Since its formation in 1999 in Paris, Gotan Project has become the unrivaled master of the tango-meets-electro sound. Last November, Gotan Project celebrated the 10-year anniversary of their critically acclaimed debut album, La Revancha Del Tango.
Indeed, tango has come a long way: from the ballrooms of Buenos Aires to every self-respecting hipster’s iPod. Originally, in the 19th century, the music was played by immigrants arriving to Argentina and Uruguay from all over the world. Its distinctive sound comes from having so many different influences, from the European dances such as the minuet and polka to flamenco to perhaps, most importantly, African rhythms. Legend has it that the complex and sexual dance associated with this music was born in the brothels of Buenos Aires before becoming widely popular all over North America and Europe in the 1930s and ’40s, when tango got its first worldwide superstar and icon, Carlos Gardel.
It wasn’t long after Gardel gave birth to the “Golden Age of Tango” that musicians started blending tango with other musical styles. Astor Piazzolla became greatly popular in the 1950s. His sound took as much from traditional Argentine tango as it did from Europe’s classical composers (“Adios Nonino,” 1960). In the 1960s, the band Los Gatos became the first successful Argentine rock act, blending psychedelic rock sonorities, influenced by The Doors and The Beatles, with Tango. Later, Los Gatos’ member, Litto Nebbia, started a prominent solo career playing tango-infused Jazz. It was only a matter of time before pop music and electronica artists, such as Shakira (“Objection,” 2001), Madonna (“Masterpiece,” 2012) and, of course, Gotan Project, took interest in tango.
But with Gotan Project, the idea is not to make electronic music with elements of tango as mere gimmicks but to make new tango compositions and recordings using today’s technology and sounds. Since the 1950s, electronics increasingly have been incorporated into every single style of music, from classical to Jazz to rock to world music. So, when French musician Philippe Cohen Solal and Swiss producer Christoph H. Mueller worked on their first project together as the Boyz From Brazil, they immediately started experimenting with its combination with electronica. Mueller and Solal both shared a passion for latin music and began to incorporate elements of that love into their musical style.
In 1999, they formed Gotan Project with a third member, Argentine musician Eduardo Makaroff, and released their first single “Vuelvo Al Sur” on Solal’s Ya Basta label before getting noticed and signed by XL Recordings and releasing their first LP, La Revancha Del Tango.
The success and great influence of La Revancha Del Tango is undeniable. In addition to having been certified Gold in many countries, the album contains songs that have been featured in such movies as Shall We Dance? (2004) with Jennifer Lopez and Richard Gere, Ocean’s Twelve (2004) with George Clooney and Brad Pitt among others, Knight & Day (2010) with Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz, and such TV shows as Sex & the City, Nip/Tuck and Brothers and Sisters. The album opener, “Queremos Paz,” as well as “Epoca” and “Una Musica Brutal” are considered to be some of the most important recordings of tango nuevo (neo-tango). While reinventing the basic sound of tango with speech samples, modern trip hop and dance beats and dub effects overlaying the traditional bandoneòn-led outfit, La Revancha Del Tango offered original melodies of a rare quality and inventive reinterpretations of an Astor Piazzolla composition (“Vuelvo Al Sur”), of a Frank Zappa classic (“Chunga’s Revenge”) and of Gato Barbieri‘s theme for the 1972 film, Last Tango in Paris.
In 2006, Gotan Project released a second album, Lunatico, name after Carlos Gardel’s racehorse. Although it did not meet the same success as its predecessor, this sophomore effort was praised for being courageous as it was not an attempt to recreate the smash that had been La Revancha Del Tango but instead explored new and darker sonorities and colors and incorporated elements of blues “Paris, Texas” and disco “Criminal.” In Tango 3.0, Gotan Project’s third opus released in 2010, tango is pushed further into the 21st century all the while become one with Jazz and dance music. Using more synthesizers, a larger string section and horns, Gotan opted here for a more eclectic and accessible sound.
Gotan Project has sold over two million albums worldwide and has given tango a new sound and a new groove. Just listen to the bass lines in “Queremos Paz” and “Criminal.” Tango is still alive and well, and, thanks to Gotan, we predict it’s here to stay.
Video: GOTAN PROJECT – La Gloria (live)
THE GROUND ISSUE #2