Tango Music

Bailonga is unique in that it is the only tango event in Eugene to consistently play alternative and nuevo tango music in a 50/50 format with traditional tango music. But what does that mean?

Traditional Tango Music

Traditional Tango Music, otherwise known as Golden Age Tango music was recorded by tango orchestras in Argentina between 1930 and 1955. The music of this time had a special quality of danceability. The orchestras rehearsed all day to perform for dancers at night, forming a symbiotic relationship between the music and the dancers, and making golden age tango music the most compatible with tango dancing technique of any other time period.

Despite having limited access to recording technology in the 1930’s and 40’s, tango orchestras produced thousands of tracks. The music is special because the majority of the tracks were recorded in a single take and yet those single take recordings are so iconic that despite hearing the same songs night after night, even dancing to them at multiple milongas in the same day, dancers never get tired of them.

In addition to standard “tangos,” traditional tango music comes in two other main styles: Valses, which are a faster more fluid version of waltzes, and Milongas, which are a fast, rhythmic, bass-heavy type of song.

In the 1950’s, there were political shifts that caused many dance halls to close, and the popularity of rock and roll encouraged people to take up this new dance that required no lessons or training. As a result, tango music no longer existed only to move dancers, and its style shifted dramatically. In the following 20 years, tango music was still recorded and some of it is danceable, but much of it is too experimental to use for dancing or can only be used sparingly for daring and advanced dancers.

Nuevo Tango Music

Musicians never stopped being fascinated with the style of tango music, and groups devoted to replicating the golden age tango sound continued to pop up over the years. Nuevo Tango Music refers to a range of music in the tango style. It includes music written with tango instrumentation and feel, but without the intention of dancing, such as Libertango by Astor Piazzolla. It includes modern recordings of traditional tango music such as music by the tango harmonica player Hugo Diaz, or more recent group Redwood Tango Ensemble. And it includes music with a tango style paired with modern beats and electronic sounds, such as Bajafondo and Gotan Project.

Nuevo can be more challenging to dance to and much of it is suitable for only listening, but for folks who struggle to connect to music with the record sound quality of the 30’s and prefer a cleaner sound, Nuevo is a good compromise.

Alternative Tango Music

The most controversial of the music genres in the tango community, alternative tango music, isn’t tango music at all. It includes music from many other genres that has a structure or feel that makes it suitable for dancing tango. Pop, jazz, a capella, Balkan, movie soundtracks, electronica, trip-hop, rap, R&B, blues, french waltzes, and music from other Latin-based countries are all sources of alternative music.

Alternative tango music is controversial because unlike traditional tango, it was not created to dance tango to, meaning sometimes it can be difficult for dancers to follow or encourage sloppy technique. It can also be difficult to find modern music that fit the vals and milonga structure, as those movements are less common in other genres of music. Alternative tango music is meant to be an alternative to traditional, making it a special change from the music you dance tango to 90% of the time. It’s also an opportunity to dance to some of your favorite music from other genres.

Because traditional music is played the vast majority of the time, in many communities, “alternative” refers to anything that is not golden-age tango music, which means that modern traditional, Nuevo, and non-tango based alternative all fall under the umbrella of “alternative” for most communities.

Bailonga plays half traditional and half alternative in order to keep the technique of tango grounded in the traditional, while providing an opportunity for experimentation, fun, and a wider range of musical expression in the Nuevo and Alternative. The music will consistently alternate from a tanda (a set of three songs) of traditional to a tanda of alternative or Nuevo, and valses and milongas are included throughout the evening.

If you’re interested in taking a deeper dive into learning about how to DJ tango in the style of 50/50, check out our online DJ workshop!


There is a huge range of music from each individual genre making it very difficult to choose which songs to give as examples. Here you’ll see a range of traditional music that covers the progression of the golden age and then into the late 50’s where the style began shifting away from dance-centric music. You’ll also find just a handful of examples of what Nuevo and Alternative tango can sound like. Enjoy!

Traditional Tango Music

Nueve de Julio by D’arienzo, Instrumental from 1935


Carnival de Mi Barrio by Donato, Singer: Lita Morales & Horacio Lagos, Year: 1939 


Al compás del corazón by Caló, Singer: Raúl Berón, Year: 1942 


Vamos by Di Sarli, Singer: Alberto Podestà, Year: 1944 


El Choclo by Di Sarli, Instrumental from 1954


Gallo Ciego by Pugliese, Instrumental from 1959

Traditional Vals and Milonga

Un Placer, Vals by Troilo, Instrumental from 1942


Silueta Porteña, Milonga by Canaro, Singer: Roberto Maida, Year: 1936 

Nuevo Tango Music

Pa’ Bailar by Bajofondo and Julieta Venegas


Inspiracíon by Hugo Díaz

Alternative Tango Music

I’ve Got to See You Again by Norah Jones 


Somebody I Used to Know by Pentatonix

Photo Credit: Mark Solarski via Unsplash