Music: Vayo


Vayo is the heart, soul and voice of tango today.  Born and raised in Uruguay, he has made his home in the United States for many years. Vayo Raimondo is one of only a handful of artists in the history of tango who both writes and sings new tango music as well as traditional themes.

He primarily sings in Spanish (the original tango language), but also quite comfortably in English.  All of these attributes are spotlighted on his new recording, simply titled Tango.

Vayo (pronounced vah’-joe) -- who was nominated for a “Best Tango Album” 2007 Latin Grammy Award with his previous Tango Legends album -- understands the traditional aspects of tango music, and always performs with acoustic instruments.  But he feels that to keep tango alive and vital, he needs to make it speak to today’s audience by offering his own contemporary compositions and lyrics as well as variations from the tango musical structure (sometimes incorporating a milonga or other musical forms)  “It’s a continuing evolution,” Vayo explains.

Vayo’s CDs can be purchased at major stores throughout the United States, or online at his own website ( or  Individual songs are available for purchase at numerous internet digital download locations including iTunes and Rhapsody.

In addition to writing his own material, another aspect that sets Vayo apart in the world of tango is his singing style -- smooth and melodic, but also powerful, soulful and dramatic.  “I am concerned with the message, so I fashion my singing manner and phrasing to the poetry the lyrics are telling, whether it is melancholy, wistful, happy, loving, descriptive or exuberant.  The musical accompaniment must also be consistent with what is being expressed.  The feeling and mood are of utmost importance whether the audience understands the lyrics or not.  Listening then becomes an intimate experience.”

For each of his dozen albums, Vayo has returned to his homeland in Uruguay to work with some of the best tango musicians (tangueros) there, all of them with decades of mastery in the field.  His main collaborator is his longtime friend Miguel Pose, who plays double bass.  In addition to playing his instrument, Pose is the Artistic Director of the Montevideo Symphonic Band and frequently conducts symphony orchestras.  On this Tango CD, Vayo also works with his other greatly respected bandmembers: guitarist Julio Cobelli and bandoneon player Edison Bordon.  However, a few tracks were recorded incorporating Vayo’s previous group: Mario Nuñez on guitar and Toto Damario or Nestor Vaz on bandoneon.

Two themes on the recording receive a more contemporary approach by the participation of a full drum kit played by Roman Raimondo.  The bandoneon, the essential traditional instrument for tango, is a type of reed accordion with buttons for both hands but without a keyboard.

“We record the music with only the necessary rehearsal to keep it as fresh, spontaneous and expressive as possible,” states Vayo.  “After I select my own new material or a classic piece, I gather the musicians and speak to them about the lyrics, the intention and state of mind of the theme, as well as the musical structure and tempo.  Following my arrangement or instant pointers, we develop the pace, rhythms, transitions and any variations to the melody.  A few passes to polish the phrasing and to hear the ensemble are enough to move into recording.  We usually capture the performance we want in one or two takes, at most three.  We feel this keeps the music exciting and vibrant.”

The Tango album begins and ends with traditional classics composed nearly a century ago.  First Vayo does his new version of “La Cumparsita” (probably the best-known tango in the world).  The CD ends with “Milonga Sentimental” where the protagonist expresses conflicting emotions because his woman has left him, but also laughs at himself because of his need for her.

In between these traditional themes are seven compositions by Vayo including the tongue-in-cheek “Three to Tango” which is sung in English.  Vayo interprets a variety of lyrical themes including “Celos” (jealousy), “Soledad” (loneness), “Ámame” (love me), “Nunca me Amó” (she never loved me) and also the vibrant “Dulce Engaño” (sweet deceit).  He also wrote a tango (“Daniela”) remembering a dazzling Brazilian artist he met at the Latin Grammy Awards.

A century ago tango music originated simultaneously in Argentina and Uruguay on either side of the River Plate.  First created in the barrios, bordellos and working-class areas of those two countries’ main cities, Buenos Aires and Montevideo, tango was a shared cultural bond.  Those urban communities were an international ethnic melting pot for European immigrants at the start of the Twentieth Century, and tango emerged from the energy of that multicultural scene.  The music eventually spread around the world.  From the beginning, the music and dance were virtually inseparable.

However the famous tango singers of the 1920s, such as Carlos Gardel and Ignacio Corsini, were so respected that the audiences would stop dancing to listen to them.  Through the decades tango emerged as an ever-popular and timeless music.  Most tangos feature a singer, but occasionally the music is instrumental, especially when used in dancing scenes in international films or when played by small groups.  Astor Piazzolla developed the original fusion of tango with jazz and seldom used singers.  Vayo presented his own instrumental compositions in the tango genre in his album Soñador (Dreamer).

Vayo Raimondo was born and raised in Montevideo, his family descendants of Italian immigrants.  His grandmother taught him to appreciate Italian operas, but the songs most often heard on the radio during his childhood were tangos.  As a young man, Vayo listened and danced to many of the greatest tango big bands that formed when trained musicians moved into the tango world.  During his youth Vayo performed in community theater opera productions as well as several stage plays.

Although Vayo has surrounded himself with art throughout his life, he also has had a long and satisfying career in the United States as a structural engineer.  He lived in New York for several years and enjoyed performances at the Metropolitan Opera every week.  He regularly went to the ballet and to art museums.  Vayo also lived in Italy where he took singing lessons and continued his exposure to music and other fine arts.  For many years he has collected and studied tango recordings, and he became such an authority on the music that he was invited to lecture on the history of tango at the University of Oslo, Norway.

He also composed classical music that was played by the BBC of London and was used by the world-class dancer Irek Mukhamedov in the “Prix Benois de la Dance” at the Sadlers Wells Theatre in London.  That success led to touring in Europe after Vayo and Irek created a show called “Montevideo Cafe Concert” centered around tango with Vayo singing his original music and Irek dancing with members of the English National Ballet.

Vayo has released a dozen albums over the past decade.  One of the most acclaimed was Tango Legends which received numerous positive reviews, extensive airplay and the Latin Grammy nomination confirming it as one of the top four tango albums that year.  Vayo began his recording career with I Am A Tango (classic tango traditions) and At the Edge of Night (original tangos he composed).  On Tangoplus, which he also composed, Vayo began venturing beyond the tango form.  On Grandchild, Come Home, he says “I showed my American side, sang in English and expressed some of my socio-political views.”

With the CD Tangos Classicos y Tangos Nuevos, Vayo fully integrated drums and percussion into the music.  With Tropical, he explored Latin music from Cuba and Central America (including a bolero written in the 1850s) and utilized wind instruments and percussion.  He followed this with an album of all original compositions, Amame (Love Me), and the instrumental Soñador.  Vayo stretched even further with Fantasias y Dulces Sueños (Fantasies and Sweet Dreams), a recording of children’s songs that included cellos, trombones, tubas, trumpets and drums.  As a companion piece to the new Tango recording (which explores the urban side of tango music), Vayo has released Gaucho (reflective of rural life). 

“At first tango was simply a part of my formative life, and later a sentimental way to remind me of my past.  Eventually I understood it is important to not only keep tango alive, but make it relevant for contemporary audiences.  While I continue to relate to the music from the past and its rich traditions, the music I make today must be reflective of our present world."

© 2009 Music Entertainment Magazine. All rights reserved.

Entertainment Magazine

Vayo Music CD's from Amazon

The singer known as VAYO (originally from Uruguay but now living in the United States) is one of the top tango singers in the world.  He has ten albums out and the latest (which we just sent to you) is simply titled TANGO.  His previous CD, TANGO LEGENDS, was nominated for BEST TANGO ALBUM at the LATIN GRAMMY AWARDS (only four recordings were nominated).
Vayo works hard at keeping the traditional tango sound alive.  Vayo primarily sings in Spanish (the original tango language); works with experienced, top tango musicians from Uruguay; and only uses acoustic, traditional instruments (such as the requisite bandoneon).  This makes for an authentic tango sound.  However, even though Vayo includes a couple of classic tangos on the new recording, he mostly writes new tango music incorporating modern ideas and thoughts into the lyrics.

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