Category Archives: History

Guardia nueva

The period of tango history called guardia nueva goes approximately from 1925 to 1955 and can be divided into two phases; a first phase of restructuring (transformación, 1925-1940), followed by a peak in creativity and popularity of tango commonly referred to as the golden age of tango (Exaltación 1940-1955).

The first sign of a transition can be traced back to 1917 with the recording of the first tango canciónMi noche triste. By establishing a new standard for tango poetry, Pascual Contursi and Carlos Gardel opened a whole new chapter of tango history. However it would take some years for tango music to begin its own renovation process with Julio de Caro and the introduction of the compass of 8/4. De Caro formed his first sexteto in 1924, one year before Carlos Gadel began his solo career, and this is where the transition is completed to the gardia nueva.

Another important figure of the guardia nueva is Juan d’Arienzo whose strong beat and energetic style appealed to the youth of the 1930’s. By engaging a new generation of dancers and putting tango back in fashion, D’Arienzo gave a second life to tango, opening the way to the golden age of the 1940’s.

During the exaltación phase, tango dance and music both reached a peak in terms of popularity and refinement. Different styles emerged from the work of innovative directors such as Anibal Troilo, Carlos Di Sarli, Rodolfo Biagi and Osvaldo Pugliese. Tango was everywhere during the golden age, not only in dance halls but also in movies, radio programs, carnivals, theaters, streets and homes.

The golden age of tango came to an end around 1955 as rock and roll became the music of the youth. After that point tango continued to evolve into the vanguardia but it was no longer the mainstream phenomenon it once was.  π

Lunfardo

The Lunfardo is a popular language or slang characteristic of the Rio de la Plata. It appeared during the second half of the 19th century, just as tango did, as a result the massive immigration and cultural mixing which accompanied the expansion of the city of Buenos Aires. It is mostly composed of italian words from the genoese, toscan, napolitan and sicilian dialects as well as other expressions of afro-brasilian, Spanish, aboriginal and gauchesco origin. [3]

Like any other argots or slang, the lunfardo is not a language in itself but a set of words and expressions which are not a part of the official language. According to Jose Gobello, who was the first to study the phenomenon in the 1950’s, lunfardo expressions were initially meant to be unintelligible or playful. Lunfardo is a voluntary transgression of the official language. [4]

It is often said that the lunfardo was “the language of the thieves” (the word “lunfardo” itself refers to “lombardo” meaning thief) though it was most probably and simply the language of the streets at a time when things could get rough in the suburbs and poor zones of the city center.

As the city of Buenos Aires continued to expanded and develop at the beginning of the 20th century the lunfardo became a part of the new urban culture. It was naturally present in the lyrics of the music which was born of the exact same urban context, the tango. It was immortalized in the rudimentary lyrics of pioneers such as Angel Villoldo as well as those of  Pascual Contursi, Celedonio Esteban Flores and other poets the 1920’s.

During the dictatorship in the 1930’s the lunfardo was banned from all media in Argentina along with other improper language or allusions to undesirable topics. [1] As a result the lunfardo disappeared completely from tango lyrics during the golden age. When the prohibition was lifted in the 50’s it proudly reappeared in popular culture including late tango recordings and Argentine rock songs [2]. The lunfardo had become a symbol of national identity and remains present in everyday language to the point of being integrated to or undistinguished from the official language.

The Academia Portena del Lunfardo was funded in 1962 to document the history and evolution of this phenomenon. Over 6000 lunfardo words and 3000 expressions have been identified from contemporary and historical sources. π

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[1] Fraga, Enrique. La prohibición del lunfardo en la radiodifusión argentina 1933-1953. Buenos Aires: Lajouane, 2006.

[2] Gobello, Jose, and Marcelo H. Oliveri. Tangueces y lunfardismos del rock argentino. Buenos Aires: Corregidor, 2001. Print.

[3] Conde, Oscar. El lunfardo es un fenómeno linguístico único. Pagina12. Online. https://www.pagina12.com.ar/105340-el-lunfardo-es-un-fenomeno-linguistico-unico

[4] Entrevista a Jose Gobello. Revista El Abasto.  n .68, Aug 2005. Web. Sept 2016.

Orquesta típica

The orquesta típica in Argentina is a an orchestra specialized in performing tango. It is composed essentially of a two bandoneones, two violins, piano and double bass.

Before the orquesta típica was fully formed, tango used to be improvised or played by ear on commonly available instruments such as guitars, violins and flutes. The simple structure of the first tangos allowed for musicians to perform them on their own or in small bands of two to four musicians. [1] Tango was also performed by municipal, military and police bands.

The incorporation of the bandoneon in tango instrumentation around 1910 had a profound effect on the sound and feel of tango music. [2] It also creates a distinction between bands which specialized in performing the tango criollo and others which performed other rhythms as well since the bandoneon was not a common instrument and a difficult one to play.

The expression “orquesta típica criolla” first appeared on Columbia labels in 1911. It is is attributed to Vicente Greco who used it to distinguish his orchestra as one which was specialized in tango.

These first orquestas típicas were mostly cuartetos composed of guitars, violins, flutes and bandoneon. [1] The piano and double bass were included shortly after by Roberto Firpo and Francisco Canaro to complete the creation of the typical sexteto.  π

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[1] Pesce, Ruben. La historia del tango: La guardia vieja. Buenos Aires: Corregidor, 1977. Print.

[2] Zucchi, Oscar. El tango, el bandoneon y sus interpretes. Buenos Aires: Corregidor, 1998. Print.

First tango recordings

Sound recording and reproduction technologies first appeared and evolved in parallel with tango. The phonograph was invented by Thomas Edison in 1877 and the gramophone followed in 1887, allowing to capture sound on a flat surface or disc instead of a cylinder.

The first tango recordings where made on cylinders and 25 cm discs in Europe (1902) and Argentina (1904). [1] These first tango recordings featured various singers, musicians and bands such as Angel Villoldo, Alfredo and Flora Gobbi, Manuel Campoamor and Andree Vivianne. They also include performances by military and police bands. In Argentina these were made on mobile phonographs by Zonophone.

The first recording studio opens in Buenos Aires when Jose Tagini gets a license to record for Columbia in 1911. [2] Tango happened to be an increasingly popular genre in cafes around the city and the bandoneon had just been integrated to orchestras which specialized in performing the “tango criollo”. Tagini contracted Vicente Greco and produced the first recordings by an “orquesta típica criolla“. He also recorded with Eduardo Arolas, Angel Villoldo, Genaro Esposito, los Gobbi and Juan Maglio whose recordings were a huge success in 1912. [3] Tagini also also gave Carlos Gardel his first opportunity to record though none of these early recordings were tango.

Casa Lepage was among the first to import phonographs and gramophones in Argentina along with Casa Tagini. It was sold to Max Glucksmann who signed with the duo Gardel-Razanni under the Odeon label and recorded “Mi noche triste” with Carlos Gardel in 1917. Other labels which produced some of the first tango recordings include Atlanta, Victor, Era, and Pathé. [3]

All early tango recordings made in Argentina were sent abroad to be pressed in the United States, Germany or Brasil. The discs would come back to Argentina six months later to be released. Max Glucksmann’s house was first to produce discs in Argentina in 1919. π

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[1] Luci, H. Lorenzo. “Los payadores y las primeras grabaciones en Buenos Aires.” Todotango. WEB. Aug 2016.

[2] Pesce, Ruben, Oscar el Priore, and Silvestre Byron. La historia del tango: La guardia vieja. Buenos Aires: Corregidor, 1977. Print.

[3] El tango: Un siglo de Historia. Buenos Aires: Editorial Perfil, 1992. Print.

 

Guardia vieja

The period of tango history called guardia vieja can be divided into two stages: in the first, tango emerges as a distinct musical genre or “tango criollo” and, in the second, the initial trios and cuartetos evolve progressively into orquestas típicas.

According to Horacio Ferrer and the Academia nacional del tango, the two phases of evolution of the guardia vieja are:

  1. Eclosión (1895-1909)
  2. Formalización (1910-1925).

During the eclosión phase, tango becomes a historical reality with the first documented mention of a tango criollo in a zarzuela entitled “Justicia Criolla”. In the same period “El entrerriano” by Rosendo Mendizabál becomes the first printed tango partition with a registered author. Other early tangos with printed partitions that contribute to defining the genre at this early stage include “Don Juan“, “El Choclo” and “La Morocha”.

In the early stage of the formalización, the bandoneon is introduced in tango instrumentation and becomes a characteristic element of the first orquestas típicas, such as those of Vicente Greco and Juan Maglio which were dedicated exclusively to tango. The sound of tango evolves substantially as flutes and guitars are left behind and the piano is introduced to tango orchestras by Roberto Firpo in 1912.

Another important figure of the guardia vieja is Francisco Canaro who introduces the double bass to the orquesta típica, completing the creation of a traditional sexteto composed of two bandoneons, two violins, piano and double bass.

The guardia vieja is also a phase where tango begins to reach a broader audience in Buenos Aires cafes and nightclubs and abroad where tangomania begins spreading from Paris to other parts of Europe and the United States. Some of the musicians, signers and dancers who first took tango to the old world include Ángel Villoldo, Los Gobbi and Casimiro Ain. π

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[1] Ferrer, Horacio. El Siglo de oro del Tango: compendio ilustrado de su historia. Buenos Aires: Editorial El Mate, 1996. Print.

[2] Amuchastegui, Irene. “El día en que el tango tuvo nombre.” Clarín [Buenos Aires] 28 Sept. 1997. Web, 1 Aug. 2016.

[3] Pesce, Ruben. La Historia del Tango: La Guardia Vieja. Corregidor, 1977. Print.

[4] Zalko, Nardo. Paris / Buenos Aires: Un siglo de tango. Buenos Aires: Corregido, 2001. Print.

Tango

Tango is a musical genre and a type of social dance which emerged in the port cities of Buenos Aires and Montevideo towards the end of the 19th century. It is the result of a fusion between elements of African, European and local origin brought together by different waves of immigration.

Little is known about the exact circumstances in which tango emerged but the musical styles which came into the creation of tango include milonga, habanera, candombe, tango andaluz, mazurca and polka. Choreographically, tango adopted the controversial close embrace of waltz and was characterized in the early stages by the emblematic “cortes” and “quebradas“, whereas tango poetry, which emerged and developed later, built on the gaucho tradition of payadores and evolved into a new style of song which expresses urban concerns and realities of life in a fast growing city.

The history of tango is complex; it includes various phases of evolution and waves of popularity around the world. According to Horacio Ferrer [1] and the Academia nacional del tango it can be divided in six stages:

  1. Origins of tango (1850-1895)
  2. Guardia vieja (1895-1925)
  3. Guardia nueva (1925-1955)
  4. Vanguardia (1955-1970)
  5. Contemporaneo (1970-2000)
  6. Actual (2000- until now)

Each stage is divided into different phases and characterized by the evolution of musical structures, poetry and dance. π

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[1] FERRER, Horacio. El Siglo de oro del Tango: compendio ilustrado de su historia. Buenos Aires: Editorial El Mate, 1996.