Monday, 2 August 2010

Tanda Display Book

A DJ[dancer - see comments] in the USA called Sarah L. Rattray has a useful invention: the TangoTandas Display Book, handily announcing the orchestra and singer for the current tanda, for DJs who get tired of being asked. And since it's visible to everyone whether or not they would ever have thought of asking (and whether or not they even knew there were supposed to be tandas or that they were sets of the same type from the same orchestra with the same singer, if any) a neat way to educate the public.

I've often wished there were some sort of display that could show the CD artwork, as I can remember the look of a cover, and relate it to a sound, much more accurately than names. But this is nicer than an electronic display, and seeing it written is almost as good as a visual.

It also has a "Next Tanda" supplement consisting of some reversible flash-cards saying "TANGO", "MILONGA", "VALS", "CHACARERA", "ALTERNATIVE", and a smaller book of orchestra names to go underneath so people can know who to look for and when to hide. Only think, the truly clueless could even use it to figure out the difference between tango, milonga, and vals. She's even thought of giving the book the right sort of backing so you can write in any omissions with a dry-wipe marker. So you could announce "HIPHOP" or "RANDOM BALLS" if that's your thing, but you'd have to think about it.

It's very nicely designed and presented, and if you'd like one you can order online and pay by paypal. I think it would be a lot of work to compile your own, and certainly a lot of work to present it so nicely; but there's no copyright in an idea (although there is in a compilation), so you could perfectly well do that. The book would be a bit heavy for shipping.

I wonder if this is the same as the display that UnaMilonguera observed in Paris, also used by a lady DJ, if I have read that correctly? Or was that a simpler version, with its extra card announcing "The DJ is dancing"? Obviously a simpler and lighter customised version would be possible, perhaps with an integral stand and light, and leaving out everything you personally don't use - I'm visualising some sort of fuzzy-felt contraption with NOW and NEXT headings that fits in the big pocket of a laptop bag. Obviously there's some duplication from printing orchestra and singer on the same page, if they were seperate elements you could reduce the total bulk slightly. And if you didn't make visual distinction between now and next such a priority in the information section of the display - if you could just swap them round under two clearly-distinguished headings - it would be quicker to use.

But it's neat, classy, practical and informative. I like it.

I'm not sure how to spell Chacarera. Is that right?


LimerickTango said...

When I have a the equipment available I project the playlist, including genre info, onto a blank wall.

ghost said...

David and I were discussing this idea recently. It would be particularly useful downstairs in Negracha to know whether it was worth the trip upstairs or not at any given point in time.

Likewise it would be useful to know whereabouts in a tanda the DJ was.

(My current method is simply to ask someone I know whereabouts things are tanda wise, but I still have to make the trip upstairs to do so)

As an added bonus clarification that what you're listenning to is indeed a milonga would be helpful to a number of dancers especially on some of the more abstract ones.

Anonymous said...

The Eton milonga projects the current and next tanda (milonga, vals, tango) ... which is great for planning if you want to dance the next tango or go for a tea break ... (or to locate your cabaceo target)

msHedgehog said...

My only problem with the projection option is that it requires the place to be so damn dark.

Simba said...

Yes to chacarera.

I started to write a comment, but it ended up as a post on the subject.

Personally I try to pay attention to what is played and like to listen to the start of the first song before asking someone to dance, but it can probably be very useful for beginners.

LimerickTango said...

Alternatively, given the amount of technology we carry around in our pockets, the playlist could be broadcast wirelessly. Either through bluetooth or WiFi. The best option would be the MPD server/client which can be password protected to stop clients changing the playlist.

remerson said...

Displaying tanda information is a good idea, but displaying it with a beautifully designed book is genius. What a lovely way to maintain the vintage elegance that so many people look for in tango (even if the DJ is actually using a laptop ;)

Tangocommuter said...

An excellent idea to name orquestas. All due credit to her for making a book and selling it - but surely a whiteboard on the DJ's table would perform the same function for less. Whether the board is supplied by the organisers or the DJ, it might help everyone to think more about the music because it suggests that the music matters. & even if you can recognise music it's not always what's first on your mind when you are on the floor.

Captain Jep said...

Very nice. And yes very elegant. But if I've read rightly, it is also very expensive.

$100 to display current artist
+$35 to specify next tanda (what genre)
+$30 for display stand

Personally I prefer the idea of a projection system more. Especially in a crowded room. It would be even better if you could see the name of the currently playing tune.

However, projection systems arent cheap either! So ... are there any cut price options out there?

ghost said...

A white board with


on it and a magnetic marker that gets moved along?

Maybe have a playlist next to it so you could go and have a look during the cortina if there was a song you really liked in that tanda, or during your drink break to see what's coming up (though some thought would be needed so this didn't end up causing an obstruction on the dancefloor.)

remerson said...

Well you could always design and print your own tanda book, I guess. Any high-street print shop would be able to ring-bind it for you. You'd save a hundred quid -- but use a lot of time ;)

As for a projection solution, I expect you can get a reasonable basic projector for a hundred quid these days. Then you still have a load of work to do in PowerPoint or Keynote to make it look pretty... and it's never going to look like something out of the 1940s :(

$100 does seem steep at first glance. But I reckon it's actually not a bad deal.

NYC Tango Pilgrim said...

It might be a good idea at first thought, but the display book is way too small for any decent size regular milonga, let alone for any size of festival. And it is passive. In Buenos Aires, in some traditional milongas, some DJs announce the next tanda with info such as orchestra, if vocal, the name of the singer. There is more interaction between DJ and the dancers. All you need is nothing more than a mic and a willing DJ.

Also, isn't it the dancers' responsibility to find out the music that they dance to? :-) What stops you to ask the DJ for the info of the songs that were played? Most of the DJs are more than happy to share the info.

msHedgehog said...

Including the ones she gives on the website, these would be my most obvious, off-the-top-of-my-head reasons for this being better than asking:

The chances of remembering all the names from being told are close to zero, the chances of remembering them from seeing it written down in big letters are quite good.
Maybe you are on the other side of the room and you don't want to kill the moment, and then it is gone.
Maybe you want to know but are embarrassed to ask twice, or at all, especially if you have the impression that everyone else thinks it should be obvious, or maybe you think you know but you are not quite sure, or maybe you are just shy, or conceivably you are very curious but in some doubt about whether you are asking too often and looking like a pretentious teacher's pet and embarrassing other people, people are only human.
(Maybe the DJ is a decent DJ but a total arse and a sleazeball and you don't choose to address them. It could happen, although I see why that's not a selling point.)
Not everyone is perfect and not everyone is all that bright, musically or in any other respect, why would they know how to ask or what to ask for? Why would they know that the information is useful? Displaying it communicates not just the information itself, but a giant message that the information is important.

It looks quite big to me, and many good milongas are physically small; but it's hard to judge on screen. It looks like bigger than A4 size.

ghost said...

While I agree with MsH and can think of quite a few more reasons, in my experience DJs usually have a scrap of paper and a pen around and will write down the info if you ask nicely.

Anonymous said...

Ms H, I couldn't agree more. I really want to put names to the music I recognise - but I can't be asking the DJ all the time, it's a hassle, after a few times it becomes embarrassing and (I fear) annoying to the DJ. What would happen if we all did that? I also like your point about the display sending a message that music is important. I really hope London DJs are reading this, please please please, we want this!

Chris, UK said...

MsHedgehog wrote "I've often wished there were some sort of display that could show the CD artwork"

There is. I saw one last Saturday at one of my favourite milongas in Europe, Tangloft in Stuttgart. But actually the CD artwork is not very useful. Many tracks are found on different CDs, and and some CDs have no artwork.

"My only problem with the projection option is that it requires the place to be so damn dark."

Tangoloft is lit more brightly than average. The projection is bright, and to avoid distracting at the dance floor, is out of sight of it.

Anon wrote "I also like your point about the display sending a message that music is important. "

I find the sound doed a good job of that! :)

Chris, UK said...

MsHedgehog wrote: "The chances of remembering all the names from being told are close to zero, the chances of remembering them from seeing it written down in big letters are quite good."

Better still is a record you can view at leisure, linking to the CD info and providing an audio sample. Hence this works well: . When you hear a track you want to ID, make a mental note of the time, then look up that time on the list that appears on the web the following day.

David Bailey said...

@Ghost: - "David and I were discussing this idea recently. It would be particularly useful downstairs in Negracha to know whether it was worth the trip upstairs or not at any given point in time. "
Yes, it's a common issue with multi-room venues, especially if there's a signnificant distance (more than 10 seconds' walk, from experience) between rooms.

The Utopia team in Modern Jive used to project "Current / Next track" displays - I assume they still do. Similarly, yes, the Eton milongas do this. The benefit of projection, of course, is that you can see it from the whole room, plus it's not beyond the wit of man to tie it into your playlist, so projection can be done (and changed) automatically.

Somewhere like the Crypt would be ideal for this - they already project displays onto the far wall. And it'd save us trying to hear Paul's announcements :)

David Bailey said...

Also, in terms of remembering the playlist afterwards, it'd be nice if more DJs posted their past playlists on their sites. Again, this is a simple export process.

I suspect the problem here is that DJs think they'll be giving away their IP or something. Which is ridiculous of course.

Captain Jep said...

I've found a nice little app which I've been playing around with :

(for iTunes on PC)

It will display the current song on your screensaver and also the next 5 songs in your list at the bottom.

This allows you to be aware of
a) what the current song is
b) where one is in the tanda
c) and (in theory) what's in the next tanda

Now if only I had something to project the screensaver with ..... lol ...

mspigeon said...

Did you notice that your blog was mentioned in The Times a couple of weeks ago? In a piece by Chloe Lambert.

ghost said...


Tango is back and it’s hot to trot
Chloe Lambert

* The Times
* Published: 19 July 2010
* Stage
* Arts

...Dancing. Milongas and tango lessons are popping up in pubs and restaurants all over the country, while tango blogs (try and offer musings on everything from dancefloor manners to Diego Maradona...


I've gotta be the first person to search the Times for MsHedgehog!

Chris, UK said...

"the Eton milongas do this"

Not that I've seen. What they display is only e.g. NOW: VALS, NEXT: TANGO, not titles or artists.

But I do wonder who needs to be told vals is playing...

"it'd be nice if more DJs posted their past playlists... I suspect the problem here is that DJs think they'll be giving away their IP "

Indeed that was the majority position when this was last proposed on the Tango-DJ group. These people are more frequently discussing techniques for preventing people IDing what's playing e.g. using a screensaver to avoid laptop-peeking. Amazing.

msHedgehog said...

Oh! I had no idea at all about being mentioned in The Times. How lovely! That's encouraging.

Anonymous said...

A DJ here in LA has been doing that for several months. Format is similar. I'm wondering if he ordered a copy or made his own?

Anonymous said...

A bit late I know but Tango South at there Milonga in Farnham Project whats playing in the current Tanda and what is coming next it is very helpfull in making the decision of wether to dance and if so who with

Sarah said...

What a pleasure to read this discussion on your blog! To correct one small piece of mis-information - I am not actually a DJ, but instead a Tango enthusiast who is always curious about the music that is playing... although DJing is likely in my future. Now that the display is being used by more and more DJs, I love the ability to peep open one eye and catch a quick glance towards the DJ table to satisfy my curiosity. When I don't know right away the orchestra on my own, I sometimes become distracted from the dance while trying to figure it out... being able to quickly glance over settles my curiosity and I can return to the embrace and enjoy the music all the more.

The book is large enough to be easily seen in most milongas and festivals I've been to - not always from across the room, but as one is approaching the DJ table it is usually easy to see.

There are many excellent ideas for conveying the information to dancers... high- and low-tech alike. Personally I would be delighted to see an easy system for not only displaying the orchestra and singer, but the name of the song as well. I am not a computer programming person, so I leave that up to others to make available. I love MsHedgehog's list of reasons why one might wish to glance over and see the orchestra and singer displayed! So accurate, and entertaining as well!

Someone mentioned wishing that London DJs are reading this post... if anyone would like to, feel free to send me an email with contact information for your milonga or practica anywhere. I'd be happy to contact your local DJs by email and let them know about this book and the Next Tanda set. Some communities have Tango Societies, and that is an excellent way to join together to purchase one for the community and several DJs to share.

Johanna mentioned that a DJ in Los Angeles has been using one for some time... assuming that DJ is Miguel Cardoso, yes, it is one of mine, and he has been using it since the book was first printed. He, and a couple of other knowledgeable DJs, provided invaluable advice on the final selection of singers and orchestras to include.

I would be pleased to offer readers of your blog free shipping within the US. Looks like your readers are international... we could explore shipping options, or any willing friends who might be traveling in the US and can bring one home. I would also be happy to offer a discount to international DJs who might wish to get together and order a few of the books at the same time.

Contact me with any questions!

- Sarah Rattray
Seattle, Washington

msHedgehog said...

Hi Sarah, thanks so much for your comment! Most of my readers as far as I know are in Britain and Europe. Shipping for such a heavy thing could easily be more than the price; you might look into the possibility of having it printed here.

But it's great to hear from you - and always great to hear from new contributors.