Tango Essay

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The word tango is most likely from African origin and referred to popular music and dance celebrations that the slaves performed throughout the Caribbean and Atlantic coastal regions. The genre overlapped with milonga, candombe and the Cuban habanera. During the 20th century, around the time that the urbanized samba emerged in Brazil, the tango emerged as an independent dance genre. The rioplatense tango arose in poverty stricken areas known as arrabeles in the outskirts of Buenos Aires and Montevido. The compadrito was a quintessential early figure that emerged out of the arrabales; his dress and behavior mocked the elite, posing as an arrogant bully. He blended gaucho and immigrant characteristics and spoke lunfardo (a dialect with references to the criminal underworold). Most people considered him vulgar and disreputable but many secretly admired his provocative sensuality. The first stage of tango history is known as Guardia Vieja and lasted until 1920. During the period, the tango emerged as a genre of instrumental music based on a three-part form with different sections. The Guardia Veja ensembles had one violin, flute, guitar, and bandoneón (an accordion-like instrument of German origin associated with the tango that is also used in contemporary traditional music ensembles. It has 38 buttons in the upper and middle registers and 33 buttons in the lower register. What is argued to be the most famous tango ever written was “La cumparsita” (“The Little Carnival Procession”) by Gerardo Matos Rodriguez in 1917. Early tangos used rhythms related to the habanera and milonga in duple meter, but bandleaders began to slow the tempo and adopted a quadruple meter with sharp accents during the 1910s. The marcato and sincopa characterize...

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...atin American popular idioms. Sonia Possetti is a leading contemporary tango artist that has formed a sextet including the unusual addition of a trombone. POssetti is receptive to the possibility of assimilating outside influences, as she is fully aware of the political implications of creating and performing tango in a country controlled by globalized economic and cultural interests. She uses the standard percussion with djembe, cymbals, bongo, and wood block. Possetti’s “Bullanguera” is based on a milonga rhythm that first sounded in the djembe, a large African hand drum. She layers a salsa clave pattern in the percussion over the milonga foundation. Jazz techniques, improvised solos and sixteen bar progressions add new dimensions to the piece. Her conception remains true to the roots of the tango, yet engages with a sophisticated range of current popular musics.

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