How does it all begin?

THE JOURNEY OF A TANGO SONG

From its origin in old times, to its collectors, through the washing machine onto the dance floor – follow the intriguing journey of a Tango song.

The journey

Tango in Buenos Aires

Tango has its origins in the 30s and 40ies of the last century (the so-called Golden Era) in Buenos Aires. Back then, Tango orchestras were playing live at milongas and went to the studio to record Tango songs on tapes and shellacs.

Each Tango song was played live in the studio and recorded 1:1, uncut. It is amazing to hear what the orchestras of that time were able to play on prompt.

Up to now, we are only aware of six collections available worldwide.

The Pressing of a Shellac

The Collectors and their Collections​

All over the world, but mainly in Buenos Aires in Argentina are collectors young and old, who enjoy collecting shellac discs and other things Tango. Some of the collected discs have never been played – because this is not what it is about.

These collectors often have the largest knowledge about the material and the topic in general. Unfortunately, not everybody shares their passion for this pastime and it has happened before that some collector left their collection to their heirs, who were not too sure what to do with it. More often than necessary, collections end up on the bulky waste, in vintage shops, are broken during transport or burnt in backyards. Were collections are kept, they might be stored in a dark basement, hidden in shelves and boxes.

None of this is ideal and what those shellac discs were meant for: To be played, to bring music joy to listeners.

It is very important that an independent organization like TITAF acquires these collections.
shelf full of shellacs

Acquisition of a Collection

Ideally, there is not only one shellac of each tune, but more than one: To the naked eye, all shellacs are black. In reality, one cannot see the quality of a shellac. There are badly scratched shellacs that produce better sound quality than some perfectly fine and clean discs that have never been played before. This can be mainly attributed to production conditions.

Filing

Are shellac discs bought in bulk from collectors, it is always a big Hello! in the archive. Before shellac discs are put in their final shelves for long time storage, they undergo a certain process:

  • The shellac is thoroughly examined and screened.
  • The discs are roughly sorted into orchestras and time periods.
  • Shellacs are indexed and their data is put into a database, among the data: matrix no, shellac no, recording date, orchestra, singer etc.

Cleaning & Photographing

  • The shellac is washed by a professional shellac washing machine, which is basically a tiny wet vacuum cleaner in disguise of a record player.
  • The shellac label is then photographed from both sides in the studio. The photographs are also indexed and named according to the database. 
  • After the sound transfer, the shellac will be stored in a clean, dry and safe storage room.

The Sound Transfer: Raw & Master Copy

The sound transfer happens on the basis of international archiving standards. This allows the usage of the digital copy at a later point in time and the initiation of a retransfer. We call this the “raw copy”, which is mainly generated for archiving.

Parallel there is a master transfer created. This digital copy is going through a different post process and undergoes slight sound corrections, like the erasure of so-called “pops” and “clicks”, which are, as you may assume, unwanted sound distortions.

Both digital copies are meta-tagged and accordingly digitally stored. 

(c) Murat Erdemsel

Publication

Some of the best transfers make it to the online stores of TangoTunes or mytango.online, where they are available for purchase.

Every shellac deserves its right transfer.

—Christian Xell, founder

The shellac transfer

Get to see how it works

A shellac transfer is an elaborate, difficult and time-consuming process. 

The storage

See how we store shellacs

A shellac transfer is an elaborate, difficult and time-consuming process. 

Let's face it: If we don't act now, there is a high chance a lot of the material will be gone in 10 years time.“

—Franklin Boulder, musician

About the Foundation

Our Headquarters is at the Milonga

Although we work at sound machines, computers, record players, and converters, the center of our attention is still among dancers: That’s where the culture is alive and the magic happens. Read on about our activities and mission.

Help us preserve Tango music and donate now!

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