DJ or playlist?
I began dancing tango in 2006, in the fall. But I don’t consider the first two years because I was going to a salsa school: one day a week salsa, one day tango. At the tango class we were studying only structures, no concepts. Since 2008, also fall, I’ve become a „tango junky” : ) I was very lucky to have as my first tango teacher, except the salsa instructor, an extremely musical man and passionate about musicality – Murat Erdemsel. Then, in 2009, I started the regular lessons with Nana – who used to come once a month to Brasov to help us grow.
Why this long introduction? Because in one of Nana’s visits – in March I think – I first opened my eyes and especially my ears to tango music. Nana, Doina and Cristi (Nana’s teaching partner back then) were preparing a CD for the students. I was assisting (organizer’s advantage : P). And I was amazed. I saw them choosing the music: “Let’s put Di Sarli, it’s good for rhythmic”, “Yes, La Poema is a must”, “La bruja, Malena and Carnaval de mi bario. They are easy to get”, “We can’t exclude D’Arienzo, De Angelis, Donato, Canaro”, “Some Pugliese, for their general knowledge at least”… And me, I was looking at them in fascination, wondering how can they know the music so well, clearly structured, differentiated and detailed when in my head it all sounded almost the same… That was the first time that I really wished for the day when I’d know the music : )
Well… A few years later (about 5 I’d say) it was again Nana who kept poking me to play music at her Saturday practica. I hesitated, tossed and turned, thought it over and over… I’m a shy gal and I was thinking that I have no preparation for this (other than listening to hundreds of tango tunes) and I was wondering how will I start something like this, what if I blow it, what if I embarrass myself… But Nana kept encouraging and enticing me so I finally gave in and did it. And I grew wings : )
People! I worked on my first playlist… about 4 days! And the nights in between : D But I soooo liked it!!! I searched, researched and discovered so many things about orchestras, tunes, history, singers, how to set up songs in a tanda and why… Fascinating.
Now, after 2 years of ‘mixing’ music at the practica and a few milongas in the country (Bucharest and Brasov) I finally get to the point of the article :)))
What’s best: a playlist or a DJ?
My answer (personal opinion) is: both are good. It depends on the context, the place of the dance, the organizer, the type of people attending etc.
Sometimes we get too carried away by the idea that we have rules. Furthermore, I think that we, the non-Argentineans, tend to exaggerate with rules that are mostly of common sense. And mind you: I am one of The most enthusiastic supporter of the tango codigos : D
I think that if you have all the data – what type of an event you’re attending (practica, milonga, is it local, international etc), what sort of people are usually going there, how long it lasts… – one can built a pretty decent playlist. Even a pretty damn good one! I have proof : D
On the other hand, the role of a DJ is to add – obviously – the human touch. Meaning he/she can better adjust the energy according to the dancers, can communicate with them (the way Felix Picherna used to. Or the way Marcelo Rojas does it. And probably the way many others do…), can play with the cortinas – if the public allows and so on.
Now, if you ask me to choose… it’d be difficult : ) Because you can screw it up in both cases. On the one hand, it’s all too subjective. You can’t please everyone, that’s a fact, and people come dancing with different emotions (that vary from one person to the other or at the same person from one event to another) and the same music can either heal or hurt. It happened to me, too. I attended milongas where I didn’t click with the DJ and I’d have been happier with a ‘correct’ playlist. Or milongas with a playlist running where I’d miss the ‘playfulness’ of a DJ. On the other hand, a DJ may be expansive sometimes, may depend on the event, the organizer, the budget, even an emotion… and many other things.
Anyway, after my short experience in the DJ-ing business : P, I really don’t think it’s blasphemy to use a playlist when you know your ‘merchandise’ ; )
I hope we meet on the ronda and dance to good music, however it may be delivered!