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Newcomer Gotan Project - winners in the Newcomer category

Gotan Project (France)

Winners in the Newcomer category

Song : Santa Maria (del buen ayre)
Album : La Revancha del Tango (XL recordings, UK)

More on BBCi : Gilles Peterson interview

Tango was, arguably, the first Latin American dance form to make an impression on the European public, arriving as it did in Paris from Buenos Aires at the start of the 20th Century and sparking a craze for the dance that has never died. Yet across the last century the popularity of tango as a musical form has waxed and waned – Rudolph Valentino briefly turned it into an international phenomenon, Astor Piazolla transformed tango into an art music comparable to jazz or contemporary classical – yet it has taken the Parisian outfit Gotan Project to shift tango out of the dancehalls and into Western Europe's clubs and cafes.

Gotan Project – Gotan being a play upon "tango" – consists of a core nucleus of three French musicians: Phillippe Cohen Solal, Eduardo Makaroff and Christoph H. Muller. They are joined by several exceptional Argentinian musicians: vocalist Cristina Vilallonga, pianist Gustavo Beytelmann and bandoneon (the tango accordion) player Nini Flores. Their album La Revancha Del Tango (XL) was released in 2001 and quickly became a favourite with discerning DJs and listeners across Europe and Latin America.

What makes Gotan Project's take on tango so attractive? It wasn’t simply that they brought a fresh approach and wit to tango. What Gotan pioneered was a way to build bridges between tango and Jamaican dub music. Dub music has arguably been the most radical music form of the last quarter century – spawning everything from hip-hop to ambient drift – and Gotan Project realised by employing dub's ability to distort and colour sound they could reshape tango while retaining its weary, soulful beauty.

Initially they released three ten-inch singles on their own Ya Basta label. Almost immediately the likes of Radio 1 DJ Giles Peterson were championing the band and they became the hottest flavour in France. A deal with XL followed and the La Revancha Del Tango album was immediately recognised as a contemporary classic.

'The thing we wanted for the album is to make something with one sound, one mood,' says Phillipe. 'And I think that the tango music is quite melancholic. We wanted a very raw sound for the drums, something very organic. We wanted to make a short album with just essential tracks.'

Garth Cartwright 2002

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