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'Lunatico': Tango for a New Generation
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'Lunatico': Tango for a New Generation


This next story does travel, to Paris by way of Buenos Aires, Argentina the birthplace of tango. Once the dance was considered scandalous. It flourished nonetheless. It's become a staple in ballroom and now tango from a musical group based in Paris, Gotan Project.

The group's latest CD is called Lunatico and here is producer Derek Rath with more on the story.

DEREK RATH reporting:

Tango, often referred to as the sexiest dance music in the world, is an unlikely musical tryst born in a decadent after hours lifestyle.

(Soundbite of music)

RATH: This is the sound of old school tango from the 1930's, from its original superstar, Carlos Gardel.

And this is the sound that brought it back to life.

(Soundbite of music)

RATH: You're listening to Santa Maria from Gotan Project's first album La Revancho del Tango. After three years, and a lot of thought, Gotan Project is back with Lunatico, a CD that unites Tango's past with its future.

(Soundbite of music)

RATH: The three core members of Gotan Project are Philippe Cohen Solal and Christoph Muller from France and Eduardo Makaroff from Argentina. It's not the first time for a Franco-Argentine connection in tango, as Christoph explains.

Mr. CHRISTOPH MULLER (Gotan Project): There is a long story with this Paris and Buenos Aires. All the tangos comes to Paris before going anywhere else, you know, because it's a sort of maker, and it's a second capital of tango. So that's--it's not an accident if Gotan Project was born in Paris.

RATH: By the 1960s, tango had become a dusty, ballroom relic. But Gotan Project has been able to reintroduce it to today's audience. Christoph credits the inherently rich ingredients found at tango's birthplace.

Mr. MULLER: Music from all the immigrants with music that was already there from the black people that lived there, because Buenos Aires used to be a slave port; so there's been a whole mix of people who were rather poor and who--who met in the suburbs of Buenos Aires, where this sort of melting pot created tango.

(Soundbite of music)

RATH: Phillipe expands on tango's little known African roots, as explored in this song, Domingo.

Mr. PHILLIPE COHEN (Gotan Project): We are claiming the second roots of tango music, which is denied by the official establishment tango historian. You know, so I think it was really important for us to claim that tango was born by a fusion of black and white music.

(Soundbite of music)

RATH: Tango was never a respectable music, perhaps because of its mixed heritage and bordello beginnings. Its signature instrument is the accordion-like bandoneon. Created in Germany as a cheap replacement for the church organ, it was shipped directly to the brothels of Buenos Aires where its character was quickly redefined. Again, Christoph.

Mr. MULLER: It's a great instrument and really important symbol of tango, but also it's beautiful because it's--it's like a voice. You know, you--with this instrument, with the bandoneon, you can make it sing, you can make it scream, you can make it whisper. That's why it's so important in our music.

(Soundbite of music)

RATH: These self-proclaimed tango addicts have a deep respect for tango's heritage. And the new album reflects this. Christoph is happy with the evolution from their debut work.

Mr. MULLER: The first album was like a confrontation of, you know, of two worlds: tango and electronic dance music. And I think this time that the tango is more in the center. Now, I think it's more complex to the fact that we bring in elements from--from jazz, country, rock; more ingredients that turn around the tango center.

(Soundbite of music)

RATH: The denizens of moonlit after-hours Buenos Aires are once again sharing their tango obsession with a worldwide audience. And the Gotan Project's Lunatico is drawing them in to this ultimate dance of seduction. For NPR News, this is Derek Rath in Los Angles.

(Soundbite of music)

CHADWICK: The track you're listening to is called La Viguela. It's from the Gotan Project CD Lunatico. And you can hear full-length versions of the songs in Derek's report at our website,

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