Short History Of Argentine Tango
Tomás Alberto García
Albuquerque, New Mexico (2005)
Mar del Plata, Argentina (now)
is a universe in itself. Tango is music, dance, singing and poetry. It
is an extraordinary phenomenon of customs.
origins go back to the 19th century, somewhere around the 1870's. It was
born and developed in the working-class suburbs outside the city of Buenos
Aires. Between 1860 and 1925, 70% of the immigrant population were men
who came to Argentina to try their luck. Because of this, it was common
for men to dance together, due to the fact that the majority of immigrants
grew from a combination of forms: Cuban habañera, milonga (a type of folk
dance), African candombe and Italian melodies. Immigrants made a major
contribution to the development of tango, especially Italians, the group
with greater numbers and from where the first musicians came. They gave
to the tango its melancholic and nostalgic air.
was originally played by only one musician on a guitar or an accordion.
Later, trios were formed with guitar, violin and flute or clarinet. These
instruments were chosen because they were easy to transport, since musicians
would play at different locations in one evening. This modality lasted
until the introduction of the piano at the beginning of the 20th century.
Almost immediately the bandoneón joined in, replacing the accordion, the
flute and the clarinet. (The bass eventually replaced the guitar, and
the "modern" tango group consists of bandoneón, violin, piano
bandoneón gave the definitive sound to the tango, and once and for all
the tango reached its destiny. With time, the tango adopted a new modality;
it became more temperamental, serious and rhythmic. There is no doubt
that the bandoneón gave to the tango this radical mood transformation.
It became an expression of deep feelings.
1916 the American modern dancer Isadora Duncan visited Argentina and declared:
"I have never danced Tango, and a tourist guide forced me to dance.
My first steps were timid, but the feeling of the languid music caused
my body to respond to the voluptuousness of the dance. Soft as a caress,
toxic as love under the midday sun, cruel and dangerous as a tropical
first, tango was prohibited in many public places, due to its "voluptuous"
nature and its working-class origins. A long time passed before it was
accepted in "proper" people's homes and in high society. At
the beginning of the 20th century, during the era known as "La Belle
Epoque," Paris was the center of the world, and Argentine aristocracy
looked to Paris as a model for itself. Once tango was accepted in France,
the high and middle classes in Argentina accepted it; in fact, they took
great pride in this uniquely Argentine art form. From France, tango
spread through Europe and the rest of the world. More orchestras were
formed, and the tango developed, eventually to reach its splendor in the
decade, known as the "Golden Age" of tango, was the most impressive,
and families from all levels of Argentine society started to dance, packing
the dance halls and making it possible for even the largest orchestras
to survive and prosper. Tango finally reached its maturity, was widely
accepted and entered into posterity, a posterity we still enjoy today.