Mario Orlando is one of the most recognized Tango DJs in Buenos Aires. This day, I didn’t have an appointment to have an interview with him but he spontaneously accepted by Carlos Matera who is the organizer of Sunderland kindly offering. The time was right after I interviewed Graciela and Carlos Matera, and the night was about to start. People started to come into the milonga, eating, greeting with people, not much dancers on the dance floor yet. I wanted to interview a DJ also, so this was a wonderful bonus, and he gave us a very interesting talk.
Q. How long have you been a DJ?
I have been DJing more or less 30 years. In here (Sunderland) I’ve been DJing about 10 years. There is a place I’ve been DJing for more than 15 years.
Q. When you provide music, how do you decide which music to play?
The music that I play is adapted by the style of the neighborhood. Each neighborhood has its own style and steps are different. What distinguishes the style here (Villa Urquiza) is elegance and steps are long. There are places like in Center (central area of down town BsAs) that I play faster rhythmic tangos, like D’Arienzo, Biagi, Rodoriguez. Certain music is not as popular as other clubs. For example, when I play Rodoriguez in here, they would dance to it, but they are not very happy, because it doesn’t conform the style they dance. Here what they like is Tanturi, Calo, Troilo, Di Sarli, D’Agositono, I put a lot of Di Sarli here.
The music that I’m playing now is a new Orchestra with a style of Di Sarli. It sounds like Di Sarli but it’s a new group by younger people with it’s own personality. What I try to do is to put some new music so people would get used to slowly. I keep the tradition but at the same time I do adapt to the new people, new milongueros. I up date repertoire but keep the night on the tradition.
Q. Do you change music by seasons?
Not exactly by the seasons, but the season changes the crowds and I change the music by the crowds. For example, in the low season which usually happens in April ~ August, the mood changes in milongas, because there are more locals and not many tourists. Also there are times when we have more people from Europe, Japan, or the US. So I change the music by the people and the atmosphere.
Q. Do you find local people and foreigners have different taste in music?
I think foreigners are more open-minded. Argentineans tend to dance just 5 orchestras, and no more. That’s all they want to hear.
When I started traveling abroad to DJ, foreign DJs asked me “you don’t know this music?” It’s not that I don’t know, I have the music but I don’t play it because people wouldn’t dance to it. With foreigners I need to be more open-minded.
When I play music I always try to put lots of energy into the music and I find foreign DJs don’t have much energy in their music.
Q. How do local people accept music?
I think in tango, there’s always been a great attachment in terms of music. For example the milongueros in the '30s, they were used to the music of the '30s, so when the music of the '40s came around, they said “No, you can’t dance to it” because it was not familiar to them. But obviously the same thing happened in the '50s. A lot of orchestras came out in this period, for example, D’Angeles. People called carousel music. It was not accepted because they didn’t recognize the music the way they adapt dancing.
Q. In general do DJ people dance tango?
No, the majority does not dance. They can’t dance. But I think that is a big mistake, not being able to dance as a DJ. I’ve been dancing for 25 years. I dance and DJ Salsa, too. I like other styles as well. I used to DJ Disco, weddings, different kinds of parties and events.
Q. What was it like DJing for other events?
It gave me flexibility to be very energetic in my music. For example, you are in a wedding party with the moment when everybody is eating, I noticed that DJs would put music that are very very relaxing, like elevator music. The music was too quiet it made people to sleep. By the time people started to go dancing, they were too relaxed, it was impossible to move and dance. (Laugh) So what I did was to put the music that people used to dance ten years ago while they were eating. By recognizing the music, people would get into the mood. I had different ways to put people to get up. This is the way I kept to make people get up and dancing in Tango.
So you need skills to observe people in many different ways.
I think that the DJ is the psychiatrist of the dance floor. Not of the individuals but of the dance floor. Once I was invited to give a talk about the anthropology of the dance floor, by a friend of mine who is an anthropologist. Because in tango, there are different characters. For example, the people go dancing in the afternoon are different from the people in the evening. Tango people in the afternoon are the people who have problems, coming from lost in time. They come to dance to be released, to forget about their troubles. People who go out in night, they only want to have good time.
Q. How do you find being a DJ?
There was a milonga that I was DJing for 11 years. One night I was passing music of Canaro from 1927. The floor was very packed, because the music was so beautiful. People were complaining because the floor was so packed they couldn’t move. There was a woman who was dancing, and when she came around me she says “Take away this music, it’s depressing me.” I said “Well, I am very sorry about that but I am the DJ not your psychiatrist.” Obviously they were complaining that they couldn’t dance. (laugh)
This job is very stressful. I have various friends who stopped working as DJ because it’s very difficult. People are never happy, always criticizing you. You can never please everybody. It’s very thankless job.
I need to go back to the booth and change the music now.
I need to go back to the booth and change the music now.
Thank you so much for your time.