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"¡Qué saben los pitucos, lamidos y shushetas!
¡Qué saben lo que es tango, qué saben de compás!
Aquí está la elegancia.
¡Qué pinta! ¡Qué silueta!
¡Qué porte! ¡Qué arrogancia!
¡Qué clase pa'bailar!
Así se corta el césped mientras dibujo el ocho,
para estas filigranas yo soy como un pintor.
Ahora una corrida, una vuelta, una sentada...
¡Así se baila el tango, un tango de mi flor!
Alberto Castillo, Así Se Baila el Tango

Tango. The sensual dance with the elegantly-dressed dancers pressed close together. The 2x4 beat. This classic music style, with lyrics that emphasize nostalgia, sadness, and lost love. Tango music can be played on solo acoustic guitar, by a guitar duo, or an ensemble, called the "orquesta típica" which includes violins, flute, piano, double bass, and several bandoneóns, possibly with a clarinet. Some songs add a vocalist. The music is given a distinctive air by the plaintive sound of the bandoneon, a squeeze box-style instrument with reeds.

The music and its dance, is the most widely known cultural production of Argentina and Uruguay outside the region. There is a playful rivalry between the two countries regarding the respective influences of their countries. For instance, the most famous score is La Cumparsita by Uruguayan Gerardo Matos Rodríguez but is usually sung with lyrics by Argentinean Pascual Contursi.

Initially, it was a music genre from poor slums, influenced by music styles brought by African slaves in the 18th century. It was performed in bars and brothels. It became a hit among the young people in Buenos Aires and Montevideo during the early 20th century. Dancers and orchestras made frequent trips to Europe, and there were Tango booms in Paris, New York, and Berlin. By 1915, the style became codified.

The genre declined in the 1930s, as a result of The Great Depression and the restrictions imposed by the Culture Police of the 1930 and 1943 military governments. There was a brief revival during the tenure of Juan Domingo Perón, but it declined again with the renewed restrictions of the 1955 military government, as well as being overshadowed by the new Rock & Roll.

Astor Piazzolla developed a modern take on Tango music in the 1950s and 1960s called Tango Nuevo. It blended traditional Tango music with jazz improvisation, jazz instruments (like saxophone and electric guitar) and classical orchestral arrangements. This experimentation continued throughout the 1970s and 1980s. While Tango traditionalists at first took issue with this style blending, it became popular and gave the style a renewed public interest.

Tropes about the genre

  • Mating Dance: The sensual Tango dance is a fundamental aspect of it, even more than the music.
  • The New Rock & Roll: It may be hard to believe nowadays, but Tango was not conservative music back in the 1920s. It was seen as a highly sexual dance and the lyrics talked about topics that conservatives avoided. That's the reason the military governments imposed restrictions on it.
  • Nostalgia Ain't Like It Used to Be: Lots of Tango lyrics are about nostalgia and lost love. The nostalgia of the childhood's neighborhood, of the first love, of the woman that you once loved but said "no"...
  • Sinister Tango Music: Tango used as background music in dark or sinister settings.

Famous Tango artists

  • Hugo del Carril
  • Catulo Castillo
  • Enrique Santos Discepolo
  • Carlos Gardel
  • Roberto Goyeneche
  • Libertad Lamarque
  • Mariano Mores
  • Astor Piazzolla
  • Osvaldo Pugliese
  • Edmundo Rivero
  • Julio Sosa
  • Anibal Troilo
  • Adriana Varela

Artists that experimented with Tango

  • Andrés Calamaro
  • Richard Galliano
  • Ricardo Iorio
  • Jey Mammon
  • Los Piojos
  • Los Visitantes