First and foremost the Tango was a dance back when the common people of Buenos Aires began to dance differently what the aristocracy was already dancing in their stately mansions. The music gradually morphed from the amalgamation of popular rhythms imported from African roots, European styles and Creole influences. The bulk of the population was made out of a chaotic mix of races and stereotypes that made everybody suspicious of each other. Spaniards were considered the purveyors of bad luck, Italians had a reputation as con men, and Eastern Europeans were singled out for their poor me attitudes. Thet all flocked to the Southern hemisphere at the end of the nineteenth century lured by empty promises of a better life.
This is what most historians have agreed is at the core of the traits associated with the new generation of Argentinos around the turn of the century in nineteen hundred. A population with a high content of Spaniards, Italians and Easter Europeans was bound to have a crisis. That crisis that plagued many generations of porteños was one of identity and insecurity that turned into excessive arrogance to hide inferiority complexes. That is what the Tango faithfully but politically incorrect by today’s standards, reflected in its choreography, its lyrics, its music its various rhythms, and the life-style associated with it. From that melange began to forge the Tanguero essence of the Argentinos.
Why Buenos Aires, and why the unique sound of Tango music? Why a German instrument became the heart and soul of its sound? Why people around the world embrace total strangers and communicate in an universal body language that defies logic and reason? It is the Tanguero essence that radiates from Buenos aires.
Buenos Aires was and it is a city of sounds. The way the Argentine Tango evolved is a living proof of how sounds influence the artists. Let’s imagine a city without the background noise of automobiles, trucks, buses and airplanes disturbing the precious sound of environmental noise. Let’s imagine the long lost sounds of the clickety-clack of horse hooves and the squeaky cadence of the wagon wheels over the cobble stones. The iceman, the milkman, the street vendors announcing with bells, whistles and their melodious voices their loads of fruits and vegetables. Somewhere, the push and wheeze of a steam engine, and nearby the deep boom of foghorns carried by the winds rushing over the brownish waters of the River Plate.
Let’s seat at the rustic tables of seedy river front cantinas where the cheap red wine is generously flowing and the ghostly reflections of kerosene lamps project images of long lost illusions. Let’s hear the bells of vessels, the creaks and moans of the lines mooring them to the dock, and the lazy lapping of waves beneath the docks. These sounds inspired men named Arolas, Pacho, Berto, Villoldo, Greco, Mendizabal, Logatti, and others with names less likely to be remembered, to blend into rhythms of the street and into the sounds of a good times town .
Whatever the hardships and crisis that the exploding population of Buenos Aires had to face, they found joy and hope in the music that was before anything else dance music, and that is what the tanguero essence is all about.