New Journey in Germany discovering another great TangoDJ: Daniel Kubas. His best description? Are his own words. " Originally from Berlin I am an urban nomad, a tangonaut with harbors in Melbourne, Santiago de Chile, Paris and since 2011 based in Munich. I got hooked up on tango on a plane and I am fascinated by it ever since". Read and enjoy
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 it the result of chance?
Tango found me on December 1997 somewhere 30.000 ft above the Indian Ocean on a flight from Berlin to Melbourne. The onboard entertainment program showed a documentary on Argentine Tango and the music and dance went straight to my heart and feet. Before I touched ground again I decided to learn how to dance Tango and to collect Tango music. Unfortunately I never managed to find out the name of that documentary, which most likely was an in-house production of the airline.
It was however much later after that heavenly encounter when I started to dj in public milongas.
The decisive impulse to DJ came when in 2009 I was moving to Paris after having spent 4 years living in Chile with countless trips to Argentina. Having been spoiled from my tango experiences in Santiago and Buenos Aires until then, I found myself often frustrated by the music played at some of the Parisian milongas I visited at the beginning, where at that time mostly everything but traditional tangos were played. So instead of complaining I thought I may try to dj myself.
While the first engagement was by chance, the second one was based upon my initiative and I am very thankful to Luis Sanz who gave me the opportunity to play regularly at his milonga La Cumparsita!
What was your early taste of tango? Are there significant differences with your current taste?
Unfortunately I do not remember the orchestras from that mysterious documentary on my flight to Australia, but shortly after my arrival in Melbourne, another movie, "Tango Lesson", gave me my first time listening experience of D'Arienzo, Troilo, Di Sarli and Pugliese. Interestingly that film also showed me what kind of music I can't stand (see below). To be honest I think my taste has not changed much since then, but it has gotten a lot more profound and rich.
Do you remember your first engagement as a tango dj?
Yes and fortunately it was a wonderful experience, as there were many familiar faces at my first time. It makes it so much easier if you know for sure at least what some dancers in a particular place like. As my friends also happened to be good dancers I knew that the dance floor on that night would never be completely empty and that gave me confidence.
When do you prepare or construct your set? A long time before the gig, on the day of the milonga, or do you improvise freely during the evening?
It is hard to tell when my preparation starts or stops. It is more of an ongoing continuous process. I constantly work on creating tandas, which I save in my ever growing and hungry database. Before a milonga starts I have a general plan in mind and usually an idea for some highlight tandas, including the first tanda and the last tanda. However what happens between the first and last tango depends strongly on my observations of the dancers present and my perception of the current mood in the room.
Have you ever played a boring set? Did you maybe understand too late that the milonga could not give you the right motivation and you could not wait to finish?
Well, it is impossible to make everyone happy and taste is very subjective. Sometimes for example a piece listened to at home at a decent volume level, may simply not work when played loud. Of course you also can have a bad night, for private reasons or it may be that the milonga is not well visited, because there is a soccer match or other higher powers are involved. While you may wish you want to be somewhere else, it is however important not to that show that in any case and to give your best, even if there is only one couple left in the whole milonga. If you can make the night special for that couple this can give you good energy back.
Do you accept whatever gig is offered to you or do you try to select engagements, preferring a special location or fascinating evening with friends?
I have become more picky and selective. It is a lot of work after all and I also need to pay my rent with another fulltime job. So I prefer to accept only special offers with friends, openings or new challenges at special events.
How would you define your style? Has it evolved over time? Into which direction? What can influence you during an evening, the audience, the dancers, the acoustics of the location, the duration of the Milonga...
My style is traditional Tango Salon love to play Tangos well suited for close embraces, but I am not a fundamentalist. I arrange my tandas focused on the musical context without being an uncritical slave to alleged rules.
For example it can happen that I play a tanda of the same orchestra but wherein each tema has a different singer or I mix instrumentals with singers. If my musical instinct demands it, I am also mixing orchestras. I respect traditions, but sometimes you have to break them in order to preserve them.
In the words of Gustav Mahler my attitude is that "Tradition is not to preserve the ashes but to pass on the flame".
I try to always allow room for surprises and seek to give many different orchestras the chance. I rarely play more than two tandas of the same orchester during one night, to avoid monocultures and to keep the people curious and attentive. The challenge for me is to find a balance between flow and surprise.
Everything living evolves, and so does my tango collection, my experience and my perception of what happens on the dancefloor. There is always something new to discover in over 100 years of Tango music. More than before I also carefully choose my cortinas to play with the mood. All factors you mentioned enter the equation for what can influence a milonga. Of course the acoustics can be a problem and in difficult places I appreciate any feedback I can get to find a comfortable sound. My main sensors are however directed towards the dancers and the atmosphere or the “Tanzgeist (dance spirit)” of the moment: How do the dancers move? Is there enough energy for a fast milonga, even when it is already a very late time?
Do you prefer playing alone or sharing the night with a / colleague. Do you 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?
So far I have worked alone, but I am open for new things. I exchange a lot with some colleagues which is an inspiration and if a situation for a friendly battle arises, I am ready for a good fight.
If someone asks you the name of a track, do you give him the requested information, perhaps mentioning the CD where he can find it, or do you refuse and thus force him to engage into an adventure of search and find?
I am happy to supply someone with the name of the played track, taking such a request as compliment. However I would not reveal all my secret sources on where to get them.
Just knowing the title information in many cases will not spoil the adventure, torment and joy of actually trying to find a version in playable quality, as some tracks are in fact just simply bloody damn hard to get and almost to kill for, although I personally prefer to avoid the latter if possible.
The audience bothers you with absurd requests: what do you do? Are you a jukebox?
I try to be as respectful as possible. During a milonga I am not a jukebox, but if people express wishes I listen and keep them in mind for the next time. If someone however ask me to play a late and heavy Piazzolla or a not danceable non-tango track I may be tempted to put something in his drink.
Do you like to dance and listen to your colleagues enjoy the selections and styles of others from your performances?
Absolutely yes! If I hear something new to me I will be the first to bug the colleague requesting the name and orchestra of the tema he just played..
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 country?
A fascinating thing about tango is its enormous diversity, which surely plays a main role in its universal success. Every culture finds a part in Tango which it can relate too, but this parts can differ a lot among places. Different languages and cultures give different access to the music, the embrace and lyrics. Probably the only common thing is that Tango DJs will not get rich anywhere.
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?
In the moment I am too much of a tango nomad to settle down in the near and mid term future and I fear that too much of routine would probably hinder my creativity.
Three orchestras that can not miss in one evening.
D'Arienzo, Troilo, Di Sarli
Your three favourite orchestras, which may also be different from the previous ones.
D'Arienzo, Canaro brothers, Tanturi
Suggest a tanda of tango instrumental, a tanda of tango singer, one of vals and milonga.
The tandas below are from the recent opening of the new milonga a la gorra “La Cafetaria Luitpold” in Munich.
Melodia Portena, 1937
De mi flor, 1938
No me lo digas, 1939
Por que razón, 1939
Tanda with a singer:
Ricardo Tanturi with Enrique Campos
Cantor de Barrio, 1945
Que será de ti? 1945
Igual que una sombra, 1945
Sollozo de bandoneon, 1943
Francisco Canaro with various singers
Ausencia, 1949, Alberto Arenas y Enrique Lucero
Amemonos, 1948, Alberto Arenas y Enrique Lucero
Bailando me diste un beso, 1952, Alberto Arenas y Mario Alonso
Yo no se que me han hecho tus ojos, 1953, Alberto Arenas y Mario Alonso
Estampa de varon, 1938, canta Alberto Echague
Milonga vieja milonga, 1937, instrumental
El Esquinazo, 1938, instrumental
What are the three bands or singers you can not stand?
I can stand a lot, but there are only a few contemporary orchestras I like. I think when Tango music sounds too much as being played like classical music or like composed film score music it becomes too abstract and too detached from the dance floor. For example as much as I respect the directing and acting of Sally Potter, hearing her sing "I am you" in the Tango Lesson Soundtrack I consider traumatizing, but maybe I am just too simple-minded.
What is the band most underrated by the general public and which is the most overrated?
Roberto Firpo is a pioneer and pillar of tango music and despite his extensive opus of more than 1500 recordings often not properly appreciated.
For reasons I can not understand De Angelis often is passionately despised, so let me out myself here as an advocate of De Angelis, who gave us many wonderful and famous valses like “Sonar y nada mas” and “Pobre flor” and intense tangos, emotionally exaggerated by the voice of Oscar Larroca, like “Se te nota en tus ojos” and “En tus brazos”.
I have heard some people saying that De Angelis is kitsch or too stereotype, but I like stereotypes as they are often true. The tango is filled with stereotypes and they can be danced to very well.
While I also like Hector Varela I consider himself as overrated with respect to De Angelis for example.
Your top three nights (in your opinion of course ...)
La Cumparsita (Paris, Jan. 2010), Quince de Mayo (Munich, Jan 2012), After-Marathon Rossaovest (Verona, Oct. 2013)
We are less serious: Last night a DJ saved my life. Are DJs sexy? Have you ever had a relationship with a fan or a flirt with a colleague?
A Gentlemen DJ would never tell. All I can say is that, I believe that all things done with passion create attraction.