Tango’s connection to electronic sounds

In its relatively short three-year course to date, the trio who make up the Gotan Project, two Frenchmen and an Argentine, have successfully striven to rediscover tango by fusing modern electronic sounds into the traditional Argentinean form. The act will be returning to Athens for a performance tonight at the Vrachon Theater after performing at last summer’s WOMAD festival. Just days ahead of the trio’s latest visit, the group’s leader Phillippe Cohen Solal, in Amsterdam, spoke to Kathimerini about his bond with tango music. What draws you to tango? I can’t say something specific but I do remember an album that belonged to a friend of mine when I was 18. This was the music that drew me toward tango, even though I didn’t quite know what I was listening to. That, as well as the song on Fernando Solanas’s «South,» with which we launched the Gotan Project. Do you believe that it’s possible to create contemporary music based on an older style? Yes, of course. The tango is widely known but we’re presenting it in a different way. It’s very old music, extremely popular, lots of people understand it, and the form is surrounded by many cliches. Some listeners think they don’t like it because it’s the music their grandparents used to listen to. What we’re striving for is to take something from the past and present it in a contemporary, modern way. I always smile when I see people dancing to our music at clubs. It’s the satisfaction of having brought tango back to the dance floor. Don’t you want to research other aspects in music? With this group, the music we work on is tango, exclusively. But tango is a complete musical universe in itself. In each of our projects, we examine new roads in tango, combined with electronic sounds, and many still lie ahead. Some people consider your music to be «easy listening.» Does this tag annoy you? I don’t consider it an insult, but I think it’s an incorrect characterization of our music. «Easy listening» is a very specific sound from the 1950s and 1960s. [Fellow member] Christoph [Muller] and I have another band which plays that type of music. But danceable tango is a different thing. Did you expect to gain as much fame as you have in just three years? It came as a surprise because we began as an underground act. But it’s something that developed alone – naturally. There was no record company official who suddenly said, «Let’s put out some tango.» We prompted a response and had success with the very first song we released, which was an experiment, without making any compromises. What sort of a crowd do you attract at concerts? The truth is that we get people who are listening to tango for the very first time. I could say that 60 percent of the audience turns up to hear electronic music. The good thing about this is that at our shows we get some people who discover tango and others who are already acquainted with the form but are discovering electronic music for the first time. In Greece, we know that tango shares common aspects, such as melancholy and feeling, with rebetika. So we know there’s good contact with the people.

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