Imagine a hundred and more top dancers from all over the world at an elite tango event, traveling maybe 10 hours and spending more than 500 euros for a weekend, just to dance 3 or 4 tandas all night, leaving milonga long before the last tanda. Strange? Trust me, this happens more often than one can imagine... and all just because of the music.
In this post I will try to explain the most common mistakes DJs
usually make in their sets on international events.
Being a DJ on international event is quite different than DJing
your local milonga. I've been DJ for almost 5 years, but things I
learned on my almost 3 years of international experience are the most
valuable. I also travel intensively to international encuentros
almost every month last 3 years.
I have seen good DJs and I have been disappointed by the bad ones.
I have been pleasantly surprised by the sets of some people, and been
pushed to leave milonga early by the music of some which are
considered good. I learned a lot from my own mistakes also.
In this 5 points I will try to sublime these lessons, hoping that
this post will save some milonga from finishing long before La
cumparsita. It will help organizers to recognize a good DJs and the
DJs to think about their approach.
So, here is what you have to be careful about if you are a DJ on
international tango event:
1. Competing with the other DJs at the event – and
therefore, forgetting about the audience. It is not a competition.
You do not have to be different, do not try to be better, you do not
have to play pieces of music others do not have, do not be original,
you do not have to play something they forgot to. If you focus on
comparing yourself and your set to others, you completely forget that
you are there for the dancers – not for the other fellow DJs. The
musicalizador should not be afraid to play some track just because
other DJs played it already – if it fits to his/hers concept, it
must be on the playlist. Focus on the right things – do not miss
2. Saving the best tandas for “when the right time
comes” - The right time usually is when the tanda came in to
your mind. Later will be too late. A good DJ, should learn to trust
his/hers guts. I learned this the hard way: I saved the perfect
tandas for later “when the right time comes” and later was right
time for other tandas. This DJing tactics usually results in lowering
the quality of your set.
3. Experimenting – International events are places
imagined as a point with condensed quality of dance – which means,
good dancers and good music. People come to these events and they
want to dance, you do not have to surprise them with special music.
Of course, it is always nice to refresh the mood with some forgotten
or “new” track – but this refreshment should be tested before.
This is why international DJs should have their local experience,
where they test their tandas. Please, do not screw up the
international events for testing your ideas – people traveled
thousand of kilometers and spent a lot of money to be there for their
dance, not for you to experiment on them.
4. Slowing down – I've heard this many times and,
in my experience, it is nothing but a myth: when the people are
tired, you should calm down the energy of your set. As far as I am
concerned, the truth is the opposite – when people are tired, the
DJ needs to give them extra energy with his/her set. If people are
tired, they can dance slow, even on a very energetic music, but
nothing drains the mood of the milonga more than slow and passionless
music. In my opinion this is number one mood killer on international
5. Disconnecting – My personal guiding principle
is that “DJing for tango is like dancing with all dancers on the
floor at the same time; and making cabeceo with all dancers that are
sitting around”. This means that you have to connect with people
around and never to forget that you are there for them. I hate to see
a DJ's face glowing from the bright light of the screen of his laptop
– the brightness should be enough for him/her to see what is there,
but not so much to interfere with his ability to see what is going on
Of course this post is not a rulebook. Everyone has his/hers
own experience and opinion which might be different than mine. If
this is the case I would be glad to discuss about them in the
comments sections bellow or in the e-mail conversation.