Today, we meet another great TangoDJ: Antti Suniala. He's the famous Mr. Tanda of the Week, he writes original Tanda of the Week blog (www.tandaoftheweek.net). A blog that Tango Addicted have read at least once in your life. Well, discover his secrets.
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 actually started as a hip hop dj. The big brother of my good friend was a dj and we would sometimes play with his turntables and practice scratching. This was in '91 when I was 14. For me there was nothing cooler than the dj. Later around '96-'97 I played my first hip hop and soul gigs underaged in a few small local bars in my hometown. From there I went on to more dj'ing and organizing clubs, making mixtapes and having scratching sessions with my dj crew. Later I focused fully on my circus arts and performing career and didn't really DJ anymore. But I was always interested in Finnish tango music as well, and especially in the circus scene I was exposed to a lot of tango music that was used in performances. In fact, one of my first circus performances was to a version of ”La cachila”.When I started dancing tango I paid a lot of attention to the DJ's and realized I could and would love to do it. And making that choice to start DJ'ing again was like returning home to something that I was born to do.
What were your early taste of tango? There are significant differences with the current scene?
I've always been very versatile with my taste in tango although I realize that my taste has grown a lot and it is a lot more defined now. The taste also grows also as you improve as a dancer. When I started DJ'ing I was very uncomfortable playing Pugliese for example because I felt that I personally couldn't dance to it in themanner that the music deserved.
What I appreciate the most now is the high quality of orchestras, singers and arrangements. I think through my love for some finnish tango music I was also more open to early 30's tango. But now it's more about the golden age and beyond.
Do you remember the first time you played as a tango DJ?
My very first time was in our local milonga in Helsinki. I had been buying whatever tango vinyl I could find on eBay and record stores in Helsinki. I played back to back with my friend Kristian Salikoski. He on the computer and me on my turntables. I had prepared tandas before hand and wrote down notes to know which song was on which record, which side and so forth. I think I even played a few alternatives because I knew the local scene would love it.
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?
I'm sure it has changed a lot. I started with tango quite late but I can totally relate to the old school collectors of tango music as I remember how it was when I started DJ'ing hip hop and vinyl only. In fact I've never played CD's. We would go through so many record stores, second hand shops, collectors basements, online stores, release catalogs etc to try to find just one song that we wanted. And we might end up paying 20-40 bucks for it.
When you build your performance? Long ago, during the journey to the milonga, or sudden moment by moment?
I started by creating full playlists and listening to them over and over again to make sure they were good enough. I was really focusing on the overall flow of the night and how tandas followed each other. I had a lot of experience in producing and editing music, compiling mixtapes, editing show music, editing videos etc and creating soundscapes has always been very important to me. So I took a similar approach to creating a playlist.
Nowadays, I focus more in organizing my library of music and getting to know it better. I have saved all my sets from previous milongas and I use them sometimes as a resource but I mostly go one tanda at a time to play just the right thing at the right time.
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?
I've been a quite a succesful circus artist for a long time and I've had to be overly critical of the performances I've done. I have the same approach to my DJ'ing as well. It will take me weeks to get over a mistake I've done in a show and I will remember a song or tanda that could've been better. Sometimes the planets are not aligned and a boring night can be your greatest challenge and you need to make it work. I will always look for a way to keep myself and the dancers happy and motivated but still not having to compromise. But ofcourse there have been some nights when you just end up feeling not satisfied. You gave a lot but ended up being somewhat disappointed due to various reasons.
Do you accept whatever gig you are offered or try to make a selection preferring location and fascinating evening with friends?
I always say that I'm an artist who will work basically for any milonga or event. I've played in some more nuevoish places where the dancers really have not been used to my style of tango music but I've made the most out of it without compromising. And I accept these challenges. I also am a full time artist and I do DJ for my love for it but honestly also for the money. So I don't choose much where I work. I want my reputation to be that I will play a high standard of music for everyone and I will work hard to make any night a succesful one. I can sometimes find just as much enjoyment in playing a small local milonga than a high class festival or marathon. But ofcourse if I know I've connected well with a certain event and audience I want to build the connection further if I get the chance.
How would you define your style? It has evolved over time? And in which direction?
Like I mentioned earlier... my style is more defined now. I believe I've found my own style more now where everything I play is more reasoned and well-grounded. I know I was more romantic earlier in my selections of music but now the emphasis is more in a versatile selection of moods, rhythm and melody, high quality orchestras and arrangements without pushing it too far. I try to deliver the full spectrum of tango although concentrating on a more traditional choice of orchestras. The words you use for describing good tango should be passionate, amazing and beautiful, not nice and funny...So the only thing I stay away from is underlining cheerfullness by playing tangos bordering comedy music. Also I try to look at a good song just as a good song, and not care if it's
trendy right now or overplayed or whatever.
I'm very vary of being too experimental. Since I started playing tango I wanted to have a very traditional approach to tango, but to do it better than others (no ego tripping intended). I simply believed that what some quoted as the boring traditional style could be done better and in a way that would please everyone. But ofcourse when I have the right crowd and situation I will dig deeper into my archives to deliver something more special.
I will try to keep the energy very high and find a balance of challenges, inspiration, comfort and rewards. I've thrown out a lot of theory out the window and I will actively look into how much I can give and how much can the dancers take slowly pushing this barrier further. I try to avoid keeping a similar mood and energy for more than a couple of tandas to ensure that people stay inspired and nobody has to sit down too long because they're not feeling the music. I'm still trying to be a safe bet for quality music and let other DJ's shine more on being more creative and special.
Even more than playing good tandas I will focus on how the tandas follow each other and frame each other. Every tanda prepares the audience for the ones that follow and no matter how good the tanda is, if it's misplaced, it will not work to it's full potential.
I will also spend a lot of time editing special cortinas and I use the cortinas to express myself and create a special atmosphere.
What can influence you in an evening, the audience, the dancers, the acoustics of the location, the duration of your performance ...
Everything of the above mentioned influence my evening of music. A professional DJ will have to take all of the examples into account. But it is always a mix of things. Finding the right balance of what is the mood of the milonga and dancers and what you represent as a dj, as an artist and as yourself.
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 prefer working alone but I've had the pleasure of sharing a set with another DJ as well. Most succesfull have been the two times I played with Julian Ingram. Once in Praque in his milonga and the second time in the after-afterparty of the Tango Frostbite festival in Finland. Our styles and preferences are very different but they came together great.
Does the public bother you with absurd requests: what do you do? Are you a jukebox?
I will always take all comments, feedback and requests very seriously. I remember one time that I didn't and later on I realized that the person who made the request was spot on. He asked for the one thing that was missing in my set and would've made it a lot better. I learned a lot from this. And even if the requests are more absurd you can still learn a lot from it. Maybe you will not play what was requested but you can play something more in that direction and hopefully satisfying a wider audience. I go even further than just listening to requests... sometimes I actively ask certain people of what they'd like to hear and what are their favorites. But still... I'm not a jukebox.
Do you like to dance and listen to your colleagues enjoy the selections and styles of others from your performances?
I pay a lot of attention to how other DJ's play and analyze it. I'm not trying to make DJ'ing into a super science and be overly critical but I do listen very closely all through the milonga. I enjoy listening to many different DJ's and will go to milongas sometimes just to listen to the music to draw inspiration from their playing. And I also like positive suprises that another DJ can bring when I'm dancing. I also like to listen to DJ's multiple times to get a better understanding of their style and see how they've changed during time or if they're having a good or a bad night.
Do you believe that the art of “musicalizador” is different for geographic areas? Argentina, USA, Northern Europe, Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean ... or is it similar in every countries?
I've played and danced in Buenos Aires, many parts of Europe and some parts of Asia, but I don't think I'm qualified to answer this fully. But I've witnessed some things that make me think that the lack of a proper tango tradition and culture in parts of Europe has caused a lot of the DJ's to look too much for their own way and their own interpretation of what is good tango and how it should be played, instead of trying to base this interpretation on the actual roots and culture of tango from Buenos Aires. And even without talking about the very extremes of this example like nuevo and electrotango, this has resulted in a lot of DJ's favoring second class orchestras and playing sets that would not work in an ideal Buenos Aires scenario. I'm not saying every DJ should do it that way and I can appreciate what ever a DJ does as long as they do it well. But there are certainly differences and I will favor DJ's that cater more to my needs.
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?
Yes. I was lucky just recently organizing a one time only milonga in Singapore called ”Entre dos fuegos”. I love to put all the attention and details needed into a milonga... arranging tables and chairs in the best way possible... having good hosts in the ”Cachirulo” way, force good floorcraft on the poor dancers... My trademark is and will be baking fresh bread for the milonga. If I had the chance I would love to DJ 5-6 times a week in my own or other organizers milongas.
The classic point-blank questions you have to answer, you cannot refuse: Three orchestras that can not miss in one evening.
D'Arienzo, Troilo, Di Sarli. This is the base for my sets. Like the tunk of a tree and the other orchestras are the branches and leaves. Pugliese would be up next..
Your three favourite orchestras, which may also be different from the previous ones.
The same. Followed by Laurenz, Biagi and Calo.
Suggest a tanda of tango instrumental, a tanda of tango singer, one of vals and milonga.
PUGLIESE: Patetico 1948, De floreo 1950, Siguime si podés 1953, Pata ancha 1957.
TROILO/FIORENTINO: En esta tarde gris 1941, Cautivo 1941, Una carta 1941, Los mareados 1942
DI SARLI/RUFINO/PODESTÁ (vals): Alma mía 1940, Rosas de otoño 1942, Cortando camino 1941
D'ARIENZO/ECHAGUE (milonga): La cigatriz, Milonga del recuerdo, Milonga querida.
What are the three bands or singers you can not stand?
I have to say most of Canaro, Rodriguez and Lomuto. Especially in comparison to their massive amount of recordings, they have the least songs that I'd play or even dance, and any classics they recorded somebody else did them better. I know it's not the right term for it but I'd call their style too European for me. Oddly enough I have a lot more appreciation for the best of Donato though.
What is the band most underrated by the general public and which is the most overrated?
I don't know really. I feel like Troilo is still too unknown and feared in Europe but underrated I don't know. Overrated? I guess you can go back to the previous question and answer.
Your top three nights (in your opinion of course ...)
My first ever full night tango dj gig and I played it in Buenos Aires. Small nice milonga. Organizers gave high praises. I knew I had to continue DJ'ing.
The afterparty of the Tango Frostbite 2013 festival. I had been organizing, running around and just finished hosting the main milonga of the saturday night. I was so exhausted and had done no preparation but the good spirit of the whole festival, the dancers and the special venue made it easy to DJ and give even more of myself to the dancers.
One from the past. I think it was in 2000. Hundreds of people took over a 6 lane street in a Reclaim the Streets demonstration in Helsinki and the highlight for me was playing the full version of ”Move on up” by Curtis Mayfield, that I had recently found from a record store.
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?