Tango’s Main Elements

tangos-main-elementsTango is influenced by four different music styles: African, Cuban habanera candombe, the Andalusian tango and milonga. The mixture of these four genres resulted in the creation of tango, which was played, sang and danced mainly in marginal places, such as at cafés and brothels, and many times, even in the streets.

The first tango musicians did not write their compositions on music sheets, as they were not professional and ignored the rules and theoretical aspects of music. In fact, usually they learned to play instruments on the street or at home, sometimes taught by family members or friends. Therefore, the first tango songs were unsophisticated, without a defined structure, and usually without lyrics.

Musical groups were trios composed by flute, guitar and violin. Afterwards, other instruments were added progressively, such as the bandoneon (an instrument of German origin similar to accordion), the mandolin and the harmonica, which replaced the use of flutes. During this embryonic time, tango was a marginal and street music style, despised by the upper classes of the cities, which were in a stage of rapid growth.

Tango’s choreography, designed from the embrace of two dancers (traditionally a man and a woman), is extremely sensual and complex; it goes deep into the way men and women were used to behave in life during those times, being the man, the one who leads and the woman who follows his command.

Tango lyrics are made based on a local dialect (slang) called lunfardo, and they often express sadness, especially in matters related to love, as well as the feelings of men and women from the working class. In this sense, it might be akin to blues music. However, this is not all that tango lyrics are about, as they also refer to other themes and other stories and topics.