From the beginning : I suppose that your first approach with tango, like for other dj, was with the dance. What inspired you to get into console and play music? A conscious decision or was the result of chance?
I started dancing more than 15 years ago. Going to a milonga meant mostly “dancing as much as possible” for me. If you would have told me at that time, I would instead be sitting all night and dj’ing, I wouldn’t have believed you. Being at a milonga, with nice music and NOT dancing myself? Unbelievable! But 5 years ago a tango friend from Copenhagen called me around Christmas time, and asked me if I could imagine myself dj’ing an afternoon milonga at the International Tango Festival Copenhagen 2008. He trusted in my musicality, and I couldn’t say NO.
5 months later I found myself behind the DJ desk and playing the first afternoon milonga at the tango festival Copenhagen (May 2008). The dancers enjoyed it and I got my first invitation to DJ at a tangomarathon: the first edition of the Bergen Tango Marathon (Nov. 2008). In order to get more experience before my first international DJ event, I played a lot at different milongas & practicas in Copenhagen. And the rest is history.
All in all you could call it a result of chance.
What were your early taste of tango? There are significant differences with the current scene?
I was lucky enough to get asked by the local Argentinian tango dancer on the very first night I was out dancing at a milonga (P.A.U.K.E. in Bonn). Even if there weren’t any beginner classes, I came regularly to the milonga, found a dance partner who taught me the basics and some weeks later we started in the advanced class together. After 3-4 months of dancing I traveled for the first time to El Corte in Nijmegen. Here I could experience close embrace, dancing on really crowded dance floors. Tango dancers from all over the world met every month and shared their love for tango. They still do. I went there regularly for about 1 1/2 years. An unforgettable time! In 1998/99 the European tango scene was much smaller. Many dancers I met at El Corte became teachers & organizers in their countries. Thanks to that kind of beginning, I never got reduced to just one style of tango.
Do you remember your first time like tango dj?
I think my first time DJ’ing was actually at my birthday party in 2002/2003. Even though I still lived in Hamburg at that time, I was regularly visiting Copenhagen. I rented a room in Copenhagen and invited all my tango friends and asked them to bring one person they would like to dance with. To be able to spend some more time with my guests, I prepared 5 CD’s, with tango music in tandas. And it worked very well. I still have these CD’s and I remember I played the valse from Evert Taube, a Swedish musician, for my Swedish tango friends who came over the bridge to celebrate with me.
The difficulty of the search for songs on cd often burned, the explosion of the Web and the consequent relatively easy to find in the music. Do you think this paradigm shift has changed the way of working of the DJ?
Of course this has changed the way of working of the DJ. But it in the end the DJ needs to know his or her music, and the effects the music will have on the dancer. This work does not depend on the difficulty of getting to your music. I was lucky to start directly with dj’ing with a computer. And I like to say that my preparation for becoming a tango DJ started with the first tango song I ever listened to at a milonga.
When you build your performance? Long ago, during the journey to the milonga, or sudden moment by moment?
In my first year of DJ’ing, due to technical issues, I couldn’t listen to a song and play something different for the dancers at the same time. So I had to prepare my playlists in advance. Sitting at home, imagining the time schedule of the milonga and trying to build tandas. Luckily I soon got an external sound card, and since then I like to prepare the tandas moment by moment, inspired by the room, atmosphere, energy and of course the dancers and visitors to the milonga.
Have you ever played in a boring night? Have you you understand too late that perhaps the milonga could not give you the right motivation and you could not wait to finish? Do you accept whatever you offer or try to make a selection preferring location and fascinating evening with friends?
No night is boring. Some combinations of the number of dancers, the room, the time of the day and so on are more challenging then others. It’s my job as a DJ to create an inspiring night for that particular occasion.
How would you define your style? It has evolved over time? And in which direction? What can influence you in an evening, the audience, the dancers, the acoustics of the location, the duration of your performance …
I would guess, every dancer on the dance floor could describe my DJ style more easily than I could. It’s about time that we both would have the chance to listen and dance to each other’s music selection.
In the beginning I guess my style was much more romantic than it is now. Playing in different countries also changed my way of playing. And I am definitely not the type for playing only hits.
I often start the night by choosing the cortina, in order to wrap the whole night. It should be connected to the venue, the type of event, the amount of dancers, just to mention a few things.
I like to describe DJ’ing as a way of story telling. One song is already a little story. Combining 4 songs gives a little chapter. The combination of the tandas during the night creates the whole story. Aiming for a good atmosphere in the milonga, inspiring the dancers to come back again and again onto the dance floor, and leading them through the story of the night. This is what I love to do.
Do you prefer playing alone or sharing the night with a / colleague. Generally prefer to work alone, or with friends who you feeling? Or, you love the thrill of experimenting with a colleague ever heard until then?
I like both: playing alone or sharing a night with one or more colleagues.
At the moment I am working mostly alone at festivals and regular milongas. But even at festivals you are just a part of the whole festival package, and you have to consider the music of the other DJ’s too, in order to give a good performance for the visitors.
Working together during the night with a colleague can give you an extra thrill. You will have to adapt your choice of music even more in order to react to the the performance of your colleague. In any case the focus should be on the milonga and to create a good atmosphere.
If someone asks you the name of a track you say it to him, perhaps suggesting where the CD is included, or invite him to venture into the trouble of searching?
If someone asks me the name of the track which I am playing, I will of course tell them the name. I always encourage my tango students to listen to the music, to ask the DJ if they really like a particular song or orchestra.
As a European tango dancer we normally start listening to tango music in our first tango class. Argentine tango dancers mostly have listened to tango music all their lives. They are used to it. If you want to dance well, you’ll have to connect to the music. Listening to tango music only at a milonga and in classes probably wouldn’t be enough. So why not help people to find some tracks and orchestras they like?
The public bother you with absurd requests: what do you do? Are you a jukebox?
I am counting … one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, ocho, nine, ten … and try to answer nicely. First of all it has something to do with the way of asking. And then if I was planning to play something in this direction anyway, then I will try to fit it in. If it’s totally against the whole concept of the night, I would refuse. In the end I am playing for the whole milonga crowd, and I try to keep them in a good mood and on the dance floor.
Do you like to dance and listen to your colleagues enjoy the selections and styles of others from your performances?
Of course I do! Especially my colleagues on international tango events (marathons & festivals) are fantastic DJ’s. I am glad to be able to enjoy their music – listening, and even better, dancing too!
Do you believe that the art of “musicalizador” is different for geographic areas? Argentina, Northern Europe, Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean … or is it similar in every countries?
In fact as we all use the same “pool” of music – Argentine tango – you will find a lot of similarities. But of course, there will be differences in the way of dj’ing as we are different personalities sitting behind the DJ desk. The personal preferences and ideas will influence the art of “musicalizador”.
The tango scenes in the different geographic areas are influenced by a lot of things: e.g. the local teachers, visiting teachers, the culture in the region, the age of the tango dancers. Therefore you will find some preferences for music and style in different regions. Which also infects the DJ’s.
Would you like to have a milonga just for you, furnish it with the appropriate facility to your desires, try to create a wave that satisfies you over to play when you want and create a calendar of events to measure your tastes?
Luckily I have been and I will be playing in many lovely milongas, festivals & marathons around Europe. So there is no special need for me to have a milonga just for me. But you never know.
The classic point-blank questions you have to answer, you cannot refuse:
Three orchestras that can not miss in one evening.
Carlos Di Sarli, Juan D’Arienzo, Francisco Canaro
Your three favourite orchestras, which may also be different from the previous ones.
Carlos Di Sarli, Francisco Canaro, Osvaldo Fresedo
Suggest a tanda of tango instrumental, a tanda of tango singer, one of vals and milonga.
You are welcome to join my DJ sets (DJ’ing in 2013) and you will have a lot of tandas to listen to. If you don’t want to wait for so long, you are welcome to listen to two of my special tandas on Antti Suniala’s tango blog “The Tanda Of The Week”. Even if I really like those two special tandas, you only will hear me playing these occasionally.
- Roberto Firpo tanda – instrumentals
A very soft and calm tanda around one of my favourite tangos: Cotorrita de la Suerte, all from the late 20th.
- Enrique Rodriguez – vocals
A very powerful and emotional tanda with songs mainly from the 50th
What are the three bands or singers you can not stand?
Mhmm, nearly every band or singer has done something “not so bad”. But I would probably have a hard time dancing to Piazzolla’s music and music from the 60s/70s. But in the end it’s always a question of the mixture in the milonga.
What is the band most underrated by the general public and which is the most overrated?
In Europe Anibal Troilo hasn’t been played very often lately. But this might change again. Well, and overrated, I won’t go there.
Your top three nights (in your opinion of course …)
I am sure I haven’t played my top night yet. It’s getting better and better! DJ’ing is always an adventure and a challenge, and lives from the connection between the dancer, the music, the venue and the DJ. But of course there are some wonderful memories of “nights” where the connection with the dancers were really intense. Some of these nights were in Italy.
We are less serious: Last night a dj saved my life. The DJ rule is sexy? have you ever had a relationship with some fans and some flirt with your colleagues?
I love saving “lives”. I still remember a DJ set last year in France when several people came to me, saying: you’ve saved my night.
And actually, nothing changed since I am DJ’ing. Should I be worried? ;-)
You can find information about the art of djing of Bärbel Rücker at tanzbar.dk/about-tanzbar/.
OTHER DJ Interviews by Supersabino
- Homer Ladas
- Julian Ingram
- Christos Pater
- Mikael Holber
- Konrad Krynski
- Goran Niksic
- Hiba Faisal
- Vladimir Vereschagin