The Best Ballroom Tango Music List
Tango has captivated people for generations. Its smooth sound and passionate music have made it a favorite for dancers of all ages.
Contemporary tango shows use music to help professional dancers with considerable rehearsal time dazzle audiences. It often has a more dramatic concert feel and less emphasis on the dance beat.
1. Tiempo de tango
A classic set of tracks with a clear, slow dancing beat that works well for tango. The tempo is perfect for building speed and rhythm, and it also has some great valses for walking and singing.
The orchestras of the transition era helped create the smooth, lyrical sound that defines golden-age tango. These recordings often have a slightly more relaxed rhythm than the old guard music, but still maintain a strong dance beat.
Piazzolla led a revolution in concert-oriented tango music, adding drama and depth through rubato playing, pauses and tempo changes. While these techniques can enhance a tango performance, they can be outside the comfort zone for social dancing. The best tango music for dancing combines the drama of the concert tango with a clear dance beat.
2. Buenos Aires Tango
Developing a collection of music for dancing tango in the United States requires patience, research and persistence. Many of the tango CDs available at typical music stores are not suitable for social dancers. To avoid purchasing poor-quality music, watch out for album covers that suggest ballroom tango and songs listed in English.
The tango was first popularized outside of Argentina in the early twentieth century. Its popularity grew quickly as tango dancers spread to Paris, London and Berlin.
Francisco Canaro’s orchestra was a favorite of dancers and audiences alike during this period. His music is romantic and smooth with a clear dancing beat. A highlight is his version of La Cumparsita. The lone violin at the beginning sets the mood and then Raul Beron sings with grace and power.
3. La Cumparsita
The Uruguayan composer Gerardo Matos Rodriguez penned the iconic La Cumparsita (“the little parade”) in 1916. Originally a march for carnival marching bands, it made little impact until years later when a lyricist named Pascual Contursi added heartfelt lyrics that would transform it into a beloved tango.
Harp duo Laura Oetzel and Daniel Mattele have arranged this classic for the harp ensemble, featuring flexible instrumentation. This arrangement allows a range of playing levels and abilities to perform together in harmony.
La Cumparsita has been re-recorded more than 2,700 times and is one of the most popular tango songs in the world. It has appeared in at least 500 theatrical, radio, film and television productions. It was even used by Orson Welles in his 1938 adaptation of H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds and in the 1959 movie Some Like It Hot starring Jack Lemmon.
4. Pa’ Bailar
Pa Bailar is a fun and energetic song that has quickly become a favorite for dance enthusiasts around the world. Its infectious rhythm and Latin American influences have helped to bring this genre of music to a wider audience, while also highlighting the talent and creativity of the artists behind it.
This track from the third album by Gotan Project demonstrates how far musicians can go when modernizing tango without sacrificing its innate structure. It incorporates elements of rap and electronic music while still maintaining the beat and feel of danceable tango.
While it may be a bit too sexy for some schools, this song features a pulsating beat that will keep your students dancing. It is perfect for practicing tango techniques and is an excellent choice for competition numbers.
5. El gran gavito
A favorite of many tango lovers, this song is about a dive in East Dubuque that also describes the jealousy felt by some tango dancers. The strong beat and lyrics of this song make it a perfect choice for the ballroom floor.
DC social dancer and community photographer Jaime Montemayor shares his tango journey, his love of photography, and how he combines both in his work.
Bandoneonist Heyni Solera explains how her immigration experience influenced her artistic journey, and why she believes the secret to better dancing is to sit down. Learn more about her music, and find her online.