythm is the beat that lives in my city.
It has no [false] pretense,
no desire to show off
it’s called tango and nothing more.”

This is probably why natives like this tango so much. These are the lyrics that state that tango is not a music, not a dance, not a desire to show off. It is the voice of the people living in this town. It is called tango, and nothing more!

Welcome to my Tanturi world!

Troilophilia – 3

Confesión – Troilo + Ruiz

This is a blast of a track. So beautiful, so decadent, so sad. There are many versions that are worth the three minutes of our life. Canaro 1931 is probably one of Canaro’s best tracks (but sadly never played). Canaro did re-interpret it in 1948 but it is a disservice to this tango. Troilo’s version stands out like a beacon of light showing how beautiful tango can be.

The music starts almost like a fight with all instruments coming in together, then it lingers into this lush velvety instrumental bits that only Troilo could achieve. Everything sounds perfect, and back in the days when I was trying to identify orchestras, that was Troilo’s hallmark, everything sounded like it should. No shoddy violins, no egocentric bandoneon solos, just music as it should be.

Ruiz here does one of his best jobs. The lyrics tell us of a man that did not think he was worthy of his lover. And to end the relationship he mistreated her so that she would leave him. The lyrics find this guy one year on, when he sees her in the street, full of grace, with all men looking at her, and he gets very upset on how he treated her and maybe with a hint of regret by not being with her anymore.

“¡Sol de mi vida!…
fui un fracasao
y en mi caída
busqué dejarte a un lao,
porque te quise
que al rodar,
para salvarte
solo supe
hacerme odiar.”

“Sunshine of my life!
I was a failure
and while falling
I pushed you aside,
because I loved you
so much… so much!
that, while spinning
to save you,
I could only
make you hate me.

This is a tango by an adult Troilo orchestra, which knows exactly where they are and where they want to go. The instruments are like a living creature giving a nice place for Ruiz to shine with his voice. This is Troilo at its best!


Troilophilia – 2

En carne propia – 1944

I just absolutely love this song. It starts dramatic, and it tells you what’s coming next. The violins are the constant pains of unreturned passions, with pain that comes in waves. Marino sings about someone who hurt him, and tells that someone that life will pay her back. A song of love revenge.

“Me has herido
y la sangre de esa herida
goteará sobre tu vida, sin cesar.”

“You have hurt me,
and the blood from that wound
will incessantly drop over your life”

Wow, this is only the first verse. Serious stuff! And it continues:

“Porque algún día,
con la misma ruin moneda,
con que pagan los que pagan mal,
te pagarán.”

“Because one day,
with the same cursed coin
used by those who pay evil,
you will be paid”

How can you not want to dance this?

The BsAs vs European DJ style

I recently read a rant by Susana Miller, owner of the mythic tango club “El Beso”, about tango DJing. She said that in Buenos Aires DJs have a pool of 1500 tangos that they play. And they won’t deviate from those because those are the tangos that people know by heart – bandoneon variaciones, lyrics, pauses – and that people are happy to dance.

The most traditional tango teachers have told me that they would only dance a tango if they knew it very well, like, if they have heard it 100 times at least. “Would you go on live TV and read a text you never set your eyes on?”, my teacher asked once, “why would you go and dance a tango you never heard, then?”

My Tango DJ mentor is also not afraid to say that when he started DJing, he was very well aware that many of the dancers in the milongas of then knew much more about tango than he did himself. If Gavito asked for Pugliese at that time was because Pugliese needed to be played.

In Europe, things are a bit different. According to Susana, in Europe there is proliferation of tango “archeologists” that call themselves DJs. I can see where she comes from, although I think this is unfair. Europeans have taken the “improvisation” label quite literally and it is not unusual that many DJs will scavenge through the market for unknown vinyls with unknown versions of tangos to transfer them and present them in their sets. It is also not a surprise that a couple of people started to take tango re-recordings very seriously and got hold of shellacs and vinyls of the original stuff and started transferring them with higher quality. It is known that many of the recordings you will possess by some of the mainstream tango labels had sound engineers of dubious knowledge and taste. That is why some recordings are marred by infuriating reverb that gives everyone the feeling of being dancing on an empty huge tiled bathroom .Or that they are so quick that one starts thinking those Argentines must spent the other half of their lives in the gym working out, only to realise that the transfer was made with a higher RPM rate, pushing the sound quicker and higher.

And if it is true that I commend this search for the real thing, it is also true that I am sometimes confronted with DJs whose priority is to showcase unknown tangos. Some of these DJs are so worried with their “archeological” diggings on anecdotes surrounding the recording of the music, that they forget the real reason why they are in the DJ booth for – to give dancers what they want.

“Leave your ego at the door” or “play the music dancers want” are two phrases that were told to me early in my DJing career and that I hope are showcased everytime I DJ. That includes giving dancers music that they feel confident with, music they have heard before. Of course there is the odd unknown one that can be introduced, after all the DJ, with all their study and procurement work is in a good position to introduce dancers to new things. But do those with measurement. Hold your archeological vein. Dilute it in tango everyone is happy with. And listen to the dancers, just like old DJs used to listen to milongueros. They know best what they want to dance!





My music

Today I cried whilst listening to Milonga del Angel. It reminded me of my dad – his name Ângelo – who is not here anymore. I was seated on my chair. I closed my eyes and I danced this very slow milonga (yes, it is a milonga). I danced it expressively, doing things I don’t do usually in milongas, flying even, like a cloud.

I would not dare to play this music in a milonga. Number one, it is tango (or milonga) taken to an extreme that is not compatible with social dancing. Astor Piazzolla was born in New York and only moved to Buenos Aires when he was almost 18. He loved the bandoneon like maybe Troilo did, and he played in many traditional orchestras but when his time came he took tango elsewhere.

And elsewhere is where Piazzolla must be, when it comes to social dancing. So please, if you want to start playing tango, play Piazzolla in your own living room and dance to it with the freedom it requires. There is no space for Piazzolla in milongas. He is needed in many other places. In your living room for example.