The Gotan Project performs in concert with a stunning stage setup. (Photo: Mario Ubeda Garcia)
From food to art to music, fusion is all the rage, especially here in Argentina. So when Buenos Aires native Eduardo Makaroff arrived in Paris, France, it only seemed fitting to start a band that would blend the sultry notes of the Argentine tango with modern beats and even some bluesy jazz riffs.
The Gotan Project, founded in 2001, brought together three musicians from three very different backgrounds. Makaroff, born in Argentina, Philippe Cohen Solal, born in France, and Christoph H Müller, born in Switzerland. Together they form the band that is the magic behind the music of The Gotan Project.
“I’d been seduced by the bandoneón as an instrument and was curious about hearing it outside of its traditional bubble. Gotan Project not only established a unique and highly influential sound but they’ve also preserved the class and elegance of this instrument,” writes BBC Radio host Gilles Peterson on the band’s website.
The group released their first album in 2001 called La Revancha del Tango of which “Tríptico,” “Una Musica Brutal,” and “Santa María (Del Buen Ayre)” became the most popular songs on the track.
The music layers the traditional tango rhythm of the bandeón with a hip modern electronic beat. The result is a hypnotic tango rhythm that lulls you into a vision of sensuous tango dancers in smoky bars.
The Gotan project got its name from a play on the famous tango compilation album that featured several American classical musicians who came together to record a tango album, originally released in 1982. This album, called the Tango Project, includes a rendition of the famous Carlos Gardel’s and Alfred Le Pera’s “Por Una Cabeza.” Following the success of the Tango Project album the trio decided to give themselves a name that would pay tribute to the album, hence “Gotan.”
The group’s next CD released in 2004 was called Inspiración Espiración. It was followed by three more CDs, Lúnatico in 2006, Gotan Project Live in 2008, and Tango 3.0 in 2010.
However, in the first four albums the Gotan Project rarely stepped out of their musical niche. The group was indeed one of the first to fuse tango with an electronic beat but after listening to more than three or four songs they all begin to sound the same. There is little variance between beats and many of the songs are composed in the exact same way. They start with a violin, add a beat, and then eventually bring in the final layer the bandoneón. They quickly become predictable.
Fortunately, the group challenged themselves more with the album Tango 3.0. While still maintaining their understated beats and atmospheres rooted in the dusty backstreets of Buenos Aires and Paris, they brought in numerous other musicians and styles of music.
“Although in Tango 3.0 Gotan Project remain faithful to their founding principles, they have also managed to push the musical barriers further by inviting an exciting host of guests and collaborators,” writes Peterson.
The rich voices of Cristina Vilallonga on “Peligro” and Melingo in “Tu Misterio” add some flare and mood to the music. The trumpet in “Tango Square” wafts in and out painting the picture in your mind of a Chicago jazz club. Argentine author Julio Cortázar reads from his famous novel Rayuela (Hopscotch) on the track of the same name, while children count the numbers as the tango dancers swirl around the hopscotch pad. Even famous football commentator Victor Hugo Morales lends his voice by changing his legendary GOOOOOOOAAAAAAL to GOOOOOOOTAN in “La Gloria.”
Tango 3.0 brought a fresh sound to the group’s music and revived what was becoming a tad redundant.
The Gotan Project’s most recent record, La Revencha en Cumbia, released in 2011, pushes the band even further outside it’s niche by melting together tango and cumbia.
“Epoca” the first song on the album, is a magnificent mix that layers numerous instruments building up to the climax of when the traditional cumbia beat drops. Cumbia, is a famous Colombian music genre that originates from the Carribean coastal region. Cumbia itself is a musical and cultural fusion of slaves brought from Africa and the Spanish during colonial times.
Throughout the band’s history they have enjoyed success on an international platform. Their music has been featured in numerous movies including, Shall We Dance? Ocean’s Twelve, and Knight and Day. It has also appeared on many TV shows Nip/Tuck, Sex and the City, Brothers and Sisters, and Dancing with the Star to name a few.
Today the Gotan Project is still together performing for audiences across the globe. Hopefully, they will continue to push themselves even farther and mix the traditional Argentine tango with new and exciting cultural instruments and rhythms.
Genre: Electronic Tango
Most Well-known Song: Santa Maria (Del Buen Ayre)
Best to Listen To: At home with your significant other over a romantic meal or while practicing you tango.
Lead Photo: Mario Ubeda Garcia