Mandrágora Tango is a vibrant collective of tango musicians based in Minneapolis. Mandrágora Tango is dedicated to preserving the nearly-lost musical forms of tango and translating them for today's listeners and dancers. Mandrágora Tango was founded by Bob Barnes in 2001 as a chamber music ensemble to play the music of Argentine composer and bandoneonist Astor Piazzolla. When he founded Mandrágora, Bob had no idea that people still danced to tango. Mandrágora soon fell into the Minneapolis tango dance scene and started playing for milongas (tango dance parties). In 2002 they started playing a weekly Sunday night milonga at the Loring Pasta Bar, a long-term gig that continues to this day. In 2003, Bob started to add a piano and a string quartet to the mix and created the Mandrágora Tango Orchestra, a larger group dedicated to more symphonic tango styles. In 2005, Bob started to play the bandoneon, a squared-off accordion that is used for tango.
Tango can be described as classical music that can be danced to. A 3 minute love affair. A horizontal expression of a vertical desire. It is played on acoustic instruments and follows classical conventions, but has a strong beat, jazz harmonies and a nostalgic melancholy that is seldom encountered in the concert hall. Tango music defies categorization, living somewhere between classical, jazz, and Latin music. Mandrágora dances over those lines and creates a music that is fresh, engaging, danceable and nostalgic.
Mandrágora has appeared on Minnesota Public Radio, on Twin Cities Public Television, at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis, with the Vocalessence choir, with the Tony-winning Theatre de la Jeune Lune and at many other concert and dance venues in and around the Twin Cities. Mandrágora and Theatre de le Jeune Lune's co-presentation of Astor Piazzolla's tango-operita Maria de Buenos Aires was named "Best Overall Theater Work" for 2005 by City Pages of Minneapolis.