Fifteen years ago, following the popularity of the New York show "Tango Argentina", the world began to realize that the tango was not the stylized, overly dramatic caricature seen in Hollywood film, but a beautiful and intricate conversation between a man and woman.

The show introduced audiences not only to the dance, but also to the exciting musical repertoire of the Argentine tango.

The world was to learn that tango is a complicated musical art form with a history strikingly similar to the history of American Jazz.

Tango began around 1900 in Buenos Aires as the result of a cultural collision of Italian popular opera tradition, African slave rhythms and Spanish popular dance.

Tango has experienced 4 major periods of growth since 1900.

In the early years of cultural fusion, many of the standard melodies of the art form were written and tango evolved from the brothels to the concert hall.

The next period, from 1920 to 1938, was called the Guardia Vieja.

During this period tango achieved a social respectablity. Here the tango became a sophisticated musical form comparable to chamber music through the development of the sexteto typico.

The sexteto tipico consists of 2 bandoneons, 2 violins, bass and piano.
The bandoneon is square shaped portable pump organ held in the lap like a giant concertina.

It was invented in 1850 in Europe for small churches; it is the national instrument of Argentina.

The bandoneon possesses an extraordinary tone that approaches the sound of the human voice.

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The Guardia Vieja period was followed by the Golden Age of Tango (from 1940 to 1960) in which the grand orchestras developed.

These orchestras were comparable to those of Duke Ellington, Glenn Miller, and Count Basie in the United States.

With the development of the orchestras came a dance craze that became a major social movement in Argentine society analogous to the swing period in the USA.

By 1960 as the result of political and cultural forces, tango began to die out and the grand orchestras disappeared.

In the 1980s there rose a figure named Astor Piazzolla who created a new form of tango, called the nuevo tango, which focused on performance rather than dance.

Initially it was violently rejected in Argentine society while it reached great status in Europe as a cult art form.

Its popularity eventually reflected back on Argentina and rekindled the national pride in their art form.

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Today in Buenos Aires tango is played in concert halls, cabarets, and dance halls (milongas).
It can be heard in all forms from duets, sexteto typicos to grand orchestras.

Young people are studying tango and old masters are being found and revered, Although the last bandoneon was made in 1939, many old bandoneons are being found and restored.

Many young people in Buenos Aires are beginning to study the instrument.

New tango music is being written and grand orchestras are now performing again in Buenos Aires.

Tango artists can be found throughout the world from Moscow to Tokyo, from Paris to Tel Aviv, and from Helsinki to Seattle.

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