The History of Tango

In the late 1800’s, Buenos Aires became the capital of Argentina. Like the US, Argentina experienced a mass migration of immigrants from Europe and Africa who settled in the outskirts of the city and brought with them their native cultures, music and rhythms. Ostracized from the elite, they developed their own language, music and dance, the Tango.

How was the Tango born?  Its origins are controversial but it was influenced musically by the Habanera, the traditional folk music and the local cultural dances. Some suggest that the name came from the sound of the Black’s drums (tan-go, tan-go).

During this time, men outnumbered women, 50 to 1. So, being far from home and not having a mate, the brothel became a place of social interaction. It was not uncommon for the prostitute to prefer a partner that was good at the Tango, so in many cases, men would practice with men on the street corner in order to perfect their moves.

The orchestration of the music as played in the slums by small bands of violin, flute and guitar players or in the salons by piano, flute and violin had not yet found its definitive form. It was not until the arrival of the Bandoneon, the sound most people associate with the Tango, that the Tango truly had arrived.

Being born of the slums, the Tango was rejected by the Argentine elite. However, as the Tango traveled to Europe it evolved. It became the rage in the courtiers in Paris, and once having been accepted by the Paris elite, it beame accepted by Argentine elite as well.

The Tango was the dance of the Argentines and experienced immense popularity until, the late 60’s. Like us, the baby boomers rejected their parents dance and the Tango almost died. However, in the 80’s, traveling shows renewed the worldwide interest and, today, the popularity is larger than ever.

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