Tango – Definition & Detailed Explanation – Musical Genres Glossary

What is Tango?

Tango is a passionate and sensual dance that originated in the working-class neighborhoods of Buenos Aires, Argentina, in the late 19th century. It is a partner dance that is characterized by its close embrace, intricate footwork, and dramatic movements. Tango is not just a dance but also a style of music that accompanies the dance. The music is known for its melancholic melodies, rhythmic complexity, and emotional intensity. Tango has become a popular dance and music genre worldwide, with tango festivals, competitions, and classes held in many countries.

History of Tango

The origins of tango can be traced back to the diverse cultural influences of the immigrants who settled in Buenos Aires in the late 19th century. The dance and music of tango were born in the brothels, bars, and street corners of the city, where European, African, and indigenous musical traditions blended together. Tango was initially associated with the lower classes and was considered scandalous and immoral by the upper classes.

In the early 20th century, tango gained popularity in Argentina and spread to Europe and the United States. It became a symbol of Argentine identity and was embraced by the middle and upper classes. Tango underwent various transformations over the years, incorporating elements of jazz, classical music, and other genres. Today, tango is celebrated as a cultural treasure and is recognized by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Tango music is characterized by its distinctive rhythms, harmonies, and instrumentation. The music is typically played in a 2/4 or 4/4 time signature, with a strong emphasis on the downbeat. Tango melodies are often melancholic and passionate, reflecting the emotional intensity of the dance. The music is usually performed by a small ensemble, known as a tango orchestra, which includes a bandoneón (a type of accordion), violin, piano, and double bass.

Tango music is known for its complex rhythms and syncopated beats, which create a sense of tension and release. The music is often improvisational, with musicians adding their own embellishments and variations to the melodies. Tango lyrics are usually poetic and introspective, exploring themes of love, loss, and longing. The music is both elegant and raw, combining elements of sophistication and streetwise grit.

Instruments used in Tango music

The bandoneón is the signature instrument of tango music and is essential to the tango sound. The bandoneón is a type of button accordion that was brought to Argentina by German immigrants in the 19th century. It has a rich, expressive sound that can evoke a wide range of emotions, from sorrowful to joyful. The bandoneón is played by squeezing and expanding the bellows while pressing the buttons to produce different notes.

In addition to the bandoneón, tango orchestras typically include a violin, piano, and double bass. The violin provides the melodic lead, while the piano adds harmonic support and rhythmic drive. The double bass provides the foundation of the music, anchoring the ensemble with its deep, resonant tones. Other instruments, such as the guitar, flute, and clarinet, may also be used in tango music to add color and texture to the sound.

Famous Tango musicians and composers

There have been many influential tango musicians and composers throughout the history of the genre. One of the most famous tango composers is Astor Piazzolla, who revolutionized tango music in the 20th century by incorporating elements of jazz and classical music. Piazzolla’s compositions are known for their innovative harmonies, complex rhythms, and virtuosic performances. Other notable tango musicians include Carlos Gardel, Aníbal Troilo, and Osvaldo Pugliese, who have all made significant contributions to the development of tango music.

Tango has also been performed by many renowned singers, such as Carlos Gardel, who is often referred to as the “King of Tango.” Gardel’s soulful voice and charismatic stage presence helped popularize tango music around the world. Other famous tango singers include Edmundo Rivero, Libertad Lamarque, and Susana Rinaldi, who have all left a lasting impact on the genre.

Influence of Tango on other musical genres

Tango has had a significant influence on other musical genres, both within Argentina and internationally. In the early 20th century, tango music was embraced by jazz musicians in the United States, who incorporated elements of tango rhythms and harmonies into their own compositions. This fusion of tango and jazz gave rise to a new genre known as “tango jazz,” which continues to be popular today.

Tango has also influenced classical music, with composers such as Astor Piazzolla and Carlos Gardel incorporating tango elements into their symphonic works. Piazzolla’s compositions, in particular, have been performed by orchestras around the world and have helped to elevate tango music to a high art form. Tango has also inspired dancers and musicians in other countries, such as Finland, Japan, and Russia, who have embraced the passion and drama of the tango dance and music.

In conclusion, tango is a vibrant and expressive dance and music genre that has captivated audiences around the world. Its rich history, passionate melodies, and intricate rhythms continue to inspire dancers, musicians, and composers to this day. Tango’s influence can be heard in a wide range of musical styles, from jazz to classical to pop, making it a truly universal art form.