A milonga orchestra of two: Duo Ben & Winnie celebrates tango’s creative treasons with the release of La Próxima Traición
Billboard Top 10 musicians and tango composer/educator team Ben & Winnie is masterful at taking the raw energy and complex interpretive pathways of the full tango orchestra and distilling them down to the intimate interpersonal connection of a duo performance. Whether tracing stylistic developments throughout the genre’s history with unique arrangements of traditional tango pieces or suggesting innovative musical disruptions with their own fiery original compositions, the duo’s music is always about human connection and inspiration.
With their latest album La Próxima Traición (to be released May 15th, 2020), Ben Bogart (Bandoneon) and Winnie Cheung (Piano) pay homage to tango’s tradition of revolutionary innovation at the pinnacle of their musical expression. In the process, tango becomes the vehicle to transport audiences from wildly disparate walks of life to the musical common ground of the global citizen — with a message to galvanize positive social change and climate awareness with a call to action to do everything we can to leave the planet in better shape than we found it.
Recorded in the heart of Buenos Aires at Fort Studios (the studio historically known for its role in the counterculture element of Argentina) and mixed and mastered at El Jardin del furor, the album’s tracks range from traditional Argentine tango pieces of the 1920s, superbly stripped down and rearranged for bandoneon and piano, to the newest title track number composed specifically with Ben & Winnie’s piano, bandoneon, and banter-filled creative dynamic in mind.
La Próxima Traición could be translated literally as “the next treason” or “the upcoming betrayal” and the title speaks to Ben & Winnie’s attraction to the revolutionary nature of how tango has developed over time. The genre’s process of evolution has always been instigated by rebel artists breaking through the baseline. It is an aesthetic transformation via periodic creative ruptures in the paradigm of the time; artistic upheavals that often mirror cultural or political discord in society.
Ben & Winnie notes that current trends in tango are indicative of what is currently happening in Argentina, where the tango is getting a little rough, a little loud, a little heavy in the bass. Surface elements of Ben & Winnie’s music are resonating with what is new in tango, and what is being created in Argentina now. The time is right for the next traición.
The duo describes it as a ‘dumping out of the drawer’ to reorganize or declutter, socially, politically, and artistically. “To us, the most important part is turning the everyday upside-down,” says the duo. “You take the drawer out and you dump everything. Not always just to throw everything away. You can sort it, you can reorganize it, you can take out the crap and put back what you need, or you can create a whole new system to organize. There are many things you can do …but the one thing we have to do is periodically turn the drawer upside down.”
As artists, both have been deeply inspired by those giants of tango history whose work is featured on the CD, including Aníbal Troilo, Osvaldo Pugliese, Juan D’Arienzo. Though initially at creative odds with their contemporaries, each is now celebrated for having taken some social or musical element of the tango of their time and revolutionizing it.
“They embraced the tango they loved and then did something new, maybe even scandalous to it,” reflects Ben. “They were all courageous and unapologetic, and they initiated changes that were focused and piercing in their genre. Each believed in their path, and executed their beliefs with charisma and personality. We want to do the same.”
That disorderly spirit of creation is the defining thematic thread stitched so skilfully through La Próxima Traición and is perhaps most explicit on the album’s title track. Penned specifically for the duo by contemporary composer and Indiana University professor Aaron Travers, “La Próxima Traición” is a piece that reflects their vision of a new tango sound for today. Ben & Winnie breathes easily in the traditional tango elements of the song, yet incorporate with vigor the new tango inspirations that inform the traición that is their latest work.
One of the many creative ways the duo has devised to make their tango a participatory collective experience, is to fit “La Próxima Traición” with optional parts for amateurs, young children, or beginning instrumentalists to join Ben & Winnie in playing what is a rather difficult piece. They endeavor to support and encourage musicians of all levels and ages to participate in tango, and this is one of their many efforts to showcase that support.
Connecting with their audiences on a deeply human level around the causes that are important to them is a central element of Ben & Winnie’s philosophy. Whether making conscious efforts on their tours to achieve a negative carbon footprint or raising funds for climate action and positive social change, Ben & Winnie always gives their all — when playing for dancers and listeners who can attend their shows, and for those who cannot. With a mission to make tango accessible and to share artistic expression with people whom they might not otherwise encounter in life, the duo regularly puts on voluntary shows and educational workshops at prisons, schools, hospitals, dementia homes, and assisted living facilities.
“Ben and Winnie should not even know each other, but in fact we know each other quite well, all because of tango. We want to share this with audiences and bring everyone together — children, seniors, Argentines, non-Argentines — whoever you are. We are in this “traición” together, whether you want it or not. There are urgent and sweeping matters — like saving the planet — that require you to immediately leave the inertia you live in, and indulge in your own traición, now.”
*Source: Rock Paper Scissors PR