At times, tango seems like a form rife with paradox. Born of urban poverty in 19th century South America, it is nonetheless mobile enough to be a modern-day staple in Euro-American ballroom dancing. It’s perhaps as popular in Finland as it is in Argentina and Uruguay, which contest each other in claims to tango ownership. The tango changes, of course, from place to place, era to era, shifting between disparate contexts yet always distinct in form.
For Ben Bogart and Winnie Cheung — simply known as Ben & Winnie to their audiences, who come to see the duo perform and teach at prisons, schools, hospitals, and assisted living facilities, among more traditional venues — there’s nothing contradictory about it. Such range, that capacity for creation and change, is what makes tango so vital.
With the title track from their upcoming album La Próxima Traición, written for the duo by composer and Indiana University professor Aaron Travers, Ben and Winnie take tango in yet another direction, one they capture in full color with the single’s new video. As they put it, the duo “had an experience of a lifetime working with the team led by videographer Diego Tomasevic on ‘La Próxima Traición’. Dressed in our Sunday best, we played this deliciously scandalous new tango from morning till night in different birthplaces of tango.”
A whole new system is exactly what Ben and Winnie bring to the table with “La Próxima Traición” — “the next treason” in English — and brilliantly so. Recorded in Buenos Aires, Cheung’s piano work is remarkable as she moves from harsh, heavy slams of the keys to quick staccato to fluid melody, all flowing into a single, dramatic story arc. Alongside her on the bandoneón, Bogart brings fire and intrigue to the mix. She brings the gravity; he brings the movement — a perfect revolution.
Intercut in the video with footage of dancers executing sharply modern choreography are images of the musicians themselves in places that range “from the fanciest hotel to the abandoned church of a women’s shelter, to the flicking light of dusk amidst a field of yellow mustard flowers in Luján”. As they play, they take their place in a long and ever-growing line of revolutionary tango musicians, lending their distinct sensibilities to a beloved form of music. “Tango has always been a popular music,” the duo continue. “We are ecstatic to see that it is being treated that way again.”
La Próxima Traición releases on 15 May via Tanguero Records, and is available for pre-order now, with proceeds benefiting tango musicians around the world collaborating and creating while in isolation. The single “La Próxima Traición” is available for free download.