The Birth of Tango in Buenos Aires
The origin of the tango is a mystery that has been disputed in detail by musicologists and historians alike. While there are many different theories and claims on its birth, it is agreed that the tango was molded and shaped by many different ethnic groups learning and experiencing each other’s culture between the years of 1880 and the middle 1890s. The main place of origin is Buenos Aires, however it must be noted that the tango was also forming simultaneous in Montevideo, the other River Plate capital (Collier 92). The birth of the tango cannot be fully understood without examining the dynamics of Buenos Aires at that time. In the 1880s and 1900s, Buenos Aires was experiencing a large influx of immigrants and money. “At the time of the third national census (1914) nearly thirty percent of the Argentine population of eight million had been born abroad, while just over half of the 1.5 million inhabitants of Buenos Aires were immigrants (Collier 92)”. This confluence of cultures would provide a melting pot of creativity. The formation of the tango is clearly witnessed in the slums of Buenos Aires, where a combination of the African dance candombe, the Cuban habanera, and the milonga of the River Plate came together to form Canyengue, the oldest form of tango.
By the middle decades of the nineteenth century, blacks comprised one quarter of the Buenos Aires population (Collier 96). The dance and culture of this group would be the beginnings of the tango. “ The participation of the black population of the Rio de la Plata region in the makings of the tango has been turned into the construction of rioplatense blackness through the tango and it’s representations (Savigliano).” In the 1930’s the term candombe would begin to appear in Buenoe Aires, referring to the dance groups of African descent. To them, candombe wasn’t just a dance, it was a symbol of their ethnicity. Although candombe looked...