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Mar. 10, 2015 - Updated 04:16 UTC

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New take on tango

Maki Hatae

Aug. 1, 2017

Tango reached Japan in the 1920's. Its fans here have grown ever since. The music from Argentina was born to accompany dancers. It features simple rhythms. Now, an Argentinian musician wants the world to experience a new sound.

This music is known as New Tango. It combines tango music with elements like jazz and classical music.

Pablo Ziegler, who's based in New York, organized the concert. He originally trained as a classical pianist.

But at 34, he met Argentinian tango legend Astor Piazzolla. That's when Ziegler first stepped into the world of New Tango.

In the 1950s, Piazzolla released a series of groundbreaking compositions. He was called the Revolutionary King of Tango.

When Piazzolla first asked Ziegler to play with him, Ziegler says he felt unsure.

"I told him, 'Astor, I'm not a Tanguero.' He said 'No, for that reason I'm calling you.' Okay, because he wanted to have different kind of musicians that we have to have classical skills, jazz skills or improvisation skills. For that reason, he was asking me.”

Ziegler's first visit to Japan was 35 years ago. He's come back to perform more than a dozen times since.

Ziegler shares Piazzolla's desire to revolutionize tango and share it with the world.

Five years ago, he started a band with some young Japanese musicians from a wide range of musical genres.

"I had a crazy idea to create another group there, and I discovered that they were very, very, interested," says Ziegler.

Bassist Toru Nishijima plays jazz. The new member, percussionist Tomohiro Yahiro, specializes in Latin fusion rhythms.

One of the members, Natsuki Kido, began his career as a progressive rock guitarist.

Kido says the spirit of challenge in progressive rock is similar to what Ziegler is looking for in moving New Tango forward.

"We should always add a little something extra in order to create a new thing. That's the challenge," he says.

It's the first concert with the new members.

"This band sometimes sounds like rock. Now it's like jazz-rock-tango, which is fantastic because it's a development of our tango music," says Ziegler.

Ziegler hopes to play with international musicians in a wide variety of genres and continue the musical evolution of New Tango.

While Japan and Argentina are miles apart, Pablo Ziegler feels there are many similarities between the 2 nations.

Last year, he made a tango score featuring a Japanese artist playing the shakuhachi, a traditional bamboo flute. Ziegler says he hopes cross-cultural collaboration continues.