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Neo tango is here to stay



In the last few years the international tango scene has been flooded by new sounds and those sounds are something completely different from what we were used to listen and dance to. The best example is probably the recent rise of neo tango, which proves that there is a need for new tango music. This year Doble Ocho hosts the Concurso del Ocho, a tango music competition for amateurs and semi professionals. With this initiative the Doble Ocho tango festival, aims to stimulate new music, independent whether it is traditional or orientated toward neo tango.
The responses to the new sounds in tango are varied. In the light of tango music’s controversial history, it isn’t strange that neo tango is regarded as a phenomenon open to dispute, but it is also not unlikely that within the next decades neo tango will become as mainstream as music from the forties and fifties is nowadays. 

Neo tango
In 2001 Gotan appeared out of nowhere with their CD La revancha del tango. In the years that followed a lot of bands followed their example. Some were downright copy cat bands, but others did contribute something new and innovative to the new sound, which soon came to be known as neo tango. The discussions about what neo tango is and what the future of tango music and dance will be like, is still going on.
A good definition of neo tango is not yet possible, since the social phenomenon of neo tango hasn’t really crystallized yet. What can one say in general say about neo tango?
First of all, it is produced by nowadays musicians of all sorts, who have firm roots in modern and world music and who, based on their own music and musical experience, attempt to innovate tango music, in which they often (but not always) are influenced and inspired by tangos from la epoca de oro and Piazzolla’s tango nuevo.
The second characteristic of neo tango is the immensely diverse way of approaching tango, where numerous fusions are made with other musical genres, such as klezmer, jazz, chansons, opera, classical music, world music and may other genres.
Furthermore, tango musicians do use an instrumentation witch is partly similar to the traditional tango instruments (such as: bandoneon, violin, bass and piano), but also partly new for tango, such as digital sampling techniques and instruments normally associated with world music or other non tango genres. Finally the line up of the modern neo tango ensembles is usually very different from the traditional tango orchestras, such as orquesta tipica and gran orquesta.

Concurso del Ocho
With the arrival of no less than two tango music prizes, the Dutch tango scene shows its need for stimulation of new tango music. Recently tango magazine La Cadena announced the Choclo, a tango music competition for new compositions within the scope of traditional tango music. A few weeks, the Doble Ocho festival launched the Concurso del Ocho (also referred to as the Ocho). During the 2008 edition of the Doble Ocho festival from Wednesday March 19 till Sunday March 23, a music competition is held for both amateur and semi-professional (tango) musicians. Participants are asked to rearrange Carel Kraaijenhof’s El Corte and participants are free to offer new and innovative arrangements which are (even vaguely) tango inspired. The new arrangements are judged by an international jury. The winner gets to play at the Doble Ocho festival on friday march 21.
But there is more. There will also be a musicians workshop, which is led by Iwan Harlan, which will culminate in a tango fusion jam on Thursday afternoon in café Odessa. Who said tango is dead and smells funny? Tango is alive and kicking. 

January 2008
Arnoud de Graaff


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