The Death of Tango

By Melissa Hernandez

It was a different morning for Pablo Mosteiro, a Princeton student, tango lover and DJ who rushed through the crowds of New York Penn station trying to catch a bus that would take him back to the quietness of his school.  After nearly a two hour trip and a guitar night with friends Mosteiro is back.  With many activities on the list and little time Mosteiro goes to his house to pack some things he is going to need during the day.

He lives in a two story house, very simple-looking. In the living room there is a couch, a table and a book shelf, nothing fancy; but he adorns it with his guitar, his electric keyboard piano and his LP player in which he listens to his favorite tangos.

Although his acquaintance with music began early, Mosteiro’s love with Tango didn’t start at a young age; it was a consequence to his adapting process to the United States.

“My parents like music a lot, and from a very young age I was surrounded by music records. I remember playing their LPs ever since I was 5 or so.”

Being born and raised in Buenos Aires and supported by his parents to follow extracurricular activities Mosteiro always participated in various sports and hobbies. One of the most exiting ones being taking piano lessons, in which he discovered he could sing well too.

“I enjoyed singing while playing the piano, and I told my teacher so, and she thought I was OK at singing too, so she started helping me find songs to play that were challenging enough on the piano but I could sing them as well” said Mosteiro.

Mosteiro left Argentina at age 17 following his parents who left the country to come to the United States to get PhDs. Mosteiro, having no options, had to pack his bags and leave too. He enrolled in Rutgers University in New Jersey, where he started participating in different Latino cultural activities with his friends, one of them being a tango lover.

By being away from home Mosteiro started remembering his homeland, its culture and with it, tango. He would often play some of his father’s tangos and started helping his friend by playing some tangos with his guitar during some events. At this point he never thought he could sing tango, but he knew he enjoyed playing it.

Mosteiro finished his undergraduate degree at Rutgers and quickly moved on to get a PhD on physics at Princeton University. One day he saw a sign inviting students who wanted to become DJs for the school’s radio station, so he decided to go try it. He thought it would be nice to have a show in which he could play what he wanted.

“I never really enjoyed party music. While I was in college I was always forbidden from choosing music at parties my friends threw. This always made me somewhat upset” said Mosteiro.

The opportunity was there and Mosteiro took it. “The radio gave me a legitimized space for me to play the music I liked, without conflicts with friends. At the same time, I hoped I would make some people listen to tango for the first time, and like it”

Mosteiro thought playing the traditional rock artists that he grew up listening to would require him to play the station’s selected list, while by having a “specialty” show he could play the tracks he liked better especially since he was “getting into tango around that time.”

“I felt like Argentine rock artists were already popular enough around the Latino community, and it was hard to make them appealing to the non-Latino community while tango is something that, through the dance, is more exposed to Latinos and non-Latinos alike.”

One of Mosteiro’s initial interests in tango was keeping it “alive” after the many times he had heard tango was “dying” while growing up.

Juan Corradi, author of How Many Did It Take to Tango? believes that “tango has gone through several phases of world-wide appeal, from 1914 on.  Today it is a craze that ranges widely, with “milongas” or tango places in many countries.  It has become also a great tourist sell for Argentina.”

Although Corradi thinks young students efforts to keep tradition like Mosteiro’s are “always useful” he believes tradition has turned into a “global good.” Thus, becoming “a commodity for export” rather than growing in composition and development, in that sense, “it is quite dead.”
As opinions vary about the death of tango, Mosteiro goes on with his day. He has a soccer game to attend and then his show at 7 PM. He already knows the songs he is going to be playing during the show.  It doesn’t depend on anything but his mood.

It is 7 PM, time to start with “The Death of Tango.” He starts off by playing some instrumental tangos and then some with lyrics. His voice sounds soft and bohemian as he sends greetings to some of the people who have made requests.

The time goes by very quickly for him as he plays his favorite songs. He seems to be in a different world, absolutely concentrated in the sounds. The only thing you can hear is tango. And all of the sudden, as he stands up from his chair he signs a little of one of the songs. His voice sounded different; it sounded like the past, it sounded like tango.

As the show is about to end he remarks that it is good that the show airs only on Saturdays.  Otherwise, he would spend his days like this, just playing tango.

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