In Argentina and Uruguay, the "Golden Age" of Tango began
in the 1930s and ran through the early 1950s, roughly paralleling the
swing/big band era of Jazz in the United States.
Naturally, there are any number of ways to begin understanding and
organizing Tango's many classic recordings, but among the most accessible
are those categories and definitions proposed by dancer and DJ Stephen
Golden Age - "Smooth" Tango
Elegant instrumentals with a "smooth" sound, like these by DiSarli,
feature a clear beat and slow, even tempos qualities that make
them widely used to help introduce newer dancers to Tango's distinctive
sounds and syncopated rhythms.
Golden Age - "Softer Rhythmic" Tango
Midway between other styles, a "softer rhythmic" approach
includes some Tango's most beloved songs. In these examples, the vocals
stay within the clear beat of the music.
Golden Age - "Lyrical" Tango
As tangos migrate toward a more "lyrical" sound and sensibility,
the singers can move forward and begin showing some independence from
the orchestra's underlying dance rhythm.
Golden Age - "Harder Rhythmic" Tango
Tangos that exemplify a "harder rhythmic" style were first
made famous by D'Arienzo and his pianist, Rodolfo Biagi, beginning
in the late 1930s.
Then as now, dancers often find this strong staccato approach compelling,
and it continues to exert its appeal especially among closer-embrace,
"milonguero" style dancers like those found in the tango
clubs of downtown Buenos Aires and on crowded dance floors throughout
Golden Age - "Dramatic" Tango
"Dramatic" tangos like Pugliese's are characterized by
complex orchestrations and varying tempos that can be both challenging
and evocative for dancers.
In the 1950s, these qualities began to dominate, gradually overwhelming
the music as it shifted away from the dance hall toward the concert
Golden Age - Milonga
An older form and an important source for all tango music, milongas
are distinguished by their playful, up-tempo 2/4 beat and distinctive
Related to Cuban habernera and the driving African candombe,
historians now trace milonga's origins deep into the early
19th century and beyond all the way to the west coast of Africa
in what is present day Congo and Angola.
In these cultures, the signature pulse evident in milonga
is said to be more than a thousand years old, and it apparently still
means what it always has: Literally, "Get up and dance!"
Golden Age - Vals
Vals ("waltz") in 3/4 time blends tango's syncopations
with the swirling, circular feeling of this graceful European rhythm.
Valses can be variously played in a softer, more romantic mode,
in a harder, more staccato mode, or in a richer, more dramatic mode.
Along with another European creation, the polka, Tango in the 19th
century was famously among the first dances to incorporate another
key feature of waltz: An intimate face-to-face relationship
between the partners.
Daring and provocative in its day, this has since become standard
practice for couples in a wide range of social dance forms
including salsa, swing, and the many assorted styles of "ballroom"
in diverse cultures and settings, throughout the world.
By the mid-1950s, in the face of homegrown political upheavals and
repression and the persuasive advent of rock'n'roll coming from
North America Tango's central role as a vital meeting place and
vibrant communal art form began a slow decline.
As the audience started to fade, musicians and composers shifted their
attention away from the dance hall and toward concert stages and jazz
clubs. Tango venues closed; record labels dumped their old catalogues
and recordings; no one was interested anymore in learning how to dance;
and the fabled "Golden Age" came to a close.
In the decades that followed, a handful of performance-minded dancers
created fantasía, a theatricalized version of Tango
for the stage, but improvised social Tango and the music that inspired
it moved ever more toward the fringes of Argentine society gradually
becoming the dance of an older generation, nostalgic for their lost
youth, and kept alive only in small neighborhood clubs and quiet family
After the fall of the last military junta in 1983, Tango unexpectedly
began to re-emerge as a popular form of social dance in Argentina. This
development echoed and amplified growing interest in and enthusiasm
for Tango in other parts of the world much of which had been
catalyzed by the work of ex-patriot Argentine artists and musicians
who had previously left their homeland in order to avoid persecution.
As older dancers returned to the dance floors in the early years
of Tango's "Renaissance," they naturally reached back to
the music they knew best the classic sounds of the late '30s,
1940s and early '50s.
And since much of this music is brilliant for dancing, the younger
generation which was just beginning to take on Tango for the first
time readily adopted it as their own indeed, more than 30 years
on, it is still quite common to hear "Golden Age" music
prominently featured at a majority of tango festivals and milongas
throughout the world.
However, in the last decade or so, fueled in part by the interest, energy
and innovations of younger dancers, some of today's musicians have begun
to pay ever more attention to Tango music, leading the way toward new
compositions, crossover experiments, and fresh interpretations of the
Contemporary trends include forays into electronic instrumentation,
modern acoustic work, melding tango with the influences of jazz and
classical music, and investigations into "alternative" tango
tracks borrowed from other traditions which dancers and DJs have
found appealing, and so have begun to fold into Tango's ever-widening
Tango influenced by Jazz & Classical Music