Tango is the quintessential musical genre from the Rio Plata area. It is a couple’s dance and an expression of lunfardo (porteño slang) in its essence. It is of urban and coastal nature and has African roots.
The composition is set to a 2/4 tempo, forming a marked rhythm called “Orquestra Tipica” and/or “Sextet.” While various instruments are played when performing the music, the most predominant, characteristic and irreplaceable among them is the bandoneon, or large accordion.
Originating in the middle of the XIX century, tango underwent a constant process of renovation, incorporating elements that led to the dance that persists today. The vocal accompaniment is that of a single vocalist who sings poetry that was originally characteristic of lunfardo. Today, however, it is today almost completely purged of all slang.
While the dance was undergoing this transformation, which enriched it through the incorporation of new elements, there were other outstanding changes. One such example was the creativity of the musician of Astor Piazzolla, which gave a symphonic character to a manifestation of popular art, all the while keeping its beat and its originally rhythmic and melancholic spirit.
The choreography of the dance is complex and voluptuous as it consists of the interlacing of a man and a woman – passionately coordinated by the steps, arms, and emotion, from the embrace to the “cortes (a tango technique) and quebrada (a signature pose).”
The song is sung by a single vocalist who can be of either sex.
The lyrics follow the rhythmic cadences of the music and most commonly evoke love, sadness, betrayal and melancholy.
A few notable definitions
Many literary persons have used words to define Tango, but as such they lack the sensation of Tango spirit. Nonetheless, here are a few that come close.
Ernesto Sábata, a writer and novelist, said that tango was the meat of drama: sadness, unhappiness, frustration, nostalgia and even rancor.
Enrique Santos Discépolo, a poet and lyricist, said that tango is “a sad thought that is danced.”
And the extraordinary Jorge Luis Borges, writer, poet and storyteller, ventured “I would say that without evenings and nights, Buenos Aires wouldn’t be able to make a tango…”
Tango and its manifestations constitute an innate part of urban folklore, so much so that it makes it can’t be missed in any adventure throughout Buenos Aires.
A Guide to Milonga
At what time