Milonga de mis Amores is a piece I am very familiar with – it is our signature tune and we play it at the end of most of our milongas. Last night was the first time I had heard it played as a dirge! The slowest version I have is by Francisco Canaro recorded in 1937 which is played at 95 beats per minute – the version played by Fuego Lento last night cannot have been more than about 70 - which completely destroyed the song's character - maybe it is something to do with their name which means Slow Fire.
Slow Fire are regular performers at the irregular milongas organized in Sydney the Sydney tango club, Tango Synergy. They are all good professional musicians, one I was acquainted with many years ago when he taught and performed in a jazz band with a member of my family, but tango musicians they are not. Their music sounds like they are rehearsing – and that they have never listened to a recording of the tango music from the Golden Age that we all love to dance to. Their repertoire varies from Dirge de Mis Amores to some well-played but barely danceable Piazzolla and it is all thrown into a mixing pot that creates a tense vibe.
The dance floor echoes this vibe. Couples intent on showing off their ‘skills’ (read kicks) vie with couples who simply want to dance in line of dance and those who are new to tango and just want a space to shuffle. There is no line of dance and very little consideration of other dancers! It is the first lot that make the floor unfriendly – and the same vibe happens at the other venue where this milonga takes place. It was interesting that when the band was playing the floor was fairly sparsely populated and as soon as the music from DJ Hosanna replaced it , the floor filled. Hosanna’s music was imminently danceable – she played music of the 1930s and 40s that was refreshing after the directionless playing that had gone before. But it was not possible for the playlist to overcome the disconnection that the music played by the band had generated.
There are those who don’t go to this milonga because of the band – and as it is the only milonga on in Sydney on the 5th weekends they find a dose of murder and mayhem on the TV more acceptable. It says much that there are enough tango dancers keen to dance that they will come to this milonga despite the band – myself included.
I have heard this band play well when led by Argentine musician and professor Joaquin Amenabar, but when left to their own devices they play like a jazz band doing a gig for the money – not like a tango band – a group of musicians who perform as an ensemble because of the love of it!