On having an opinion

Writing the book was an experience of being in flow and I never really thought about what the public reaction might be. As I approached publication time, I asked a few people to review the book. Everyone I approached agreed with enthusiasm. Imagine my dismay when, disagreeing with something on the book’s website – and this was before we had gone to print – one such reviewer chose not to contact me personally but to flame me on facebook instead. The point he made was a good one and I learnt something from it, but it seems he didn’t have any interest in improving the book as a resource for the community.

Tango Stories is a work of opinion. I was clear about that in myself and I took pains to be clear about it in the book. The little appendix on getting started as a tango DJ also caused a storm in the blogosphere. I was worried that I was being too prescriptive by outlining some rules, but the objections came from those who found me too lax.

In a recent blog post, Melina Sedo writes how people have accused her of insulting a world heritage simply for not liking certain orchestras, songs or styles, declaring that she is “surely a crappy DJ who hasn’t got a clue”. I have received similar criticisms, for instance for DJing at milongas with a no cortina policy. Clearly they are not “real” milongas and I’m not a “real” DJ. Oh please!

Don’t get me wrong: an Argentine style milonga with cortinas and cabeceo is a beautiful thing, the maximum expression of everything we love about tango. Personally, I find it very uncomfortable to be in a tango environment where the cabeceo is not functioning. But the idea that this is the only kind of milonga, and that any other kind of milonga is bad and wrong… ? I’m lost for words.

What is an authentic milonga, anyway? For instance, many “traditional” Argentine milongas have breaks of tropical (cumbia) and swing music, something that almost never happens over here, especially at the events that brand themselves as “milonguero”. Let’s not forget that the milonga itself is in a process of evolution. Even the tanda that we now take for granted as a sine qua non of the milonga probably didn’t exist in its present form in the Golden Decade of the 40s.

Tango is alive and resists our attempts to define it, to pin it down, just as a real person does. It is generative and creative, generous even. I don’t know what it is; I love it, and I think it will always be bigger than our idea of it. Maybe God will come down and define tango, but until then, let’s allow one other our opinions, okay?