Sometimes it takes twelve to tango. Just ask the members of Orquesta Típica Fernández Fierro, who came together in 2001 at the School of Popular Music of Avellaneda in Buenos Aires to form the first Argentine tango orchestra in decades. A slightly unkempt group of t-shirt wearing quasi-revolutionaries whose weapons of choice are bandoneóns and violins instead of guitars and guns, OTFF have quickly made a name for themselves as the next generation of tango music.
Contrary to their look (and their chosen motto as “traitors of tradition”), OTFF are the archetypical tango orchestra in form—a string section of violins, viola and cello, a bass and piano for rhythm, a singer, and of course, the accordion-like bandoneóns. Their music by nature carries the influence of such tango greats as Astor Piazzolla and Osvaldo Pugliese, but they pave their own way with new arrangements of traditional tangos, as well as original compositions that verge on the avant garde. It’s tango with a solar flare of rock as its heart—as aggressive as it is beautifully crafted.
OTFF started out playing in the busy streets of Buenos Aires, despite resistance from law enforcement. It wasn’t long before they were offered a deal with a multinational record label, but they turned it down to remain disengaged from industry politics. Their garage band exterior gives them an edge with the younger crowd, while their musical stylings stir the hearts of those older and more familiar with tango, who see the music’s past as a source of national pride.
The group has independently released four albums their latest is 2006’s Mucha Mierda, which features a radical hybrid of Piazzolla’s “Buenos Aires Hora Cero” and Jaime Roos and Raul Castro’s “Las Luces Del Estadio.” After their first European tour in 2003, they established the Club Atlético Fernández Fierro (CAFF) in Buenos Aires—deemed the city’s most important youth venue for tango music and dance—where they perform regularly.
They’re also the subject of the 2005 award-winning documentary Orquesta Típica which, not unlike a punkier version of Buena Vista Social Club, chronicles the group’s performances and misadventures while on tour in Europe. “Just as many other Argentineans my age, I didn’t care much for tango until, by chance, I came across the Orquesta,” says director/producer Nicolas Entel. “First I saw twelve guys looking like wannabe rock-stars pushing a piano down the street. Then I heard them play.”