A Condensed History of Argentine Tango

A Condensed History of Argentine Tango

We are not fully aware of the origins of the dance and world of tango. There is no recorded history, but the general theory about its history puts its birth in the mid-1800s. African slaves that were brought to Argentina began to heavily influence the culture. Tango is also an African word in origin and means "closed place" or "reserved ground."  It may also come from the Portuguese language and was possibly picked up by Africans while aboard the slave ships. 

Travel and Immigration

Immigration was booming during the late 1800s and early 1900s and the population was rising steadily and hit over 1.5 million by 1914. You could find a mix of African, Spanish, Italian, British, Polish, and Russians, along with other native-born Argentines. The eclectic mix created a melting pot of cultures, and each cultured borrowed dances from the other. You could find traditional polkas along with waltzes and mazurkas.

Many of the immigrants were single men who were seeking fortune in an ever-expanding country. They were initially poor and often desperate and longed to make money so they could return to Europe or bring their families over to Argentina to join them. Tango reflects the sense of loss these immigrants felt as they longed to return to their homes and families.

Tango Dance Venues

The tango dance form was often found in African-Argentine dance venues that these young men visited regularly. African rhythms began to meet with Argentine milonga music. Milonga music can be described as a fast-paced polka. This combination led to the invention of new steps that were used in brothels and dance halls. Traditions from several different countries began to meld together. However, the elements that came together to create tango are still unclear.

High society didn't take part in these dances and venues, however, and equated them to slums. However, people would soon find out about tango, and by the beginning of the twentieth century, it was seen as a dance and a form of popular music that thrived in the expanding city. It also soon became part of the urban culture in Buenos Aires.

Tango and High Society

Wealthy and higher society songs of Argentine families spread tango in the early 1900s, and it made its way to Paris. It soon became an international phenomenon and made its rounds in London and New York as well. Tango was booming, and you could find tango teas, tango train excursions, and tango colors. One of the most prominent tango colors being orange.

The spread of tango didn't stop there either. It was soon incorporated into movies, and tango singers began to travel the world. By the 1930s, you could see the beginning stages of the Age of Argentina and the country soon became one of the ten richest nations in the world where dance, music, poetry, and culture flourished.

Tango had been tied to economic conditions for the longest time, and this was still true in the 50s. Political repression developed at this time, so many of the lyrics also began to reflect this and spoke of political feelings; this soon became banned.

However, tango survived through the years and was reignited after a slight decline in the mid-1980s. of course, the Tango Argentino opened in Paris and excited feelings for tango throughout the world yet again.

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