The Twelve Tangos of Christmas

My Very Merry Mauve Elephant Tango Setlist


As promised, I dj-ed Tango Popolare's monthly milonga (dubbed the Mauve Elephant Milonga because I decided that everyone would bring tango themed gifts to leave wrapped or unwrapped at a table for the taking and mauve seemed like a far more tangorific color than white for my theoretical elephant).

Here, in case you missed it, is the terrifying graphic that I created for the event page:



Obviously, I missed my calling and should have gone into graphic design. Or terrifying small children...

If only I could monetize wearing whimsical
socks, stilettos and short skirts!

In addition to hosting, I was allowed - lord knows why - to set foot near the dj station again, and I needed to pay proper homage to the privilege. Since it was so close to Christmas, I set about trying to holidayafi (officially a word, date of birth, 12/20.2011) my set-list within an inch of its life. This involved a lot of idle browsing and sampling through music stores, finding tangoable songs of a Christmas theme that could then work with other music that I already had to make a set of sorts. Naturally I cut all new holiday cortinas, but I was far prouder of my holiday tangos. Granted, many of them were only sort of holiday tangos and perhaps the equivalent of a dj's inside joke, but I am inordinately proud of my little tango musical stocking stuffers. To keep you distracted from the music geekery about to teem forth in this post, I will intermittently include photos of the evening, which are very adorable.

1. La Marocha was originally written in a single 24 hour period by Enrique Saborido and premiered on Christmas. The story goes that he went out with some boys on Christmas Eve to a nightclub and inspired by a singer Lola Candales. His companions bet he could not write a song for her, so he rushed home, wrote the song and brought it to her Christmas morning. Apparently she liked it enough to sing it that night and it became one of the epitomes of Argentine Tango as it was exported through Paris in the tango craze. This version was by Di Sarli.Paired with El Recodo, Como Los Nardos En Flor, and Un Lamento.

The Santa of Light and the cutest friggin' bow-tie ever!

2. Navidad Vals is an actual Christmas tango vals written by Osvaldo Pugliese and sung by Jorge Maciel . It's not the most danceable of all valses, but it more or less works and complemented some orphaned valses that haven't really made it into prior sets due to lacking companion valses for a good tanda. One of the valses, Gobbi's La Vieja Derenata, was also sung by Jorge Maciel. This in turn had a transitional quality from the scratchy record classic through Salgan's Motivo de Vals, sung by Angel Diaz who has a similar timbre and sweetness in his voice to Maciel.

3. Que Noche - played by Osvaldo Fresedo's orchestra, since I have a soft spot for Fresedo and wanted to play a set of his anyways. Que Noche was originally written by Bardi on June 22, 1918. That night it actually snowed in Bs As, which is extremely uncommon.The same night, his car broke down a ways away from any auto repair shop. The story goes he began humming this while trying to fix the car and later Arolas saw the score of his new tango and titled it "que noche" (what a night!) Paired with En Mis Noches, Contratiempo, and Apasionado (some of my favorites)

A smashing photo of my back - but I am proud of my hair. Perfect length
nowadays to get trapped in my lead's left hand during an embrace!

4. What's This? played String Tribute Players, it's an ode to the song "What's This" from Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas. The song is sung by Jack Skeleton, the king of Halloween when he wanders into Christmas land and discovers snow and santa clause. I had to actually slow the song down considerably and it was still fast to dance to, but went quite well with a set of very strange and fun tangos that I have by Magali, from the delightfully insouciant album Schwenkglenks and the Gringos of Tango. I've wanted to use these for a long time, but they are not too easy to dance to. One of them switches into a milonga mid-way through the song, for instance. I often waffle (Wafflebot hates pancakes!!) on exactly how much the dj gets to play with the dancers and how "challenging" music should be. I feel like many of the absolute beginners will gleefully dance to any music (or, perhaps to put it more bluntly, while any music is playing). And more advanced dancers enjoy a bit of novelty and complexity. I think, while definitely an alternative set, it was a success. There were undeniably some confused intermediates, but two people asked to look at my set list to write down this artist/song. I am assuming because they enjoyed it and not so they can later burn the paper in effigy to purge a horrible set experience.

Although it may have had a disorienting effect.
Office Christmas Party View Setting on the camera works well!


5. Carol of the Bells - I admit that I listened to roughly one hundred versions of this darned carol before finding *the one* on an album that listed the artist as "The Hit Company." I had to include a vals set with The Carol of Bells. It is just dying to be valsed to, given its general pacing and feel. And this was a gorgeous piano version. It immediately reminded me of Yann Tierson's work, and eventually I was able to find the piano version of his Amelie Waltz, which of course has been an alternative vals staple of mine for years. Then, I just had to find one more piano vals, the best of which ended up being Romance de Barrio by Juan Abitabile in an album also appropriately title Tangos en Piano Bar. I was approached later by a woman who apparently knew the performer/artist of my carol of the bells. At least by her story, he is well known, but partially local to the area and she had dated him while he was recording it. It is a distinctive enough version that such an account hardly strains credibility and I really like the small world story so I am choosing to believe it.

Tango isn't tango without a little drama and diabolicism!

6. Anclao in Paris -This is mostly a sad tango about missing Buenos Aires while stuck in Paris. Not exactly or at all Christmas themed, but it was written when it was snowing in Paris and this is featured in the lyrics. Anyhow, the song was made famous when lyricist Cadicamo sold the song to Carlos Gardel, the resident saint of Argentine Tango as far as most Argentines are concerned. This was a version by Litto Nebia and Enrique Cadicamo, another pairing that features some highly danceable and pleasant music that I've been meaning to play anyways.



7-10. All Xmas Tanda: I'm sad to say that my final tanda was virtually ignored, since our class ran late and my tanda list was long in anticipation of the usual hangers on who always complain that we end too early (none of whom actually came this evening). So the set occurred more as incidental music for people scavenging the gift tables and exchanging the requisite goodbye hugs. I started to dance with Andrew, just to make it clear to people that the set was intended as a tango, but finally gave up and decided to delete the last song of the set (for future use) and the Cumparsita. That said, I was fairly proud of the set and think it would inspire dancing in different circumstances. It featured Let it Snow by Paola Aimone from the album A Tango Christmas. I mostly don't enjoy this album, since it is mostly pop holiday singing with a vague accordian humming underneath, but Let It Snow did have a recognizable sense of tango and a chill mood that lent well to I'll Be Home For Christmas, a spanish guitar version by Benise.I'm not sure it was the most exciting piece to dance to, but it was very beautiful and led well into A Christmas Tango with Santa L M Azpiazu. This piece I love. It's almost more American Tango, but has a very showy feel and I think it would be a blast to use it for a performance piece. Not quite as bombastic as an American Tango would be and with a more sultry feel, it would have really delighted a few of the absent dancers. But c'est la vie - it's Christmas season. As a final piece, I found Mia Stigmi Gia Panta, an absolutely stunning operatic piece by Jannos Eolou. Though the holiday connection is less pronounced, it is the opening song on the soundtrack for the Greek film A Christmas Tango which qualified it for my tastes.

Ghosts of Tango Present (and hopefully Future!)

11. My tanda gift to myself: Naturally, my favorite set of the night was actually a stock standard Color Tango set that I through in last minute because a student of mine requested that I do more "post 1960's tangos or something like Pugliese." I have done it a bunch of times, largely because it is such a succulent combination and moves from the fairly playful and wistful Pavadita through heavier rhythms and tones of Malandraca and Zum into the deep and soulful simmering A Evarista Carriego. I managed to schedule another perfect tanda with the same perfect lead, who was only slightly flustered with the pressure of having read my last entry. I also threw in a few favorite sets by Calo with Raul Iriarte, De Angelis, De Caro, and Bianco Bachicha.

Keep telling my cohost to bring fewer snacks so he can
maybe turn a slight profit someday. He continues to bring more instead!


(12).For Cortinas I found a cavalcade of fantastic old Christmas cds and spent a few days with them and my cheapo freeware version of Audacity (I love you Audacity).

They included (Spaced out to make this seem intolerably long but slightly more readable!): 

Zat You Santa Claus? Louis Armstrong

I'll Be Home For Christmas - Bing Crosby

Boogie Woogie Hannaukah - Seattle Men's Chorus. One of my all time favorite holiday songs and a toe tapping jitterbug that I would love to do a performance to someday.

Santa baby - Marilyn Monroe.

Jingle Bells - Robbie Hardkiss version

Deck the Hall - Nat King Cole

Christmas in New Orleans - Louis Armstrong

Baby It's Cold Outside - Ray Charles

White Christmas - Bing Crosby

Deck the Halls - 11 Acorn Way

The Christmas Song - Nat King Cole

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas - Seattle Men's Chorus Performed by Zipper

Jingle Bells - Michael Buble and the Puppini Sisters.



Thanks for reading. Have a Holly Jolly Christmas! And, please, if you have any tangos that work well for the holidays I'd love to add them to my list so drop a comment!!
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