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Compulsory Pugliese? By Richard Slade

Fortunate enough to be invited back to play at a popular London milonga at the weekend, I was delighted to see a large number of friends that had come out to hear the set. I’m not an experimental DJ, nor do I like to play much outside of

the 30s to 40s except for a small dip either side into the 20s and 50s for good measure.

The set went well. Many encouraging comments from both well known friends, and dancers I’d never met along with texts from 2 friends after that weren’t able to attend but had heard that it was a lovely evening. Everything a guest DJ wants to hear.

Except one thing.

At the end of the set, one tanguero came to congratulate me on a great set, but enquired into the missing Pugliese tanda. “You HAVE to play Pugliese” he exclaimed. I smiled.

As any seasoned milonga-goer knows, Pugliese is in the big 4. The most revered of all the tango orchestras. In many circles, a milonga is not even considered to be a milonga without a tanda of Pugliese. But I disagree. Yes, as I write this. those that think otherwise will no doubt be shaking their head in disapproval. And I have no problem at all with those believe the DJ should play a Pugliese at every milonga. My view is likely a European one, maybe an English one, but at the least my one. And those that know my DJing will know that I play a Pugliese when I feel it’s appropriate to do so.

The role of the DJ is to please as many people as possible in as short time as possible. We’re people pleasers, and a badly placed tanda of Pugliese is far worse than no Pugliese at all. I’ve seen sets killed by a badly timed Pugliese tanda. Sucking the energy from the room and leaving dancers weary.

Pugliese orchestrated beautiful music. It needs to be treated with the special respect it deserves. I like to think of Pugliese as a shaving of truffle. That final flurry that lifts the perfect dish. Let’s not pretend that every meal needs truffle to enhance it.

This is why we have different restaurants. It’s the same with DJs and milongas. Some ingredients may be present in most dishes. Some ingredients are reserved for when the dish really needs it. Lack of use of an ingredient is as purposeful as it's inclusion.

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