ORIGINS OF TANGO
Much of Argentine Tango’s origins remain controversial till today. The word “Tango” most likely derived from an African language and described a place where slaves came together before being shipped. The Black slaves brought with them a ritual dance called Candombe.
Through close commercial links between Argentina and Europe new cultural trends, among them fashions in music and dance, found their way into Argentina. The first new European dance to reach Argentina around 1816 was the waltz, followed by the polka, mazurka and the schottische. Around 1850, the immensely popular Afro-Cuban habanera spread through Buenos Aires. Around the same time the musical genre Tango Analuz arrived in Buenos Aires. The Milonga, the predecessor of Tango, was originally a song to dance to. The rural form was quite slow and accompanied the song. The urban milonga was played and danced much faster. Milonga, habanera, waltz, polkas, mazurkas, and tango andaluz were part of the repertoire of many of the small musical groups or trio’s, which toured through Buenos Aires. The musicians, who taught themselves to play, performed at conventillos, dance halls, pubs and brothels for people to dance to. They played by ear and invented new melodies every evening – thus the music of Argentine Tango was born. At social events, ‘Milongas’, three different rhythms will be played and danced: the fast milonga, the moody tango and the tango vals.
From these small beginnings tango grew. At first it was only danced by the working class as tango was despised as vulgar by the Argentine middle and upper classes. This changed when tango came into France first through the port of Marseille, where Argentine sailors would dance with the local girls. Tango was the partner dance they preferred. But it was in 1912 that the Tango took Paris by storm and from there it conquered Europe and Russia.
1913 was the Year of the Tango all over the world. Tango was the partner dance everyone wanted to learn. In this year the Tango Teas began at the Waldorf Hotel in London, picking up the fashion of Tes Dansants from Paris, and a grand Tango ball held in the Selfridges department store was declared the event of the season. All of Europe was dancing the tango. The popularity of tango in Europe, and especially in Paris, made it an interesting and desirable partner dance for the upper and middle classes in Buenos Aires, and the tango was re-imported to Argentina for their benefit. As the middle and upper classes explored the tango they took it back to more respectable areas and refined it.
Around 1945 to 1950, tango was at its peak. Performance shows went around the world, where they became overnight sensations hits. A military coup in Argentina in 1955 lead to curfews being imposed, making nightlife impossible. This drove tango underground until 1980s when the shows Tango Argentino and Tango Tango went on tour and rekindled a new interest in tango in Argentina and world-wide which lasts till today.
Today tango is thriving in Argentina and throughout Europe with social dances, festivals and performances occurring around the world. Tango festivals attract large numbers of participants who go to learn tango, take part in social events and watch performances from leading exponents of the dance form. Influenced by changes in musical style, the participation of an international fan-base and cultural and political movements tango has continued to evolve so that there are now many different styles and genres of the dance including the traditional ‘milonguero’ style, tango nuevo (new tango) through to country specific interpretations such as Finnish tango.
Tango and the Political Economy of Passion, by Marta Savigliano
Tango: The Art History of Love: Robert Farris Thompson
Tango, by Isabal Muñoz and Évelyne Pieller
Tango, by Simon Collier (ed) Artemis Cooper, Maria Susana Azzi, Richard Martin and Ken Haaset
Paper Tangos by Julie Talyor
Golden Age (1917 – 1955)
Julio de Caro y su Sexteto Tipico
Francisco Canaro, 20 grandes exitos
Miguel Calo y su Orquesta Tipica
Juan D’ Arienzo
Carlos Di Sarli
After Golden Age
Gran Quinteto Real
Juan Jose Mosalini
Juan Jose Mossalini
Los Reyes del Tango
Bajafondo Tango Club
CDS THAT ARE EASY TO DANCE TO
Osvaldo Pugliese — Ausencia (EMI Odeon # 8 35886 2)
Miguel Caló — Al Compás del Corazon (EMI Reliquias)
Juan D’ Arienzo — El Esquinazo 1937-1938 (RCA 70 Años)
Carlos Di Sarli — Milonguero Viejo (Music Hall 10018-2)
Rodolfo Biagi — Sus Exitos con Alberto Amor (EMI Reliquias)
Anibal Troilo con Francisco Fiorentino — Troilo/Fiorentino (Solo Tango)
Orquesta Color Tango — Con Estilo Para Bailar, vol. 2 (Techno Disc)
Ricardo Tanturi con Enrique Campos — Una Emoción (Tango Argentino)
Osvaldo Fresedo con Roberto Ray — Tangos de Salon (Tango Argentino)
Ricardo Tanturi con Alberto Castillo — Tanturi/Castillo (Solo Tango)
Carlos Di Sarli con Jorge Duran — Porteño y Bailarín (Tango Argentino)
Osvaldo Pugliese — DeCaro por Pugliese (EMI)
Juan D’ Arienzo — De Pura Cepa 1935-1936 (RCA 70 Años)
Pedro Laurenz — Milonga de Mis Amores (El Bandoneon)
Notes and music choices selected by Dr Ute Scholl
Photo Credit: Marco de Groot ‘Habaneros’