Frequently Asked Questions About Mandrágora Tango

Everybody has questions. Whats yours?

Photo: Silvia Horwitz

Q: Who is Mandrágora?
A: Mandrágora is the name of the tango ensemble founded by Bob Barnes in 2001. They consist of Bandoneon, Bass, Violin and Acoustic Guitar.

Q: What does the Mandrágora mean? Where does it come from? How do you pronounce it?
A: Mandragora is a common name for Mandragora officnarum, a poisonous plant more frequently known in English as a Mandrake. Botanically speaking, Mandragora is a member of the Nightshade family (Solanaceae). Before founding the band Mandrágora, Bob was in a psychedelic folk-rock band called "The Deadly Nightshade Family Singers". He wrote a tango for them called Mandragora. When Bob started the tango band, he named it after this tango. In 2002 or so, Mandrágora added an accent on the second "a" in a bit of orthographic trickery akin to the Heavy Metal Umlaut. The English word "Mandragora" is pronounced "man-dra-GOR-a", whereas the Spanish cognate is pronouced "man-DRA-gor-a". The band generally says "man-dra-GOR-a" when speaking in English. Mandragora is a perfectly valid, albeit obscure, English word. It is mentioned in the Bible (Genesis 30), the Harry Potter series ("Chamber of Secrets") and in Shakespeare:

      Not poppy, nor mandragora,
      Nor all the drowsy syrups of the world,
      Shall ever medicine thee to that sweet sleep
      Which thou owedst yesterday.

Shakespeare: Othello, Act 3 Scene III

Check out the wikipedia entry on Mandrakes for more information on the magical and mystical mythology of the Mandragora plant.

Q: What does Mandrágora play?
A: We specialize in Tangos of all sorts, as well as waltzes, milongas, swing, and ballroom latin dance music. We play the most elegant seletion of dance music available in the Twin Cites. Sorry, we don't play rock, funk, hip-hop, or country.

Q: Do you play requests?
A: We are happy to learn a new song for your event. It can personalize your event and make good memories. Just bear in mind that most rock, pop and Christian contemporary music sounds kinda funny played instrumentally by a tango band. If you want more than one song that we don't already play, we'll have to charge a small extra amount for an arrangment fee and for rehearsing.

Q: How much does Mandrágora Cost?
A: We're competitive with Twin Cities Bands of similar size and caliber. Prices vary by date, length, and the size of the group you want. Please call for a more specific quote.

Q: Do you play weddings?
A: Yes! We've played dozens of weddings and are quite experienced in making your special day flow without a hitch. We have written a blog entry on some of the things we've learned from playing weddings over the years. We suggest that you read it if you are interested in having us play for your big event, as it really explains where we are coming from and give you an idea if we are the kind of people you want to play at your wedding.

Q: What kinds of music can youplay for a wedding ceremony? Can you play something classical for the ceremony?
A: We have several classical pieces in our bag of tricks as well as some tangos and milongas (Argentine 2-steps) that work well for meditations and recessionals. We are all classically-trained musicians. You can listen to snippets of us playing our most popular ceremony music here. Some of our suggestions are:
  • Handel's Hornpipe from the Water Music
  • The slow movement of Mozarts Piano Concert #23 (aka "Elvira Madigan")
  • Schubert's ever-popular Ave Maria
  • Bach's Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring
  • Bach's Sleepers Awake Bonus wedding connection: the words (which we don't actually sing) are from the Biblical story of the wise and foolish virgins waiting for the Bridegroom.
  • O Mio Babbiono Caro (O, my beloved father!) from Puccini's Gianni Schichi. A nice touch if Dad is paying for the wedding.
  • Astor Piazzolla's Oblivion or Milonga del Angel and Faure's Pavane make great meditations
  • Silueta Porteña and Comme il faut are joyous tango tunes that make good recessionals.

Q: Can you work with a wedding or party planner?
A: Yes and no. If a wedding is big enough to require a planner, it may be too complicated for our comfort zone. We are a tango band that focuses on playing danceable tango and unique, quirky background music. While we can work with an experienced, professional wedding planner, we prefer to work directly with the bride and groom. That way we will have fewer misunderstandings that a wedding planner can blame on the band.

Q: None of my guests can Tango. Do I have to dance?
A: No! Our music is just as enjoyable for listening. Many couples have hired us as cocktail/dinner music and had a DJ for contemporary dance music.

Q: Can you work with a DJ?
A: Yes! We do all the time.

Q: Can you provide DJ services?
A: We're glad you asked! We offer what we call Minimal DJ Services. If you just want your personal mix played at your event and don't want some kid asking "How's everybody doing?" every few minutes, we can save you some serious money! We can play your CDs, iPod, mp3 player, or make a special mixed CD just for the occasion.

Q: Can you teach Tango? Can you demonstrate it?
A: Yes! Bob can teach a 30-minute "introduction to tango" that teaches folks just enough to have a good time on the dance floor. Bob will teach the tango embrace and how to move around the dance floor without running into anybody. We believe that if you can walk, you can tango!

Q: Can you demonstrate it?
A: More or less. Bob is an experienced dancer, but he will need a partner to stage a demo. The can easily be arranged in advance. (We are trying really hard to not make the obvious "It takes two to tango" joke here!)

Q: Can you provide dancers? Can't you just invite your fans to our party?
A: For an extra fee, we can provide demonstration dancers or a core group of tango dancers to "seed" the dance floor and encourage your guests to dance. If you want to open up your party to local dancers, that is fine. Sometimes a few might show up, but we have absolutely no control over this.

Q: Do you have a CD?
A: Yes! It's called Siete Tandas and you can get it at You can also download some of our songs here

Q: Where & when can we hear you live?
A: We play a Tango Dance at the Loring Pasta Bar every Sunday night from 6 to 9PM. The Pasta Bar is at 327 14th. St. SE in Dinkytown, Minneapolis, MN

Q: Can you play in a smaller formation (i.e. as a trio or duo)? What about solo Bandóneon
A: Yes! The sound will be smaller, but we can accomodate almost any request or budget.

Q: Can you perform the wedding ceremony for us?
A: Yes! We are ordained ministers from the Universal Life Church, a California based church that ordains pretty much anyone who can fill out a web form. Nothing says "our Love can survive anything" like getting married by a bass player who was ordained over the internet. Note that weddings performed by ULC clergy may not be legally recognized in Connecticut, New York, or Virginia Mandrágora Tango suggests that you use the money you save on a "real" minister to pay for an open bar.

Q: What is the best way to harvest a Mandragora?
A: Mandragora roots are living creatures in the form of humans. Always bear in mind that they shreik in pain when torn from the earth and that if you hear this shriek, you risk deafness, madness or even death. The best way to harvest a mandragora is also one of the oldest. These instuctions come from Joesphus of Jerusalem from arround 60CE: A furrow must be dug around the root until its lower part is exposed, then a dog is tied to it, after which the person tying the dog must get away. The dog then endeavours to follow him, and so easily pulls up the root, but dies suddenly instead of his master. After this the root can be handled without fear.