History of Tango
Tango was born in Buenos Aires in the late nineteenth century, on the banks of the Rio de la Plata, in the popular neighborhoods of the Argentine capital.
The society of the time, resulting from the European emigration, listened and danced habaneras, polkas, mazurkas and waltzes. As for blacks, who represented 25% of the population of Buenos Aires in the nineteenth century, they danced to the rhythm of candombe, more marked by percussion than by melody.
Origins of Tango
The tango seems to have originated in the Hispanic-Cuban habanera, conveyed during frequent commercial contacts between the port of Havana in Cuba and that of Buenos Aires in Argentina.
At first, the tango is played by small groups of musicians playing the violin, the flute, the guitar and sometimes using a comb covered with cigarette paper as a wind instrument.
The mythical instrument, the bandoneon, will not arrive until several years later, in the 1900s, and will gradually replace the flute.
At first, the Tango is content to interpret existing melodies, or to give them variants that are never written since most of its performers can not read or write music.
After a few years, the first written tangos will not be signed by their authors but by interpreters who know how to write scores and who will take advantage of the popularity of some works to put their name and earn some money.
The word “tango”
One can ask the question about the origin of the name of the Tango itself. The answer will be very difficult because everyone will bring you its version. The word “tango” was used in the nineteenth century in Spain to designate a stick. The word also exists in some African countries; it is mentioned in Spanish documents to talk about the place where black slaves met to party. Some say that the word comes from the inability of black Africans to pronounce the word drum or “tambor” in Spanish, and which would have become “tango”.
The evolution of Tango
The most certain thing is of course his place of birth. At the end of the nineteenth century, Buenos Aires is a city that is experiencing a very important demographic expansion, amplified by emigration from many countries. Many Spanish and Italian, but also a large wave of immigration of Germans, Hungarians, Arabs and Jews. All these emigrants will form an uprooted working class, poor and with few means of communication between them because of the language barrier, and mostly male. The men left their country in search of fortune, so that the population of Buenos Aires was 70% men.
From two million people in 1870, Argentina rose to four million 25 years later. Half of this population is concentrated in Buenos Aires where the percentage of foreigners reaches 50%. The Gauchos and the Indians in the interior of the country also inflate the numbers.
We begin to dance the Tango in slums and lupanars, so that the new dance is quickly associated with the atmosphere of brothels as prostitutes and chambermaids are the only women present at these meetings. The very masculine universe of the time even brings men to dance with each other.
Moreover, the Tango is danced in a very “corporeal” way, it is provocative, explicit; it is a dance far removed from the puritanical mores of the good society of the time.
Little by little, songs will come to accompany the tango. But the lyrics are mostly very obscene and their titles unmistakable: “Con qué tropieza no dentra”, “Dos sin sacarla”, “Siete pulgadas”, “Que polvo con tanto viento” … We leave the translation to those who master the Spanish language. To better illustrate our words, we will say that this vulgarity is even found in the famous song “El Choclo” which literally means “corn cob”, but in a very figurative sense.
Before appearing in major dance salons of the Western world, the tango will be transported from his cradle very popular to Paris where he will obtain his titles of nobility.
But how did he go so far? Hard to answer this question yet.
The young people of “good family” of Buenos Aires do not have scruples to go in the popular districts of the city to have fun, to dance, to try to dredge a girl, a milonguita, which waited only for ‘elsewhere. And to approach the unknown woman, nothing better than the Tango. Of course, there is still no question of dancing the tango with the ladies of “good family”; the dance will remain for a few years in the neighborhoods of Buenos Aires.