"The tango is a direct expression of something that poets have often tried to state in words: the belief that a fight may be a celebration. "
“El Tango es la directa expresión de lo que comúnmente los poetas han tratado de definir en palabras como: la creencia de que la lucha puede ser un festejo”
- Jorge Luis Borges.
Tonight, Sept 7th, on BBC4 is the first ever Tango Prom. It is to be a celebration of the music and dance which came out of the low life bars and brothels of Buenos Aires.
In reality the tango began in Montevideo - Tango is a rhythm that has its roots in the poor areas of Montevideo around 1880. Then it was extended to other areas and countries. As Borges said: "...tango is African-Montevidean [Uruguayan], tango has black curls in its roots..." He quoted Rossi, that sustained that "...tango, that argentine people call argentine tango, is the son of the Montevidean milonga and the grandson of the habanera. It was born in the San Felipe Academy [Montevideo], a Montevidean warehouse used for public dances, among gangsters and black people; then it emigrated to underworld areas of Buenos Aires and fooled around in Palermo's rooms..." This also implies that different forms of dance were originated in the neighborhoods of Montevideo, Uruguay in the last part of the 19th century and in the early 20th century that was particular from that area and different from Buenos Aires. It consists of a variety of styles that developed in different regions of Argentina and Uruguay. - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uruguayan_tango
I listened to the concert on Radio 3 on Tuesday night and it is a chronological presentation of the evolution of the styles of tango down the years including a little known side-track into Finnish Tango which proved to be one of the highlights of the show. The final number is the well known tune La Cumparsita (you will know it as soon as you hear it!) which was written by Gerardo Matos Rodríguez in Montevideo in 1919. Montevideo has a Tango Museum as does Buenos Aires.
I am looking forward to seeing the Tango Prom, it is difficult to see the dancers on the radio!
Meanwhile here is a selection, some of whom are featured in the Prom and some not. There was a comment beneath one of the videos I looked at which said-
1. Carlos Gardel
2. Astor Piazzola
3. Gotan Project
Can't argue with that assessment: Gardel was the first tango 'superstar' who added song to the music and dance, Piazzola revolutionised the music with his Nuevo Tango in the 1950s and wasn't immediately popular, the Gotan Project has brought the form right up to date for the 21st century by adding electronic/techno to the music but without losing the essential 'duende'!-
"hay milonga de amor
hay temblor de Gotan
este tango es para vos"