Read in English / Norwegian / Spanish

Published Dec 17, 2018 in Vårt Land


Great emotions
El Muro Tango & Juan Villarreal

TANGO: The Norwegian-Argentine tango band El Muro Tango released their debut album «Nostálgico» a few weeks ago. Since the band started in 2016 they have toured the world. They mix Argentine traditional tango with elements of jazz and modern music. It moves the tango foot you didn’t know you had, and suddenly you have buttoned up your shirt more than usual. «This is often about lost or impossible love» explains violinist Karl Espegard, who has lived in Buenos Aires for several years.


Store følelser
El Muro Tango & Juan Villarreal

TANGO: Det norsk-argentinske tangobandet El Muro Tango slapp for noen uker siden sitt debutalbum Nostálgico. Siden bandet startet i 2016 har de turnert verden rundt. De blander argentinsk tradisjonell tango med elementer av jazz og moderne musikk. Det rykker i tangofoten du ikke visste at du hadde, og plutselig har du kneppet opp en skjorteknapp mer enn du pleier. «Dette handler ofte om tapt eller umulig kjærlighet» forklarer fiolinist Karl Espegard, som selv har bodd flere år i Buenos Aires.


Grandes emociones
El Muro Tango & Juan Villarreal

TANGO: La banda noruega-argentina de tango El Muro Tango lanzó su álbum debut “Nostálgico” hace unas semanas. Desde que la banda comenzó en 2016, han realizado giras por todo el mundo. Mezclan el tango tradicional argentino con elementos de jazz y música moderna. Movés el pie tanguero que no sabías que tenías, y de repente te abotonaste la camisa más de lo normal. «Esto se trata a menudo de amor perdido o imposible», explica el violinista Karl Espegard, quien ha vivido en Buenos Aires durante varios años.

Read in English / Norwegian / Spanish / German

Published Feb 2019 in Melodie & Rhythmus


Two Argentinians and two Norwegians demonstrate how international tango can be today: getting to know each other through Facebook, gaining fame by appearing on a Norwegian TV talent show, and touring through every tango club in Argentina with Juan Villarreal, singer of the prestigious Orquesta El Arranque. What does Villarreal appreciate about the quartet? «They have an intense and raw energy on the stage that blows you away!» And that is also captured on «Nostálgico». Traditional tangos from the Golden Age, in a modern language, without any piazzollesque tampering. For anyone wondering how to get through the winter, I strongly recommend this album.

– Barbara Stracci


To argentinere og to nordmenn demonstrerer hvordan internasjonal tango kan være i dag: Man blir kjent med hverandre på Facebook, får oppmerksomhet ved å opptre på et norsk TV-show, turnerer rundt til samtlige argentinske tangoklubber med Juan Villarreal, sangeren til det anerkjente Orquesta El Arranque. Hva er det ved kvartetten som Villarreal verdsetter så høyt? «De har en intens og rå energi på scenen som blåser deg av banen!» Og det er også fanget opp på «Nostálgico». Tradisjonelle tangoer fra den gylne epoken, i et moderne språk, uten piazzollaesk forkludring. Alle som lurer på hvordan de kommer gjennom vinteren, anbefales dette albumet på det varmeste.

– Barbara Stracci


Dos argentinos y dos noruegos demuestran cómo puede ser el tango internacional hoy en día: se conocen a través de Facebook, llaman la atención actuando en un programa de televisión noruego y realizan una gira por todos los clubes de tango argentinos con Juan Villarreal, cantante de la famosa Orquesta El Arranque. Qué hay en el cuarteto que Villarreal aprecia tanto? «Tienen una energía intensa y cruda en el escenario que te deja sin aliento!» Y esto también está plasmado en «Nostálgico». Tangos tradicionales de la época de oro, en lenguaje moderno, sin piazzolleadas. Un álbum muy recomendable para cualquier persona que se pregunte cómo pasar el invierno.

– Barbara Stracci


Zwei Argentinier und zwei Norweger machen vor, wie international Tango heute sein kann: Man lernt sich auf Facebook kennen, erlangt Bekanntheit durch den Auftritt in einer norwegischen TV-Casting-show, tourt mit Juan Villarreal, Sänger des renommierten Orquesta El Arranque, durch sämtliche Tangolokale Argentiniens. Was Villarreal an dem Quartett so schätzt? «Sie haben eine intensive und rohe Energie auf der Bühne, die einen wegbläst!» Und die auch auf «Nostálgico» eingefangen ist. Traditionelle Tangos aus der Goldenen Ära, in modernem Idiom, ohne piazzollaesk zu verkopfen. Alle, die sich fragen, wie sie durch den Winter kommen, sei dieses Album wärmstens empfohlen.

– Barbara Stracci

Read in EnglishSpanish

Published on Feb 2019 in Jazzthetik Magazine. Read the original interview in German.


El Muro Tango – Nordic Passion

While some are currently working hard to build walls, others are light-footed. El Muro Tango not only lifts the boundaries between people and countries but also detaches the tango classics from their previously assigned role. The musicians seem to have devoted themselves to the fascination of opposites, whereby modernity and tradition, north and south, unconventionality and form awareness, passion and coolness are no longer contradictions.

By Doris Schumacher

The ensemble’s story is a modern music fairy tale: in 2012, the Norwegian violinist Karl Espegard attends a Spanish course in Buenos Aires and falls in love with tango: «Shortly after arriving I became friends with a group of tango dancers and students. Some of them were also musicians, and we took tango lessons together and started going out, exploring the bohemian life and underground culture of Buenos Aires. I did not bring my violin, so I went to the nearest music store and bought the cheapest violin I could find. I always had it with me and played at every opportunity, at private parties and spontaneous gatherings, in cafes, jam sessions and milongas. It was a very free and liberating moment with a lot of improvisation in music and life in general». Espegard decides to exchange the regulated life of Northern Europe for the freedom of artistic life in Buenos Aires. He moves to Argentina for one year and becomes a member of the tango ensemble Orquesta del Centenario, with whom he tours through Argentina and Europe.

In 2016, Argentine pianist Juan Pablo de Lucca, grandson of the prominent tango singer and actor Alberto Castillo, moves from Buenos Aires to Hamburg. In the search for other musicians, he contacts the Norwegian bandoneonist Åsbjørg Ryeng via Facebook. By then, she was playing duos with Karl Espegard, who had just moved back to Europe. Juan Pablo de Lucca: «I came to Oslo in November, we rehearsed and subsequently performed three concerts in Malmö and Oslo. The response from the audience was very good and on a personal level, it clicked really well. From there on we continued working together making El Muro Tango our main project, playing concerts all around Europe».

The initial trio was joined by the Argentinians Sebastián Noya (bass) and Juan Villarreal (vocals, guitar). The latter is a member of the well-known Orquesta El Arranque and is currently considered one of the most sought-after tango singers. This Argentine-Norwegian tango connection has already made a name for itself within and beyond the European and Latin American tango scene, capturing dancers and non-dancers alike with their contemporary arrangements. On the TV program Norway’s Got Talent 2018, the band performed together with the dance couple Cyrena Drusine and Steinar Refsdal in the final round. With «Nostálgico», the ensemble brings out a selection of tangos that in turn have made history.

«Some of the songs from the album are part of my grandfather´s repertoire», says Juan Pablo de Lucca. «I have heard them a lot and love the way he sings them. It is a way of homaging him. As for the other songs, we choose the ones we have a special connection to. If the tango has lyrics, it should be a theme that appeals to us and that we want to talk about». Tangos like «Regin» by Alfredo Rubin, «Recuerdo» by Osvaldo Pugliese, «EI Violin de Becho» by Alfredo Zitarrosa or the Candombe «Tamboriles» by Romeo Gavioli appear in El Muro Tango with a new but traditionally respectful outfit. «We constantly search for different ways to play the tangos we love. We treat the melodies in a more contrapuntal style, expand the harmonic language and combine the tuttis and solos in more unusual ways. Most of the tangos of the album are very well-known pieces and the listener will have no trouble in following, even if we stray away from the traditional path».

Not least to speak of the internationality of its members, El Muro Tango lives up to the great figures of tango in the 20s and 40s, composers and interpreters whose biographies tell stories of emigration and new arrivals. «One of the aspects that fascinate us the most about tango is its deep connection to its culture. When you hear tangos from the 40s you can see how it reflects the life of that time. The lyrics, the way of singing, the record artworks and the dance form are all depicting society. Society has rules and mechanisms. In 1940 women had a designated role within the family and men would work for 30 years in the same place until retirement. All of that has changed. The culture changes and popular culture is always the reflection of a society’s behavior».


El Muro Tango – Pasión Nórdica

Mientras que algunos trabajan actualmente para construir muros, otros son más ligeros. El Muro Tango no solo borra los límites entre las personas y los países, sino que también separa a los clásicos del tango de su rol tradicional. Los músicos parecen haberse dedicado a la fascinación de los opuestos, por lo que modernidad y tradición, norte y sur, conciencia de la forma y no convencionalidad, pasión y razón ya no son contradicciones.

Por Doris Schumacher

La historia del conjunto es un cuento de hadas de la música moderna: en 2012, el violinista noruego Karl Espegard asiste a un curso de español en Buenos Aires y se enamora del tango. «Poco después de llegar me hice amigo de un grupo de bailarines y estudiantes de tango. Algunos de ellos también eran músicos, tomamos clases de tango y comenzamos a salir y explorar la vida bohemia y la cultura under de Buenos Aires. Como no había llevado mi violín, fui a una tienda de música y me compré el más barato que encontré. Lo llevé conmigo a todas partes, desde fiestas privadas y reuniones hasta cafés, jams y milongas. Fue un momento de mucha liberación, con mucha improvisación en la música y en la vida en general». Espegard decide cambiar la vida regulada del norte de Europa por la libertad de la vida artística en Buenos Aires. Se muda a Argentina por un año y se convierte en miembro del conjunto de tango Orquesta del Centenario, con quien gira por Argentina y Europa.

En 2016, el pianista argentino Juan Pablo de Lucca, nieto del reconocido cantante y actor de tango Alberto Castillo, se muda de Buenos Aires a Hamburgo. En búsqueda de otros músicos, se pone en contacto a través de Facebook con la bandoneonista noruega Åsbjørg Ryeng. Por entonces, ella estaba tocando dúos con Karl Espegard, quién acababa de regresar a Europa. Juan Pablo de Lucca: «Vine a Oslo en noviembre, ensayamos y dimos tres conciertos en Malmö y Oslo. La respuesta de la audiencia fue muy buena y a nivel personal funcionó muy bien. A partir de ese momento seguimos trabajando juntos e hicimos de El Muro Tango nuestro proyecto principal, tocando conciertos por toda Europa».

A este trío inicial se le unieron los argentinos Sebastián Noya (bajo) y Juan Villarreal (voz, guitarra). Este último es miembro de la conocida Orquesta El Arranque y actualmente es considerado uno de los cantantes de tango más buscados. Esta conexión de tango argentino-noruega ya se ha hecho un nombre dentro y más allá de la escena del tango europeo y latinoamericano, capturando a bailarines y no bailarines por igual con sus arreglos contemporáneos. En el programa de televisión Noruega Tiene Talento 2018, la banda se presentó junto a la pareja de baile Cyrena Drusine y Steinar Refsdal en la final. Con «Nostálgico», el conjunto presenta una selección de tangos que a su vez han hecho historia.

«Algunas de los tangos del álbum son parte del repertorio de mi abuelo», dice Juan Pablo de Lucca. «Los he escuchado mucho y me encanta la forma en que los cantaba. Es una forma de homenajearlo. En cuanto a las otras músicas, elegimos aquellas con las que tenemos una conexión especial. Si el tango tiene letra, debería ser un tema que nos atraiga y del  que quisiéramos hablar ». Tangos como «Regin» de Alfredo Rubin, «Recuerdo» de Osvaldo Pugliese, «EI Violín de Becho» de Alfredo Zitarrosa o el candombe «Tamboriles» de Romeo Gavioli aparecen en El Muro Tango con un traje nuevo pero tradicionalmente respetuoso. «Buscamos constantemente diferentes formas de tocar los tangos que amamos. Tratamos las melodías con un estilo más contrapuntístico, expandimos el lenguaje armónico y combinamos los tuttis y los solos de maneras más inusuales. La mayoría de los tangos del álbum son piezas conocidas que el oyente no tendrá problemas en seguir, incluso si nos alejamos del camino tradicional».

Además de la internacionalidad de sus miembros, El Muro Tango está a la altura de las gestas teatrales de los años 20 y 40, porque las propias biografías de los compositores e intérpretes cuentan historias de emigración y recién llegados. «Uno de los aspectos que más nos fascina del tango es su profunda conexión con su cultura. Cuando escuchás tangos de los años 40 podés ver cómo refleja la vida de la época. Las letras, la forma de cantar, el arte y la forma de baile es una representación de la sociedad. Una sociedad tiene reglas y mecanismos. En 1940 las mujeres tenían un rol asignado dentro de la familia y los hombres trabajaban durante 30 años en el mismo lugar hasta su jubilación. Todo eso ha cambiado. La cultura cambia y la cultura popular es siempre el reflejo de una sociedad».

Read in EnglishNorwegian / Spanish /  German

Published on Jan 2019 in Der Übersteiger Magazin


After I inserted the CD, I was distracted and had to devote myself briefly to other tasks. The tango ran alongside. Why is that important? The music made me work fast and focused. Tango can be annoying. This one is quite the contrary. It is modern, melodious and yet comes with soul. For their album, the Argentinian Juan Pablo and the Norwegian Karl Espegard brought the sought-after tango singer Juan Villareal on board, with whom they have been performing very successfully live in Europe for some time. «Distinto pero igual» – different, but equal – is from him, and at the same time a wonderful motto for the tango in general. In dance, the woman submits to the man and yet she is equal to him. Further playing tips: «Recuerdo» and the dramatic «El Violin de Becho».


Etter at jeg hadde satt på CDen, ble jeg distrahert og måtte vie meg kort til andre oppgaver. Tangoen løp side om side. Hvorfor er det av betydning? Musikken fikk meg til å jobbe raskt og fokusert. Tango kan være irriterende. Denne er det slett ikke. Den er moderne, melodisk og kommer likevel med sjel. I anledning av deres album brakte den argentinske Juan Pablo og den norske Karl Espegard den ettertraktede tangosangeren Juan Villareal om bord. Sammen har de allerede en god stund gjort suksessfulle liveopptredener i Europa. «Distinto pero igual» – forskjellig, men lik – er fra ham, og samtidig et fantastisk motto for tango generelt. I dansen underlegger kvinnen seg mannen og likevel er de likestilte. Videre spilletips: «Recuerdo» og den dramatiske «El Violin de Becho».


Después de insertar el CD, me distraje y tuve que dedicarme brevemente a otras tareas. Mientras, el tango sonaba. ¿Por qué es esto importante? La música me hizo trabajar rápido y concentrado. El tango puede ser molesto. Este es todo lo contrario. Es moderno, melodioso y viene con alma. Para su álbum, el argentino Juan Pablo de Lucca y el noruego Karl Espegard sumaron al famoso cantante de tango Juan Villareal, con quien han estado presentándose en Europa con mucho éxito durante algún tiempo ya. «Distinto pero igual» es una pieza suya, y al mismo tiempo es un lema maravilloso para el tango en general. En la danza, la mujer se somete al hombre y, sin embargo, ella es igual a él. Otras recomendaciones: «Recuerdo» y el dramático «El violín de Becho».


Nachdem ich die CD eingelegt hatte, wurde ich gestört und musste mich kurz anderen Aufgaben widmen. Dabei lief der Tango nebenher. Warum ist das von Bedeutung: Die Musik ließ mich schnell und konzentriert arbeiten. Tango kann nervig sein. Dieser ist es ganz und gar nicht. Er ist modern, melodiös und kommt trotzdem mit Seele daher. Für ihr Album holten sich der Argentinier Juan Pablo und der Norweger Karl Espegard den gefragten Tangosänger Juan Villareal an Bord, mit dem sie auch schon seit einiger Zeit im europäischen Raum sehr erfolgreich live auftreten. «Distinto pero igual» — verschieden, aber gleich — ist von ihm, und gleichzeitig ein wunderbares Motto für den Tango generell. Im Tanz unterwirft sich die Frau dem Mann und trotzdem ist sie ihm auch gleichgestellt. Weitere Anspieltipps: «Recuerdo» und das dramatische «El Violin de Becho».


Read in EnglishNorwegian / Spanish /  German

Published on Dec 2018 in AMM Magazin


The compact sound of the Argentine-Norwegian band by the Argentinian pianist Juan Pablo de Lucca and the Norwegian violinist Karl Espegard can be described as a mix of traditional tango with elements of jazz and modern music. The rhythmic pulse keeps a constant imaginary connection to the body of a dancer. The title of their album «Nostálgico» is dedicated to the core of what constitutes Argentine tango: nostalgia and yearning for the past. «It’s often about loss or an impossible love», explains Karl Espegard. The current line-up includes the vocalist of the well-known orchestra El Arranque, Juan Villareal, who also shares El Muro’s raw energy and passion for tango. Recorded in September 2017, «Nostálgico» is an album that convinces with its wonderfully elaborated arrangements, as well as its sound, committed to the tradition of the old masters, that is so rarely found in today’s tango bands.


Den kompakte lyden av det argentinsk-norske bandet til den argentinske pianisten Juan Pablo de Lucca og den norske fiolinisten Karl Espegard kan beskrives som en blanding av tradisjonell tango med elementer av jazz og moderne musikk. Den rytmiske pulsen holder en konstant imaginær forbindelse til en dansers kropp. Tittelen på deres album «Nostálgico» er dedikert til kjernen av det som utgjør den argentinske tangoen: nostalgi og lengsel etter fortiden. «Det handler ofte om tapt eller en umulig kjærlighet», forklarer Karl Espegard. I den aktuelle bandbesetningen finner man Juan Villareal, vokalist i det berømte orkesteret El Arranque, som også deler El Muros råe energi og lidenskap for tangoen. «Nostálgico», innspilt i september 2017, er et album som imponerer med sine vakkert utarbeidede arrangementer, og dens forpliktelse til tradisjonen og de gamle mesternes klangbilde hører du kun sjeldent spilt på en slik måte av dagens tangoband.


El sonido compacto de la banda argentino-noruega en torno al pianista argentino Juan Pablo de Lucca y al violinista noruego Karl Espegard puede describirse como una mezcla de tango tradicional con elementos de jazz y música moderna. El pulso rítmico mantiene una constante conexión imaginaria con el cuerpo de un bailarín. El título de su álbum «Nostálgico» está dedicado al núcleo de lo que constituye el tango argentino: la nostalgia y el anhelo por lo que fue. «A menudo se trata de la pérdida o de un amor imposible», explica Karl Espegard. La formación actual incluye al cantor de la famosa orquesta El Arranque, Juan Villareal, que comparte con El Muro Tango la misma energía y pasión por el tango. Grabado en septiembre de 2017, «Nostálgico» es un álbum que convence por sus arreglos maravillosamente elaborados, así como por un sonido, cercano a la tradición de los grandes maestros, que rara vez se encuentra en las bandas de tango actuales.


Der kompakte Sound der argentinisch-norwegischen Band um den argentinischen Pianisten Juan Pablo De Lucca und den norwegischen Geiger Karl Espegard lässt sich als Mix aus traditionellem Tango mit Elementen des Jazz und moderner Musik beschreiben. Der rhythmische Puls hält dabei eine ständige imaginäre Verbindung zum Körper eines Tänzers. Der Titel ihres Albums «Nostálgico» widmet sich dem Kern dessen, was den argentinischen Tango ausmacht: Nostalgie und die Sehnsucht nach dem Vergangenen. «Es geht oft um Verlust oder eine unmögliche Liebe», erklärt Karl Espegard. Zur aktuellen Bandbesetzung gehört der Sänger des bekannten Orchesters El Arranque, Juan Villareal, der El Muros rohe Energie und Leidenschaft für den Tango teilt. Aufgenommen im September 2017, ist «Nostálgico» ein Album, das mit seinen wunderbar ausgearbeiteten Arrangements überzeugt sowie seinem der Tradition der alten Meister verpflichteten Sound, den man so gespielt nur sehr selten von aktuellen Tango-Bands findet.

By Ingrid Ciacudia, published 08.12.2018 in Drammens Tidende.

Karl Espegard from Drammen has played violin since he was eight years old. In 2012, he traveled to Buenos Aires to study Spanish and literature and it did not take long before he started missing the violin.

– When I traveled to Argentina I became immersed in tango. I bought the cheapest violin I could find and started playing.
Espegard plays in a Norwegian-Argentine tango band called El Muro Tango. Together they travel and tour in Europe and South America. Recently they released their debut album “Nostálgico”.

The violin has been with him since he was eight years old and music has always been a part of his life. Espegard says his mother was very passionate about her children getting to learn an instrument. Why he ended up with the violin is, in his own opinion, a bit random.
– The man who was to become my first violin teacher came to my school with two of his students. We were allowed to try the violin. My sister and I wanted to start taking lessons. We started together, but she eventually dropped out. I come from a musical family but no one plays professionally.

At the age of 13, Espegard entered the Barratt Due Institute of Music, and for many years he was a member of the Buskerud Youth String Orchestra under the leadership of Thode Fagelund. In 2007 he worked as a teacher at Drammen School of Music and Culture.
– At that time I was also conducting the school string orchestra, and I had a few violin students. I quit my job because I moved to Northern Norway to work as a county musician. I taught and played concerts for the counties that lie a little further out in the countryside, he says.

Found a new genre
In 2012 he traveled to Buenos Aires and got acquainted with the tango. He got in touch with people in the community and decided to start playing.
– I had listened to tango before, but it was first when I traveled to Argentina that I was absorbed by it, he says. In 2016 he met the guys he now plays in a band with.

Don´t live in the same country
El Muro Tango was founded in Oslo, but the musicians now live in different countries.
– The singer of the band lives in Buenos Aires, the pianist lives in Berlin and the bassist lives in Switzerland. There are two of us who live in Norway.
Espegard says that there are, of course, a few challenges involved in playing with people who live in different countries, but rarely does it pass more than a month between meeting to play concerts.
– We plan things together, but it can, of course, be a challenge not to be in the same room or in the same country all the time. We travel a lot, however, and meet whenever we tour. We keep a lot of contact through social media, he explains.

Playing in Book of Mormon
Besides playing in a tango band, Espegard is also involved in the acclaimed musical Book of Mormon at The Norwegian Theater.
– I’m a part of the band so I don’t have a theatrical role, but I have previously worked in several theater productions at The Norwegian Theater, including Kvitebjørn Kong Valemon in 2016, he says.

On tour
On November 18, El Muro Tango gave a concert at Gummibaren in Drammen, and on November 23 they released their debut album. Espegard says that the band has traveled around the world and has received great recognition in both the European and South American tango communities.
– We have traveled in Argentina and performed in the well-known tango clubs. It has been a great experience to be able to travel around the country and play for people who not only like our music but also know the lyrics, says the musician.
– We work with some of the leading Argentine tango singers, including Martin Alvarado, Negro Falótico and Chino Laborde. Our music is a mix of Argentine traditional tango with elements of jazz and modern music, he adds.

Eager about Japan
Espegard tells Drammens Tidende that they have accomplished several goals recently, with tours and debut album to show for. Their next big goal is to travel to Japan, where there is a great interest in tango, both for dancers and tango orchestras, says Espegard.
– We already have some contacts who have traveled to Japan and introduced us to the music industry, but we are thinking of going there in 2020. Tango has been popular in Japan since the ’30s, and there are a lot of Japanese people who have emigrated to Argentina and live in Buenos Aires, says Espegard.

By Elisabeth Helgeland Wold, published 16.11.2018 in Dagsavisen Fremtiden. Read the original article in Norwegian.

Karl Espegard (35), Musician / Violinist

Playing with Norwegian-Argentine El Muro Tango, who is about to release their new album and gives a concert at Gummibaren on Sunday 18 November.

What will we hear?
– There will be Argentine tango, and we play a lot from our debut album, which will be released on November 23. By the way, we are bringing the physical record, which also has been launched in Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and now with a tour from the north to the south of Norway.

El Muro Tango has held a concert in Drammen earlier, among others at Union Scene during the Cultural Night (Kulturnatt) in 2017, how is it to play in your hometown?
– It’s great, the audience is very receptive. Our first concert in Drammen was also at Gummibaren, furthermore we played at a Tango Weekend in January, where there were instructors from Argentina and Finland, and where we gave a concert in the evening.

Tell me about El Muro, when did you start?
– We started El Muro Tango in 2016 as a trio, so we celebrate two years this year. Juan Pablo de Lucca plays piano, Åsbjørg Ryeng plays bandoneon, Sebastian Noya plays double bass and Juan Villarreal is the lead singer. Bandoneon is a kind of transportable church organ, made in Germany in the late 1800s, arriving to Argentina when people emigrated there. There the instrument was captured by the tango – we can say it went from the church in Europe to the brothels in Buenos Aires.

You are originally from Drammen, share a little about your background?
– I started playing violin when I was eight, and went to the local music school in Drammen with Thode Fagelund as a teacher. Later I moved to Oslo and entered the Barratt Due Institute of Music, before continuing my studies at Hochschule der Künste Bern and the Norwegian Academy of Music.

How did you get passionate about tango?
– It was a coincidence that I went to Argentina, I knew about Astor Piazzolla, he took the music out of the clubs and into the concert halls, but I only knew it superficially, tango is a world in itself. In Argentina, I learned about the styles and the different eras and everything that the tango music contains. I returned later and made friends and learned Spanish, I felt very at home there.

What is it about this music?
– Many things, tango is a bit like classical music, but it is still popular music. You think it’s improvised, but it’s not. Tango gives you a feeling of being alive, both from playing and listening. And it lives in the sense that in all over the world you can dance to tango. Tango is a separate language, a culture of its own. The music deals with universal themes, often about lost love. The tango culture had its peak in the 1930s and 40s. But then it went down, and the 1980s and 90s were dark times for the tango, after all the political difficulties in Latin America. Now, fortunately, it is in bloom again. In Argentina, there is a growing interest in preserving old recordings and manuscripts, and a few years ago, tango was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

What are the feedbacks you get?
– We get very positive feedback, people are taken on a journey, the music stirs emotions. We have received very good response during the whole tour, and good attendance. Several of the concerts have been sold out, I am a little surprised that people who have never heard of us actually show up.

What do you listen to yourself?
– I listen to a lot of different music, often within jazz and latin, and I am particularly fond of the Mexican singer Natalia Lafourcade. Also I listen to music released by friends and colleagues.

Which book has meant the most to you?
– Don’t know which one has meant the most, but one that I recently read, and which was very interesting is “Born a Crime” by Trevor Noah. He grew up during the apartheid regime in South Africa. The mother was African and the father Swiss – his mere existence was a crime during apartheid.

What makes you happy?
– Good food! Asado, Argentinian barbecue – there is no better. In addition, it is a very social thing.

Who is your childhood hero?
– Arve Tellefsen.

What do you dislike most about yourself?
– That I’m a little intense sometimes, I can’t let go of things. It has its good and bad sides.

What are you willing to go in demonstration for or against?
– Certainly for equal rights for everyone.

Is there anything you regret?
– Yes, but I rather think you can learn from your mistakes instead of regretting – you should not be afraid to make mistakes.

With whom would you get stuck in the elevator?
– Would be been fun to meet Diego El Cigala – a Spanish flamenco singer.

Published 24.12.2018 in Fractura Expuesta. Read the original article in Spanish.

“This album is very important for us, it defines our musical identity”, explains the pianist Juan Pablo de Lucca about Nostálgico, the album that was recently released by the Argentine-Norwegian group El Muro.

That identity that de Lucca – grandson of the well-known singer Alberto Castillo – mentions is based on a sound profile that takes on the elements of classical tango and adds tools of jazz and contemporary music to stamp a deep and vibrant music that does not leave aside the dancing part.

Nostálgico contains 12 songs that are distributed mostly among traditional authors (“Nostálgico”, “Recuerdo”, “Griseta”, “Malena”) and a quota of contemporaries such as Alfredo “Tape” Rubín (“Regin”) or Juan Villareal himself, singer of the group, with “Distinto pero igual”.

“It’s often about lost or impossible love”, says Norwegian violinist Karl Espegard, co-founder of the group, about the material’s title. “It can also mean missing one’s family and land. Tango was born in the lower classes of Argentina, among European immigrants who met through music, poetry and dance”, says Espegard who lived several years in Buenos Aires.

Edited by the German label Galileo Music, Nostálgico was recorded in Oslo and presented through a tour with concerts in Holland, Norway, Belgium and Germany.

“El Muro has an intensity and energy on stage that amazes me every time I play with them”, underlines Villareal who accompanied the quartet on the aforementioned tour. In Argentina, part of the album could be heard live during the group’s visit earlier this year to the city of Buenos Aires and different places in Patagonia.

With its heart in Buenos Aires and home in Europe, El Muro will continue presenting the album in 2019 with concerts in Germany and Norway – its usual circuit – under a proposal that jumps the abyss between the new and the classic and builds, rather than a wall, a solid bridge to connect the best of tradition with the dynamic current scene of tango that already writes its powerful pages in the history of urban music.

A bridge of melancholy and longing extends from Oslo to Buenos Aires. The bridge is called El Muro Tango. It stands on pillars of Skype, musical adventurousness and airline tickets.

By Marianne Lystrup, published 20.12.2018 in Read original article in Norwegian.

El Muro Tango released its debut album this autumn: Nostàlgico. In the recording we hear the Norwegian violinist Karl Espegard and Åsbjørg Ryeng on bandoneon, pianist and composer Juan Pablo de Lucca from Buenos Aires, and bassist Sebastian Noya, who lives in Switzerland. With them, they have the singer Juan Villarreal from Buenos Aires. The band has already been on tour in many countries for the past two years.

A bitter cold afternoon in December I meet Karl Espegard in Oslo. We seek refuge in the apartment he borrows from a friend (the globetrotter has not yet a place to call home) and start a Skype conversation with Juan Pablo de Lucca from Berlin and Juan Villarreal, who is having breakfast in Buenos Aires.

El Muro Tango in Skype Call, © Marianne Lystrup

I’m looking at the small screen and thinking about all the amazing technological opportunities we have at the moment. But these guys create music and that is quite something else, isn´t it?

Fierce dance
Recently, everyone was gathered in Norway for a small release tour, during which they were warming up Oslo and other smaller cities with their hefty tango rhythms. They are also known from the television show “Norway´s Got Talent” on TV2, where they accompanied the dancers Cyrena and Steinar. Lived life and longing for even more adventures vibrates in the air.


– It’s not easy to be a group when we live so far apart, says de Lucca.

– While it’s useful to be able to talk over the web, it’s something quite different to be in the same room and share and develop ideas. When we still are able to pull it off, it’s because we really want it. We are proud of what we have achieved so far. And when we get together, have concerts and notice how the audience gets carried along, it gives us a real kick, he continues.

Espegard nods and adds that it is the desire to live a life filled with music that keeps them going, despite the fact that the distances are cumbersome. For his part, he is also genuinely interested in tango after several long stays in Argentina.

– You Argentinians probably have tango in the blood, and have also played and sung together with many other groups, but how is it for you to work with two Norwegian musicians?

Villarreal takes the word:

– To me it is very nice to work with these Norwegians. They are good musicians. Nationality does not matter, but in the case of tango, it is an additional challenge because it is so closely linked to the culture.

– For us, having grown up with it, tango has been transmitted unnoticed into our life through our parents. But Karl has lived here in Argentina and has learned the language and ways of tango. It’s not about being able to play the right notes, but about the actual basic emotion. I feel he has grabbed it.

El Muro Tango, © David Dollmann

Straight from the spleen
– Yes, what is tango really? On the record there are several different rythms, including waltz and something similar to samba … Can anything be tango if you just perform it in a certain way?

– To me, there is one word that defines tango: esplin, says Villarreal.

He speaks Spanish now, and both Espegard and I find that our language skills come a little short. But Villarreal explains:

– The songs can be about anything. It can be a love story, something about friendship, a story from the past – anything. Sometimes a happy song, but at the bottom you will always find stripes of melancholy and nostalgia. It’s the “party where sadness is danced,” as a friend of mine says. That’s how it is.

– Of course there are certain elements that belong: Syncopes, fermatas, rhythms – many elements – but ultimately, it is a state of mind. To me it is esplin. This is what carries it all, which speaks about everything you’ve lost or almost lost, and about death. Remember that tango is created by poor immigrants, slaves, indigenous people and gauchos – people who have lost their roots.

When I check the term, it appears that the word Villarreal uses to describe tango is a term for the organ “spleen”, and it is linked to an old idea that spleen is the organ in the body that produces “black bile” . People who were sad, melancholic or depressed had an excess of this fluid.

Lentil stew
– It may be symptomatic that while I asked about counting bars in the music, you are more concerned with the inner life of music?

– Yes, you can make tango of many different kinds of rhythms, but if you do not understand the esplin, you do not play tango, confirms Villarreal.

From Berlin, de Lucca jumps in with a bit more music technological explanation:

– Tango is divided into three subcategories: Tango, Milonga and Waltz. Tango is at 4/4 pace, but it must be played with the right feeling. If not, it becomes carousel music.

– There are clearly defined rules, continues Espegard.

– These have been developed over the years. For example, you do not have percussion in the orchestra, but you use the instruments percussively. It’s typical for tango. You have the obvious difference between a legato, marcato and syncope, which are basic structural elements.

De Lucca illustrates:
– Yes, this is the skeleton, but the most important reason to know it is to be able to free yourself from it. You can compare it with a mass-produced suit. You do not want it. Why would you like to have a suit that is identical to what everyone else has? You also don´t want to play tango like everyone else plays it. You want to create your own.

Espegard concludes that making your own version of a tango song is typical.

– The scores you get from the composer usually contain only the melody and the harmony, therefore the same song can sound very different, depending on which artist is performing it.

De Lucca rounds off by testifying to the relationship between jazz and tango, and continues enthusiastically into an explanation of food recipes. Although some dishes have certain elements that must be there, like lentils in a lentil soup, you can add a lot of different ingredients to your own liking.

Dense sound
– What is the core of El Muro Tango?

– You ask about our recipe? Parallel fourths!

The boys are grinning, but de Lucca still reveals a few secrets from their cookbook:

– The sound is for a large part built by mine and Karls interaction. The sound of tango orchestras is almost always directed from the piano. Because of the fact that tango groups do not have any rhythm section, the piano leads through its bass lines and harmonizations. When there is an accelerando or ritardando, it’s always the piano that directs it. The piano also has a lot of volume, so the others must follow. You can say I control what’s going on, hehe.

Espegard says tango today has two distinct directions.

– On the one hand you have the traditional clubs where people go to dance, and it is quite common for the orchestras to faithfully copy the old, well-known artists and styles.

– On the other hand, you have concert tango, which largely flourishes in Europe. Here the main emphasis is on the legend Astor Piazzolla and other classically trained musicians. El Muro Tango finds itself in the middle of these. We want to keep it danceable, but also add some new subtleties, some harmonic explorations and create our own expression. It’s a demanding task, because if you get too experimental, it’s easy to get away from the danceable. It seems like we’ve managed to find our balance.


Woman with bandoneon
Noticeable for the group is the fact that they have a female bandoneon player. Åsbjørg Ryeng is not present while I talk to the rest of the group, but afterwards she tells me about her random way into this particular choice of instrument:

– I was ten years old when I entered the local music school in Trondheim. Just then, Kåre Jostein Simonsen had been in Paris and learned to play bandoneon, and started teaching the instrument. It seemed like fun, so I signed up for the class.

Since then, Ryeng has continued to play the instrument, and several years later graduated with a masters degree from the Norwegian Academy of Music and has become a member of several tango bands. Even in the traditionally male chauvinist Argentina, she has only met positive response to the fact that, as a woman, she plays the instrument which until recently has only been played by men.

– Here we have, once again, the fact that tango relates to the culture, says de Lucca.

– In the typical local milongas (clubs, ed’s note), the women only went out with their family. If you wanted to dance with a women, you had to ask the father for permission. The women never went out alone. My mother, who is around 70 years old, always had to bring her aunt if she wanted to go out to dance while she was young. In the last ten years it is no longer the case, and there are also more women playing the bandoneon. Some of them are really good.


Controls the dance
– Does the dance change as well? When you see people dancing tango, you see that there is a clear hierarchy – the man is the boss and the woman is being led?

– When I started dancing ten years ago I was not taught that the man is the boss, but someone has to lead the dance, and according to tradition it’s the man, says de Lucca.

– But first and foremost it has to do with the fact that he is looking in a forward direction. You cannot lead the dance while walking backwards. But the dance is something we do together. Today, if you dance with young women and try to lead them in a bossy way, they will quickly say thanks and leave the dance floor, he says.

Espegard has observed that in milongas, many couples are switching to take the leading role.

– It can happen both between man and woman, and between two of the same sex. But you can´t ignore the fact that in the dance there are two very distinct roles.

Controlling the fermatas
– In the group, how do you manage to coordinate all the rhythmical and emotional changes that are used in tango? Long fermatas, syncopes or accelerandi – all this passion, how do you agree to when it should happen?

De Lucca explains:

– We make some kind of choreography when we practice. But how we do it is not as important as why we do it. If you only know how to do it, you can only do what the choreography directs. We also improvise. We can do that because we understand each other. It has something to do with the way we speak. There is a lot of singing in the language. We shout, whisper and gesticulate, and much is said with just the eyes.

– A couple of years ago when I arrived to Europe, I first lived in Hamburg, Oslo and Berlin. Then I arrived to Italy, and it struck me that as soon as I got out in the street, I felt that I understood everything that happened. The way people used their eyes, body posture, how they talked to each other … all the insignificant things in communication. It was almost like back home. We do not have a ‘clean’ and tidy communication as you guys in Northern Europe. It is much more dirty, messy and expressive with us.

De Lucca talks warmly about the way to express, and recites a few lines from one of their songs:

Cerrame el ventanal que arrastra el sol su lento caracol de sueño

He recites first softly and confidently, then hard and imperiously to illustrate how the musicians must follow carefully the expression of the soloist and adjust their playing accordingly. The poetic verses are so delicate that I will not try to translate, but we understand that it is a good idea to pay close attention.


– You simply just have to listen very carefully to each other?

– Yes, you should have a choreography at the core, but most interesting things happen when someone in the group strays off from the choreography. As if Juan suddenly discovers something in the text that he has not thought of before and sings it differently than usual, then we have to change the plan, says de Lucca, and emphasizes that they must respond to what the singer is trying to convey.

– When five people go together to tell a story, it’s so powerful that you can hardly stay untouched. You sometimes notice in concerts: Something is happening, you cannot describe it, and you cannot recreate it even if you tried, but it is a strong experience.

– This is not unique to tango, continues Espegard.

– It concerns art in general. The musicians respond to the circumstances and it affects what is happening on stage. However, it is noticable to what extent tango is related to the Argentinian style of life. Therefore, there is also a difference between tango played at club in Buenos Aires and in some German city.

Percussive game
– You are a classically trained violinist. What is the biggest challenge for you as an instrumentalist when playing tango?

– I would rather answer to what’s the biggest benefit! What I like about playing tango is that although the music has certain rules, one is free. Free to experiment. Create your own versions. It is an essential reason to why I play tango.

– As for the technique, there are certain things to learn, such as the percussive way to play such squeaky sounds as one gets when playing with the bow placed behind the bridge. There are other percussive effects as well. I do not feel like I have mastered everything yet, but I have not focused strongly on it either. I’m not looking for cheap effects. The music consists of other things, says Espegard.

Read in EnglishNorwegian / German

Published on Dec 2018 in Ohrenschmauch


A new tango record without electronic beats! The Argentine-Norwegian band EL MURO TANGO strictly adheres to the specification of the title “Nostalgico”. They play tango according to tradition, with heart and soul aimed at the present time. Exquisite emotional roller coaster rides from the past 80 years, supplemented with the singer and guitarist JUAN VILLARREAL, revive the past and show once again that there is music that never grows old. Eric did it, Bob Dylan did it, even Dr. Ring Ding did it, so let’s do it, let’s fall in love! Absolutely. In addition to Richie’s (Dr. Ring Ding) Christmas album from 2015 (‘Once a year’), there is finally another festive menu for the ears and the flying repetitions during the Christmas holidays.


En ny tangoplate uten elektroniske beats! Det argentinsk-norske bandet EL MURO TANGO holder seg strengt til spesifikasjonen av tittelen “Nostalgico”. De spiller tango etter tradisjonen, med hjerte og sjel rettet mot nåtiden. Utsøkte emosjonelle berg- og dalbansturer fra de siste 80 årene, supplert med sanger og gitarist JUAN VILLARREAL, gjenoppliver fortiden og viser igjen at det finnes musikk som aldri blir gammel. Eric gjorde det, Bob Dylan gjorde det, selv Dr. Ring Ding gjorde det, so let’s do it, let’s fall in love! Uten tvil. I tillegg til Richies (Dr. Ring Ding) juleplate fra 2015 (“Once a year”) finnes det endelig enda en festmeny for ørene og de flygende repetisjonene under juleferien.


Eine neue Tango-Platte ohne elektronische Beats! Die argentinisch-norwegische Band EL MURO TANGO hält sich strikt an die Vorgabe des Titels «Nostalgico». Sie spielen Tango, aus der Tradition, mit Herz und Seele in die heutige Zeit gerettet. Ausgesuchte emotionale Achterbahn-Fahrten aus den letzten 80 Jahren, ergänzt mit dem Sänger und Gitarristen JUAN VILLARREAL lassen die Vergangenheit aufleben und zeigen einmal mehr, dass es Musik gibt, die niemals alt wird Eric tat es, Bob Dylan tat es, sogar Dr. Ring Ding tat es, so let’s do it, let’s fall in Love! Unbedingt. Neben Richie’s (Dr. Ring Ding) Weihnachts-platte aus 2015 (,Once a year’) gibt es endlich ein weiteres Festtags-Menu für die Ohren und die fliegende Wiederholung an den Feiertagen.