Tango as an Incipient Cultural Phenomenon

enrique-santos-discepoloOne of the topics that tango lyrics deal with might be humor in relation to everyday life and political and social issues. Love, deception and heartbreak are also recurring themes in tango lyrics. Other themes includes unsatisfied sexual desire, reflecting the sensuality always present in tango, sadness and melancholy which reflect a permanent state of frustration, which is often related to the feeling of rootlessness experienced by the immigrants that were so far away from their homelands.

Enrique Santos Discepolo, one of the greatest poets of tango defined it as “sad thoughts or emotions represented by dancing”. In 2009, tango was included in the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) of humanity by UNESCO. The “arrabal”, considered the “primitive form of tango” grew popular in shanty towns on the outskirts of the city, also in bars or in houses were people who would dance for fun and in brothels or in ”pringundines” (places where tango dance was learned). In these places, known “arrabales”, the tango was distributed through “organelles” which resounded in every corner.

Dock workers, sailors, laborers, builders and other people from different groups of the working class were the ones who experienced tango from musicians first hand. There were also typical characters amongst them, like prostitutes, bad guys from lower social classes and felons, which were referred to as “taitas” and “compadritos”.

The “taita” was one of the characters that coexisted during the origins of tango music; this kind of young man was rootless, a misfit who came to the city from the countryside. He had no friends or family in the city so he was always alone; he was a virile grown up boy who committed petty crimes here and there, always carrying his knife to defend himself, since he used to have love affairs with married women.