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HISTORY OF THE ARGENTINE TANGO | The Tango and its Culture

Notes and curiosities about the origins of Tango dance, music and poetry.

argentine tango el cachafaz  

What does the Argentine Tango represent

More than a century after its birth, Argentine Tango is experiencing a renewed worldwide popularity due to the universal character of its message: immediate communication, engaging intimacy and dialogue characterized by improvisation.

 

Tango is music, social and theatrical dance, prose and poetry, and undoubtedly a way of life. Its main characteristics are those of a culture that expresses the dark side of life, initially considered sinful and indecent, but later succeeded in being universally accepted until its definitive consecration as a spokesperson for Argentine culture in the world. On September 30, 2009, the United Nations Cultural Organization, UNESCO, declared Tango as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity.

"Constantly seeking the idea of communion between two bodies in a single dynamic structure, yielding, adapting and complementing each other, just like in life". RODOLFO DINZEL, one of the great masters of all time.

 

Argentine Tango History - How was Argentine Tango born?

The origins of Tango are manifold and it is difficult to uniquely determine who and what generated it. As happened for most of the popular expressions, the Tango is the result of the convergence of various influences and experiences, and of different converging cultures, in the second half of the 19th century in the Rio della Plata region, in South America. A date indicated by many as the starting point of our history is around the year 1880. The year in which Buenos Aires, already the largest port and most dynamic city in the country, becomes the political capital of the Argentine Republic.
Tango apparently developed between the port areas of the cities of the Rio de la Plata. With the construction of the new port of Buenos Aires, in 1870, wealthy citizens fleeing the chaos generated by these immigration waves moved from the south to the north of the city. In that period, the urban society of the great Rio-Plateau metropolises, Buenos Aires (Argentina) and Motevideo (Uruguay), went through a phase of great movements due to massive immigration both from the surrounding countryside and from European nations. The largest ethnic groups flocked to the city suburbs, from African Americans who had recently obtained liberation, after centuries of slavery, to gauchos from the pampas, to Italian, Spanish, Polish, Hungarian immigrants and generally from poorer areas of Europe. European immigrants and those from within the country therefore find themselves living together in the orillas of the city, the peripheral poor neighborhoods, also known as arrabal: La Boca, Corrales Viejos, Miserere, Bassa Belgrano. The orilleros are the marginalized, those who belong to the lowest segments of the population and who aspire to access the social life of the more affluent classes. For this reason it is assumed that Tango was born in those slums.

old tango orchestra

Is Tango a dance between men?

The population of the suburbs of Buenos Aire at the beginning of the twentieth century was mainly male (the soldiers were all men and the immigrants were often single men), which is why the prostibulo (brothel) business flourished and became the main place of socialization. In these “prostibulos porteños” (brothels of the Buenos Aires arrabals, called quilombos), it became necessary to entertain customers with music borrowed from small popular leisure haunts… including tango. The tango, therefore, in this first period, stands out as an expression of a popular culture born from the meeting of the different communities of emigrants in the Rio della Plata region. Only later did Tango become an artistic form, which includes tango music, tango dance and tango poetry with tango lyrics and songs characterized by the emerging life in the suburbs of Buenos Aires, Rosario and Montevideo.

But tango is not "macho", it is a couple: half man and half woman,
even if the most important step the "eight" is the heart of the tango, and the woman does it.

uomini ballando tango

Il primo Tango Song

Mi Noche Triste, is the first text written in 1915 by Pascual Contursi of a sentimental tango in which the poet sings an unhappy love.

Percanta que me amuraste
en lo mejor de mi vida
dejandome el alma herida
y espinas en el corazon,
sabiendo que te queria,
que vos era mi alegria
y mi suenon abrasador...
Para mi ya no hay consuelo
y por eso me encurdelo
pa' olvidarme de tu amor

Anibal Troilo Tango Orchestra

Perch that you tamed me
in the best of my life
leaving my soul wounded
and thorns in the heart,
knowing that I loved you,
that you were my joy
and my burning sound ...
For me there is no consolation
and that's why I figure it out
to forget about your love

The golden age of Tango

Argentine Tango as Music. In the Thirties and Forties of the twentieth century dance and especially the music of Tango experienced the maximum artistic development. Cabaret, academies, competitions, radio and cinema: all these rapidly developing factors contributed to the formation of the "typical" orchestra, first, and then of the great Tango orchestras. Evolution parallel to that which led the great North American orchestras to make Jazz and Swing music known all over the world. The tango uses for its performances an instrument, perhaps invented or perhaps popularized by the German musician Heinrich Band, the bandoneón, a diatonic musical instrument similar to the accordion or accordion. Being diatonic, different notes are obtained with the same combination of keys, depending on whether the bellows are compressed or dilated. Although the music of Tango is a very syncopated music, it does not use percussion instruments and also the other instruments used are played in a very particular way to give strong beat accents and rhythmic signatures. The Tango Music, Its harmonic structure comes from the Payada and the Milonga Criolla (arrived from the countryside through the Gauchos), the Habanera (brought by the freed slaves) and the Tango Andaluz (from the Spaniards). In the recording studios it will undergo a change in its harmonic structure, which, if even marginally, was much noticed by the "Tangueros" of the suburbs in the late 1920s. The names of the major music composers from the early twentieth century to the golden age, that of the 30s and 40s, Julio de Caro, Aníbal Troilo, Juan D'Arienzo, Carlos Di Sarli, Osvaldo Pugliese, Francisco Canaro, they are all children of Italians (Argentines in general are children of immigrants, and the urge to find their own identity pushed Tango music to its appearance not only as simple music but as a sad thought that is danced) . The composer and conductor Astor Piazzolla himself had an Apulian father.

edgardo donato tango orchestra bandoneon photo

julio de caro tango orchestra

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The Tango Dance

Argentine Tango as a dance has even more mysterious origins than those of its music. The Argentine Tango was born as a dance performed by the inhabitants of the port areas of Buenos Aires, where immigrants brought their music and their dances, from traditional and peasant dances to the waltz, the mazurka, the polka, dances widespread in Europe in the nineteenth century. These music began to be performed in the rooms where the milonga was played, with such influences that determined the way of dancing and the birth of the new style that gave life to the Tango criollo. Certaente among the other musical forms that led to the birth of the tango should also be mentioned the Habanera (dance originating in Cuba) and the Tango Andaluz (variant of Tango Flamenco). In all this the Milonga, which was mainly improvisation inspired by African dances, the Candombe dance, began to acquire a set of steps and choreographies, beginning to define itself as Tango. Some speculate that the compadritos began to dance the milonga by imitating and mimicking the blacks who danced the candombe. Others speculate that these characters began to dance in their own way, to tango music, figures and movements taken from other couple dances such as mazurka, polka and waltz, introducing two main movements: The characteristic court (sudden interruption of the movement in the execution of the dance) and the quebrada (abandonment of the woman in the embrace of the knight). The Tango thus began to take on its connotation as a wonderful intertwining of African and European emotions and themes.

Carlos Gardel dancing Argentine tango old tango couple dancing tango

No folk dance achieves the same level of communication between bodies:
emotion, energy, breathing, embrace, heartbeat ... a virtuous circle of improvisation, the Tango.


Curiosities and anecdotes about the Argentine Tango


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