No matter how good a dancer you are, you need great music to make the ballroom experience magical. So here's a playlist of tangos from Argentina, Uruguay and some other more unlikely places. A mix of traditional and modern, electronic and just plain eclectic, I've selected them for their strong beat, perfect for dancing.
Try these for your next party, competition or just as a great listening experience.
Composed by Angel Villado in 1903, "El Choclo" means 'ear of corn' and was named either after one of Villado's favorite foods or the nickname of the owner of Restaurante Americano, where the piece was first performed.
In 1952, with the addition of English lyrics, the tango gained even greater popularity as "Kiss of Fire." Many artists covered the song; among them were Georgia Gibbs, Tony Martin and Louis Armstrong.
I've picked an instrumental version of the song, performed by Argentina's Juan D'Arienzo & orchestra.
For nostalgia buffs, here's a version of "Kiss of Fire" performed by Tony Martin.
From Los Mejores Tangos de Buenos Aires
Paris-based GoTan Project mixes traditional Argentine tango instruments with synthesizer to create electronic tango with a contemporary edge.
"Santa Maria (Del Buen Ayre)" is from the group's frist studio release and, while the entire album is well-fit for dancing, this track is the one that seems to have caught the attention of Hollywood, since I've heard it on the soundtrack of a number of recent films.
From La Revancha del Tango
Bajofondo may have changed its name from 'Bajofondo Tango Club' to simply Bajofondo in order to offer more than tango to their fans, but the group, led by Gustavo Santaolalla, still offers lots of tango on their albums.
The name of this track, "Pa' Bailar," let's us know that this is a tango made for dancing and, with its strong tango upbeat, it proves as good as its name. There are two versions of the song on the album; I've selected the one that offers lyrics by Mexican rocker Julieta Venegas. There's also an instrumental version for those who prefer a tango without words.
From Mar Dulce
Argentine musician/composer Carlos Libedinsky did not start out in the tango world; pop, rock, blues and rennaisance music were where he spent his time until he took tango lessons. It was while dancing traditional tango that he started wanting to dance to music that was a little more contemporary.
So he composed that type of music, leading to the two volumes of Narco Tango that were released in 2006. But, as a dancer himself, he always kept in mind that dancers need a strong rhythm and that's what you'll find in this neo-tango.
From Narco Tango
The tango may have originated in Argentina/Uraguay, but it has been embraced by just about every country in the world. And when it is performed and composed by artists in other cultures, it takes on the flavor of their native music while (hopefully) retaining the essence of tango.
For an interesting example, the Earth-Wheel-Sky-Band is a group of gypsy musicians from Novi Sad in northern Serbia. You can hear that Eastern European gypsy sound in the instrumentation but, dancing to "Gipsy Tango," you'll have no doubt about the genre.
From Putumayo Presents Tango Around The World
To my mind, "La Cumparsita" is the most famous tango in the world. Composed by Uruguayan Gerardo Matos Rodriguez in 1917, "La Cumparsita" means 'the little parade' and the first line of the song indicates that this is a parade of miseries.
Because this tango is so famous, I've included the track as sung by Julio Iglesias because his soft, original style is different from other versions that are usually performed.
Now, if I were going to dance to "La Cumparsita" as a performance piece, I would segue into the same tune performed as a salsa piece, covering two popular ballroom genres in one fell swoop. Jerry Rivera performed "La Cumparsita" on his 2007 album, Caribe Gardel.
For a change of pace, "Hernando's Hideaway" is from the Richard Adler/Jerry Ross musical The Pajama Game which debuted on Broadway in 1954 and while most people will have forgotten all about the musical, this tango remains in public memory with nightclub's all over the world taking on the name.
It might be so memorable because it was covered by so many artists over the years, from Doris Day and Ella Fitzgeral to the Everly Brothers and, recently, Harry Connick Jr. But I think its because both the strong, tango beat and lyrics about a dive in East Dubuque, Illinois are a perfect pairing of theme and music for this genre -- not to mention great dance music.
From Con Grazia
Coming in neck & neck for the world's best-known tango with "La Cumparsita" is "Jalousie." Another example of tango's global popularity, "Tango Jalousie" (or Jealousy) was composed by a Danish composer, Jacob Gade, in 1925 for the Douglas Fairbank's film Don Q, Son of Zorro.
I've picked this version for its big-band, ballroom sound.
From Tango! Compare Prices
Tango No. 9 is a group from San Francisco that started out to explore the works of tango master Astor Piazzolla. The tango I picked is an unusual one, not only for the Russian style of the piece but because the melody is carried by the marvelous trombonist, Greg Stephens.
From Radio Valencia Compare Prices
How far can a composer go in modernizing tango while keeping the genre's innate structure?
Pretty far, as evidenced by this track from the third GoTan Project album. It seamlessly incorporates rap into the track but never loses the beat and feel of danceable tango.