Within the tango world, departure from tradition is often considered taboo. But for Buffalo Tango Orkestra and their debut album, Ecos del Pasado (Echoes of the Past), finding their own original voice has been a completely natural and spontaneous process—one deeply driven by not only their cultural diversity, but the diversity of their individual musical disciplines.
It’s immediately evident from the twelve performances on the album that these musicians are deeply in love with the complexity and romanticism of tango. But just as evident is how far they have already moved beyond past traditions and stereotypes, toward their own vision of tango—one with its own unique language, eclectic style, and resonant sound. “We simply didn’t want to be another group performing ‘definitive’ versions of Piazzolla. There are already plenty of groups like that in the world. This path has been far more exciting . . . and far more rewarding.”
Formed by Moshe Shulman in the summer of 2012 upon returning from a trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina, Buffalo Tango Orkestra began by performing a traditional type of Argentine tango—classic, well-known pieces arranged using a mix of classical music, Italian opera, and African folk rhythm. But very quickly, they found themselves creating their own arrangements, evolving from the diverse cultural origins of the group—Uruguay, Italy, Ukraine, Dominican Republic, the U.S., Argentina, Israel, and Russia. And to hear them tell the story, they deliberately decided to let that diversity guide them musically. “We have tangos in every flavor imaginable, from refined and subdued to raw and impassioned—even Russian cartoon songs arranged into ‘milonga’ style,” says Moshe. “Anything could be turned into tango.”
Of course, they do play the music of Astor Piazzolla, the acknowledged master of Argentine tango nuevo. But while other tango groups may devote themselves to playing Piazzolla’s music (and indeed, all Argentine tango music) as it is “meant” to be played, they see this genre as a way to express the natural friction between the individuals in the group—a quality that burns within each instrument, from the genre-defining bandoneon to the vocal and violin melodies, all the way down to the double bass and piano that form the rhythm section.
“Tango taps into the romance of our nostalgic soul—the same nostalgia that captures you when you listen to old music or watch black-and-white films,” says Moshe. “But that idea of nostalgia only becomes poignant when it is personal, when the music acts as a bridge between what once was and the vibrant color of the present. To truly experience tango music, you must allow yourself to remain in that deep feeling of loss which connects those two worlds, if only for a moment. This is where tango comes from, and this is where tango lives—within those echoes of the past.”