Why We Cannot Live Without the Tango
The birth of “dancing to the sound of the drum
The word “tango” itself comes from a dialect of the Nigerian Ibbio people, who live in Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea, and means “dance to the sound of the drum”. There are versions according to which the word tango comes from the Latin verb tangere, which means “to touch,” or is related to the Spanish tambor, “drum.
If you thought that tango is a European phenomenon, you’re wrong: the dance came to the streets of Argentina from the African communities that migrated to Buenos Aires for a better life in the 1850s. The basis of the tango is the Argentine milonga with a mixture of ritual movements of African nations, a little Spanish flamenco and ritual dances of the Indians. When the tango came to Europe, elements from the Polish mazurka and German waltz were added to the movements. By the way, originally, the tango was an exclusively male dance.
For a long time, the tango was the dance of poor people in Argentina. It was danced in taverns and on city squares. As already mentioned, the milonga is the ancestor of the tango. It is performed a little faster, more rhythmically, with a linear progression and one step per measure (milonga lisa). Milonga was also the name of the dance party, which gave rise to the tango. In Uruguay, the milonga was called “urban singing” – a folk song. Tango and milonga, combined, became known as tango milongero, which is danced in such close contact that the partners partially rely on each other.
With the beginning of the XX century, the dance penetrated into Europe and was immediately banned because of the vulgarity and immorality of the movements. In the Catholic world, tango was condemned by Pope Pius X, and in Russia in 1914 there was a ban on the dissemination of tango in schools, which was imposed by the Minister of Education of the Russian Empire Leo Kasso.
Initially, the tango was danced to the rhythms of the drum. Later, the flute, violin and guitar were added to the rhythm of drums. Sometimes the guitar was replaced by mandolin, and accordions and keyboards were added. Special and world famous sound of tango music has acquired through bandoneon – a reed instrument of the family of hand harmonica.
The irony is that this instrument has been invented in Germany in the mid XIX century, played by spiritual songs during the church holidays. And at the end of the XIX century bandoneon has been delivered to Argentina, where it became a part of tango orchestras. To date, the most famous compositions involving bandoneon were written by Astor Piazzolla – Argentine musician, the founder of the style of Tango Nuevo, which appeared in the 1980s.
However, the most famous tango tune was not written by Piazzolla. You definitely heard it in the movie “Only Girls in Jazz” with Marilyn Monroe, in the scene where Jack Lemmon, disguised as a woman, performs a tango with the millionaire who is courting his heroine.
The composition is called La Cumparsita. It was written in 1916 by Gerardo Hernán Matos Rodríguez, a simple architecture student. He was even so enthusiastic that he gave up architecture and devoted himself entirely to music, and later led his own orchestra in Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. The Cumparsita has three movements, but it is best known for the first, the introductory movement. The third movement is notable in that it was a peculiar arrangement of music by Verdi from the opera Il Trovatore.
In 1924 the lyrics to “Cumparsita” were written, which went around the Western world and made the composition wildly popular. The song was called Si Supieras, which means “If You Knew.” The song, of course, sings about unhappy and lingering love. It was sung by actor Carlos Gardel, whose version is still incredibly popular with Latin Americans.
Varieties of passion
For more than 150 years of history the tango has been modernized, simplified and complicated, adapted to different countries and different mentalities.
The most common tango, which is taught in many dance studios, Tango Nuevo, symbolized by the music of Astor Piazzolla. It is distinguished by a large number of steps, sophisticated improvisation (as well as tango milongero), exquisite poses and supports. Tango Nuevo requires a large space, so it is often performed at various shows and competitions, and rarely on simple dance floors with a large number of couples.
Dance of freedom and passion: why we can’t live without tango
There is also a Finnish tango, which originated in the 1940s. Surprisingly, the Nordic people just love the dance of passion. Finns have written a composition for it called “Fairyland” (Satumaa). Every year in Finland, a contest of tango dancers, by the results of which are chosen king and queen of this dance style. The Finnish tango dance is unhurried in the North, with no sudden movements or sharp passions, but at the same time it is like a volcano that is about to wake up.
The most austere type of tango – ballroom. This kind of tango is a sport dance, which differs in the lack of improvisation and strict adherence to a set of rules. The melody of the ballroom tango is more like an imperial march, while the Argentine tango is melodic and smooth.
Queer tango is a special kind of dance that lacks the classic notions of a female lead and a male lead. It originated in the 1980s in Hamburg. The main feature of the queer tango is that the leading roles can change depending on the wishes of the partners, it can also be danced by same-sex couples. Nowadays, there are schools in St. Petersburg and Moscow where they teach exactly the queer tango.
Finally, the tango that is performed in the rhythm of the waltz is the tango waltz. It is a very romantic variety of the Argentine tango. It arose at the intersection of genres – the classic Argentine tango with irregular steps and impulsive steps Criollo waltz, which in Spanish means “waltz of the working class.
What defines tango music?
In its simplest form, tango music is characterized by a repetitive 2/4 rhythm, with a strong emphasis on the first beat. This rhythm is often played on a bandoneon, an accordion-like instrument that is popular in tango music. The melody of a tango song is typically melancholic and dramatic, with a strong focus on the lyrics.
What are the main features of tango music?
The main features of tango music are its slow, romantic rhythm and its melancholic melody. Tango music is often played on a bandoneon, a type of accordion, and is often used in tango dancing.
What is the tango style?
The tango style is a passionate, sensual dance that is often described as being both elegant and erotic. It is typically danced in close embrace, and is often performed to slow, sensual music.
What is tango known for?
Tango is a dance that is popular in many parts of the world. It is a type of salsa and is danced to a Spanish-language song.