Tango, Tango, Vals, Tango, Tango Milonga
Published on: April 3, 2021

Have you ever stopped to try and figure out how the DJ goes about planning and playing his or her music for a Milonga?  For those of us who DJ we’ve likely been paying a bit more attention to such things than the average dancer, and that’s OK.  But when I’m dancing at a milonga and I know the DJ, I often know what will be played next, and I’ve surprised more than one person when I ask if they would like to dance the next tanda of “milongas” (for instance).


How did I know? Well, first it is important to listen carefully to the DJ who is working, and then it helps to have an understanding of the “ritual” of playing tango music. The classic formula for playing tango music is, of course, in tandas – group of songs.  Generally tandas are arranged such that all of the songs in a tanda are by the same orchestra and from a similar time period.  That’s not always the case but the DJ is trying to find a group of songs that are similar in character so that the tanda is consistent and “flows.”


A simple song from the 1920’s is not followed by some dramatic Pugliese from the 1950’s.  That’s just a bit too chaotic, and the DJ is working to have both a good flow within each tanda, and a good flow from one tanda to the next.


There is also a formula for playing tandas.  The classic approach (one that you will find at nearly every festival throughout the country) is tandas in this order:  Tango, Tango, Vals; Tango, Tango, Milonga. (Then “rinse and repeat” as Homer Ladas likes to say.) Tandas of Tangos have 4 songs, while tandas of Vals and Milonga generally have 3 songs.


Does every DJ do it this way?  No they don’t, and that’s fine.  Rules are made to be broken, but most often you will find that the DJ is consistent in the order of his or her tandas and in the number of songs in each.  Thus, once you get to know the DJ you can probably figure out what is coming next.  Some play 3 songs in every tanda; some like to play tandas with 4 valses; and some change the up the T,T,V; T,T,M order.


It’s all good but whatever “formula” the DJ uses, the goal is to have a fun evening dancing where not only the dancers flow, but so does the music.  So, if you pay a bit of attention at your next milonga you may be able to predict what the next tanda will be;  …perhaps valses, and you’ll be ready with your cabaceo.


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