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Focus on: Music of Argentina - Tango
While it is impossible to trace the exact origins of tango music we do know that it has its roots in the mid nineteenth century among the lower-classes in Buenos Aires. Before the end of the century it would find its way into the brothels and cabarets of the city's harbour area, becoming more widely known and popular. It was initially played with three main instruments - flute, violin and guitar. Massive immigration from Europe, especially Italy, at the turn of the century gave the tango a European twist and by 1910 the Bandoneón (an accordion-like instrument of Germanic origin) was adopted as its main instrument.
Initially it is likely that the tango was danced mainly by men. Men considerably outnumbered women in Buenos Aires at this time so there was a lot of competition to find a partner; it was important for a man to be a good dancer if he was going to have any success with a woman. So men would often dance together, honing their skills until they were good enough to lead a lady.
At this time tango was still seen as scandalous by the members of upper society in Argentina. However, in 1912 the dance hit Paris and by 1913 the whole world was dancing the tango. As a result it was gradually accepted by the established society of the Rio de la Plata area.
The period between 1935 and 1955 is referred to as Tango's 'Golden Age', an era of incredible passion and artistry in which many great tango orchestras emerged and the country began to adopt tango not just as a hobby, but as a way of life. It was during this period that many of the famous tangos we know today were written. This was tango at its most creative and inspiring.
The political climate in Argentina changed in 1955 when president Juan Perón was ousted by a coup (Revolución Liberadora). Tango was discouraged by the new regime, which saw it as something distinctly Argentinean, and therefore Peronist. At the same time the latest international craze, Rock and Roll, began to take hold and capture the imaginations of Argentine youth culture. Tango had become a minority interest, and many of those still involved in making tango music were persecuted by the regime for their 'Peronist' activities.
Political changes in 1983, along with the success of the 'Tango Argentino' stage production in Paris, brought about a tango renaissance. All over Argentina people were beginning to play and dance the tango again. Tango shows and classes again became popular in Buenos Aires, initially amongst the young and, eventually, people who had not danced since the Golden Age began to dance again.
You can find many examples of tango music on our website.