Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
Dance, then song form emerging in Buenos Aires, Argentina c1880, in brothels of the new suburbs, in which crowding of European immigrants engendered poverty and violence. Men danced the milonga (infl. by the Cuban habanera), transformed into the tango by the gestures of knife fights and sexual stimulation: the corte (sudden halt), quebrada (twist) and refalada (glide). Accompanied by guitar, violin and flute, the early tango was an aggressive and even violent dance, praised by writers such as Borges as the real tango and its milieu compared to that of New Orleans. By '25 it had become a popular song form and was romanticized; larger bands had added a bandoneon (a German accordion) and another violin; it had been exported to Europe/USA and become the rage as an outrageously suggestive dance in this diluted form; exhibition dancers Vernon and Irene Castle led the USA cult from c'13. It continued as a song form in Argentina with composers such as Ernesto Discepolo, and found its star in Carlos Gardel and by the late '30s returned to BA in its orchestrated dance form: '40s saw large tango orchestras in BA, galaxy of musicians, composers, arrangers: Anibal Troilo, Roberto Firpo, Astor Piazzolla; more recent revival in Paris has groups like Quarteto Cedron (LP Faubourgs Sauvages on Messidor) and Valeria Munariz (Tango and Je te chanterai un tango on Le Chant du Monde) re-creating the '40s style, while Piazzolla continued updating it.