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Buenos Aires is known internationally for being the city where tango music and dance was nurtured and where, nowadays, its is mainly confined to shows for tourists.
The Origins of The Tango
Both the music and the dance have indirect influences from the African candombe, the Cuban Havanera, the Andalusian tango, the chotis and the cuplé, added to regional music and popular lyrics.
Is has been attempted
to reconstruct the history of the tango but it turns out impossible to
determine a date of birth due to the fact that there is no written and/or
information about it.
There has also been a speculation that Cuba was the
country where the tango was danced for the first time.
Initially, the tango was played in brothels with a violin,
a flute and a guitar, and if a guitar was not available, it was replaced
with a comb turned into a wind instrument alongside a cigarette paper
and a expert blower that
marked the rhythm. The mythical instrument, the bandoneon, was not a part of the tango
until a couple of decades later, around 1900
approximately, and little by little it started to replace the flute.
As time went by, tango shows at brothels became
monotonous and in an effort to avoid the publics boredom, the brothels'
management hired trios or different musicians' groups, who inspired the public
to start dancing. Unexpectedly, these shows became so successful that
they started to be more frequent. It is said that this is how tango was
originated. Afterwards, the first tango ballroom dances were organized at
tango academies, for men only.
The first tango composer is considered to have been a
man called Juan Perez, author of the song "Dame la lata ",
sometime around 1880;
though it is not discarded that other authors and other songs have
existed. It is likely that the first tangos were "Dame la lata ",
"El Tero" and "Andáte
a la Recoleta ".
The tango grew in the suburbs and followed its way to the streets.
Some time later it
spread to the city and arrived at places like the
known as the
El Kiosquito, La
Glorieta, La Red and El Velódromo. It was at that time when women were added
to the dance and gave it its final touch.
Piano solos started to
get popular, occasionally accompanied by a flute, a violin and a guitar. In 1904, Casimiro Ain appeared
at the Opera Theater as a dancer of tango joined by
his wife and since that moment dancers like Ricardo Güiraldes, Florencio
Parravincini and Jorge Newbery rose.
The first tangos lacked lyrics but in some cases the musicians
improvised them in the spare of the moment. The first written lyrics
described the brothels environment and
were vulgar, obscene, and showed lack of education. Some of the titles were "Dos sin sacarla",
"Qué polvo con tanto viento", "Con qué tropieza que no dentra"
pulgadas", among others.
On the other hand, in some parts of Buenos Aires, poetry began to spread in the lyrics of tango. Thugs were introduced and described as "compadritos" (arrogant, womanizer, drinker and aggressive men who always carried a knife).
Pascual Contursi was considered the most important
lyricist of the tango and introduced, in 1920, the lyrics with argument and narrative,
being "Mi noche triste" his most successful tango lyrics.
Nowadays, there are very few instrumental tangos.
The tango is said to have been born in Buenos Aires, on the shores of the Riachuelo; in brothels and in impoverished neighborhood squats of southern Buenos Aires. The social class in which it developed was a mixture of regional people and immigrants made up by sailors, craftsmen and working class people.
They were mostly lonely men who had left
their families at their natal countries and frequented clubs or
dance ballrooms for fun. Many tango lyrics are inspired in these groups of
men who became the "guapos", "malevos" and "compadritos". Some meeting
these characters were the Café Sabatino, the Almacén de la Milonga
and the Viejo Bailetín del Palomar. This portion of society felt identified with the
tango lyrics because they talked about the "hard or bad life".
The First Tango Bands
The first tango bands were the Trios, which included a flute, violin and guitar players and performed in brothels
around 1870. Towards the end of 1890 the bandoneon was
added to the lineup, sometimes replacing the flute. However, it appears to
be that bands changed constantly and they were formed by whoever showed up
on the day of the show.
At the beginning of 1900 many quartets and quintets were formed, but this fact didn't stop the duos from staying on board. Through the years, small bands gathered up and formed the "Orquesta Típica" (Typical Orchestra) that became very successful among tango fans.
The most representative artist in the history of
the Tango was Carlos Gardel, whose charisma and talent managed to
conquer the lovers of this music.
One of the characteristics that better define the Tango is
The dance is one of the most important expressions of the tango and
the visual beauty illustrates the spirit of the music.
The famous "firulete" refers to the steps that dance-couple make as a skill display to seduce and beautify the dance, and it is the detail that transforms the tango into a showy spectacle. The tango has wide range of choreographic options, making it intriguing and of singular visual beauty. It is important to differentiate the choreographic dance from the improvised one. In the first one, the dancers skills offer a specific rehearsed show, while the improvised dance is unexpected and does not come out as a result of rehearsals but shows creativity and expertise.
The tango cannot be danced individually; the woman seduces and the man
leads. He protects
and supports her, while she elaborates and outlines the dance breaking balance
and resting on his
In the 1990's the tango music and dance had huge
internationally success and many new artists surfaced in Buenos Aires, while
the passion has grown without borders.
The "Tango Day" is celebrated in Buenos Aires on December 11th
For further information on classes, museums, radio, festivals, etc. visit the Official Tango Portal of the City of Buenos Aires at www.tangodata.gov.ar/ingles