martedì 21 ottobre 2014

Xenia Mikhailov: A part of my style is introducing a new danceable music from the end of twenties to the middle of fifties. Please, pay attention: the keyword is 'danceable', not 'new'.

New great TangoDJ Interview. Let’s go to Israel and meet Xenia Mikhailov and her secrets. Happy reading!!!
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?
Both. I come from a strange family (no, no tango at all): my father was a ballet dancer, left dancing forever due to a very dramatic personal reasons and became a very well known historian. I was not allowed to learn music and dancing and was grown up in the atmosphere of longing for dancing and music, with a feeling of a lost Paradise – and with a very firm and sound scientific approach to any information, including artistic. My MA thesis has been written about history of Russian literature in the first half of XX century (more history than literature). How I could avoid becoming DJ with such an emotional and intellectual background?
On the other hand, it was by chance, yes. I came to a milonga where just three tandas were danceable, all three were valses. I got upset and said: “Well, if people play such music, I definitely can play better”. Went home and downloaded a free player. That's it.
What was your early taste of tango? There are significant differences with the current scene?
I am not a quick person by nature and it took me some time to learn how to appreciate D'Arienzo or Biagi (well, to be honest, it just took me some time to start hearing violins there). I was always fond of Canaro family, OTV, Firpo and all this sweet and creamy music, but it also took me some time to understand that in the end of twenties – beginning of thirties tango was not primitive but on the contrary, sometimes it was much deeper, much more sophisticated. I think, it was quite a typical way of development.
Do you remember your first engagement as a tango dj?
Oh, yes. It was at one of the best milongas in Israel and I was scared almost to death, but it was such a huge success that I couldn't sleep for the whole night. I had a very clear feeling that the most important thing already happened that night and now I just have to learn a lot.
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? I went through few stages of development. Playlisting is considered appropriate in Israel and I was encouraged to have a ready and tested playlist before the milonga, so I started with a playlist. But I was told honestly from the very beginning that 'somewhere there' they are so cool that they even do not prepare playlists...
I think, I stopped playlisting at my second or third milonga because it was just unbearable for me, I felt that I have to change things according to the crowd, to the day, to something in the air. It just didn't sound the same as yesterday!
Then I started to bring a playlist and change according to my memory - I couldn't listen to the tandas before I put them, but I have a very good memory and know my music, so it worked for a while. Until I made two terrible mistakes, with the wrong tune and crippling sound. I learned a lesson quite quickly and immediately got a regular DJ setup, with two players, controller and headphones.
Now I have some kind of basic idea of some tandas that I am going to play, I have a first tanda, but not more. Just a very basic sketch to start a real picture in real time. And even specials may be canceled if I see that they wouldn't work. At last milonga I didn't play Los Provincianos valses, for example, because I felt that I need something heavier.
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?
I wish I would be able to be boring! I have totally opposite challenges in my life. There was time when I could be too overwhelming, too new, too complicated for lazy leaders. In this sense I went through some difficult periods until I learned how to deal with it. But boring – certainly not.
Do you accept whatever gig is o!ered to you or do you try to select engagements, preferring a special location or fascinating evening with friends?
No, I choose places. I need an atmosphere, I need to feel comphortable with an organizer and I want them to trust me. Besides, I work for free only in case if this milonga has a donation purpose, otherwise I charge an average price.
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...
The best compliment I've ever heard until now was: “Even when you play a well known music, you make it sound as if it was something new”. I was proud of myself for... may be even for half an hour! They are right, I play a new music. Who cares that it's Poema by Canaro? Can't Poema be new?
Well, to be serious, yes, I got a very personal style. There is a well known company that has a slogan: tango for smiling people. If it wouldn't be their, I would take it, I love smiling tango and try to create a happy, dynamic, light atmosphere at my milongas. Of course, I play Pugliese at three am as everybody does, and if I see that people want something heavier, I would go for heavier music, but in general I am trying to make people smile and to keep a very high energy wave.
A part of my style is introducing a new danceable music from the end of twenties to the middle of fifties. Please, pay attention: the keyword is 'danceable', not 'new'.
I do not agree with so called evolutionary theory in tango and don't think that the most popular tangos are the best. A lot of great orchestras and tunes are just discovered in recent years and a lot of them are to be discovered, why we should throw them out? The best example is Ilusiones pasadas by Jose Granados that was totally unknown until couple of years ago but deserves to be played at every milonga because it is simple, strong and beautiful. And no one is guilty that the disc was found just few years ago.
I am sure that restricting ourselves by 300-400 tango tunes we rob our dancers not only of lots of beautiful tangos but first of all of knowledge and then – of an experience of improvising to an unknown music.
Almost all leaders lead for a first couple of years to an unknown music and they manage, they learn to predict music, because classical tango is definitely predictable. It is a skill and as every skill it has to be exercised but after a couple of years they learn their 300 tangos by heart and demand from a DJ to hear just these 300 tunes.
It is quite different in different communities but the tendency exists everywhere and the only exception that I know is professional musicians. All of a sudden they don't need to know a tune by heart, even if they are not so advanced in dancing! So, apparently improvising can be taught?
I am a beginner leader myself and I know a lot of music by heart but if I hear something new for me, I go for it. I dance slower but I enjoy a dialogue with music, expecting what it will say me next moment and being ready for something unexpected. In the time when people used to dance to a live music – that very time that we call Golden now – leaders were leading for the whole night to a live orchestra. Why do we expect our music to be dead?
Don't worry, though, I don't play a lot of new tandas at my milogas. I know, at the moment things are the way they are and I put just tanda here and tanda there, for those who like diversity.
Everything influences me, of course. A place, a crowd, a day.
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?
At the moment I play only on my own. Things change, who knows...
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 would give them the name of the track. And if they look interested, I would also tell them fifty stories about this orchestra.

The audience bothers you with absurd requests: what do you do? Are you a jukebox?
Absolutely not. I can understand such DJs, it is the easiest and the cheapest way to get popular, but you end up as an alien in Ray Bradbury's story: half masculine, half feminine, one eye is blue and another brown.
No, I would not play Otros Aires, I am not going to remove next milonga and put tango instead, an organizer will not interrupt Calo's tanda after two songs and the second D'Arienzo in the same evening would not work as well.
On the other hand, I am happy to play “something instrumental, please, during next hour” or move Pugliese from three am to one am. If a request is not absurd, I love to do everything.
To say it short, I like requests but I am the one who decides because I take all the responsibility for the music at this milonga.

Do you like to dance and listen to your colleagues enjoy the selections and styles of others from your performances?
I love many very different DJs, sometimes I can even predict their choice (different from mine), I deeply appreciate and admire many of my colleagues and can't see myself without learning from them. I will not give any names because they are dozens and I don't want to exclude somebody, but I am really blessed by lots of Djing brothers, sisters and teachers from all parts of this world. Thank you, dear friends!
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?
Very different.
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?
I try to never say 'never' because usually I end up doing exactly that 'never' thing, but at this moment I can't see myself as an organizer.
Three orchestras that can not miss in one evening.

Biagi, D'Arienzo, Di Sarli...
But I do not miss any of 'a must' orchestras, I always play all of them.

Your three favourite orchestras, which may also be different from the previous ones.
Francisco Canaro, OTV, Firpo (or Lomuto, can't choose).

Suggest a tanda of tango instrumental, a tanda of tango singer, one of vals and milonga.
Tanda instrumental:
Francisco Canaro. La Maleva.
Francisco Canaro. Pura parada.
Francisco Canaro. Fiebre.
Francisco Canaro. Por tu querer.
Tanda with a singer:
Enrique Mora y su cuarteto. Elsa Moreno. Arrepentido.
Enrique Mora y su cuarteto. Elsa Moreno. La bien paga
Enrique Mora y su cuarteto. Elsa Moreno. Destellos.
Enrique Mora y su cuarteto. Elsa Moreno. Fumando espero.
Antonio Bonavena. Antonio Buglione. Cariño que mata.
Antonio Bonavena. Nicolas Gianastasio. Ecos del alma.
Antonio Bonavena. Neña mia.

Las Bordonas. Alberto Podesta. La mulateada.
Las Bordonas. Morena pilar.
Las Bordonas. Campo afuera.

What are the three bands or singers you can not stand?
I wouldn't say that I can't stand anything from classical range... But if I would smoke, I would go smoking when there is Troilo or Pugliese playing. At the moment I don't like later and heavier music but don't nail down, may be in a month I will say “Whom? Me?! But it was a month ago!”.And I play it, of course.
What is the band most underrated by the general public and which is the most overrated?

Underrated: Firpo (OTV is gradually receiving it's proper status).
Overrated: Fresedo. In Israel also Rodriguez and De Angelis.

Your top three nights (in your opinion of course …)
I have an up and down moment at every night. Really, every milonga is like that – at certain moment I would say that it's my best and in couple of hours I would say that it's my worst. And so on.

We are less serious: Last night a dj saved my life.
Are DJs sexy?
Depends on a DJ :)

Have you ever had a relationship with a fan or a flirt with a colleague?
No, not yet. I wonder if I would fight with him in half an hour or fall in love forever...Probably, it could be a chance to start Djing with somebody else?

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