Juan Carlos Cáceres – May 27, 2021

Tango Mahi – Tanda of the Week – Milongas by Juan Carlos Cáceres.

Photo by Settembrinu di tavagna @ u cotone 2012
Juan Carlos Cáceres lived to age 79, from 1936 till 2015.

During a 2005 interview he said of himself, “I am like a kind of UFO for the tango world, … because for a time I went against the current of things”.

In 1955 Cáceres was 19 years old when the military first seized power from President Juan Peron, and set about establishing and enforcing rules to prevent Argentinians from any gatherings and activities that the junta considered to be contrary to their ability to keep control of the country. This included an undermining of many aspects of Argentina’s popular culture that had been encouraged by Juan and Evita Peron, of which tango music, songs and dancing were central.

Painting by Juan Carlos Cáceres
In his teenage years Cáceres excelled as a visual artist and was also a competent musician. After leaving school, he played trombone (and sometimes piano) in Buenos Aires jazz bands to fund his studies for a fine arts degree, then after graduating, settled into a bohemian lifestyle as an artist, a lecturer in art and art history, and a jazz and tango musician. He had particular interests in European avant-garde thinking and surrealist art, and in the African origins of tango, which he researched in depth then presented in workshops and conferences.

“El tucan II”
Painting by Juan Carlos Cáceres
He moved to Paris in the 1960s and lived there as what he called “a tanguero in exile”, painting, lecturing, continuing his research into the origins of tango, and composing and playing music.

Unable to find musicians in France who could play piano and sing his compositions as he wanted them performed, he chose to take on both these roles himself and over time recorded and released six albums of his own compositions as well as his own arrangements of traditional tangos. These recordings achieved a unique blend of traditional African, Cuban and Argentinian candombe-habanera-milonga rhythms with tango and jazz syncopations that drew on the ideas of Astor Piazzolla and other progressive tangueros.

Cáceres was hugely respected by many of the progressive tango groups that emerged through the 1990s and early 2000s.

For the Tanda of the Week I have chosen three of his milongas:

Tango Negro
Tango Retango
Toca Tango

Check out the 2010 YouTube clip of Francisco Forquera y Carolina Bonaventura dancing to Tango Negro: