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1920s and 1930s, Carlos Gardel
Carlos Gardel became especially associated with the transition from a lower-class "gangster" music to a respectable middle-class dance. He helped develop tango-canción in the 1920s and became one of the most popular tango artists of all time. He was also one of the precursors of the Golden Age of tango.
Gardel's death was followed by a division into movements within tango. Evolutionists like Aníbal Troilo and Carlos di Sarli were opposed to traditionalists like Rodolfo Biagi and Juan D'Arienzo.
The "Golden Age" of tango music and dance is generally agreed to have been the period from about 1935 to 1952, roughly contemporaneous with the big band era in the United States.
Some of the many popular and influential orchestras included the orchestras of Juan D'Arienzo, Francisco Canaro, and Aníbal Troilo. D'Arienzo was called the "Rey del compás" or "King of the beat" for the insistent, driving rhythm which can be heard on many of his recordings. "El flete" is an excellent example of D'Arienzo's approach. Canaro's early milongas are generally the slowest and easiest to dance to; and for that reason, they are the most frequently played at tango dances (milongas); "Milonga Sentimental" is a classic example.
Beginning in the Golden Age and continuing afterwards, the orchestras of Osvaldo Pugliese and Carlos di Sarli made many recordings. Di Sarli had a lush, grandiose sound, and emphasized strings and piano over the bandoneon, which is heard in "A la gran muñeca" and "Bahía Blanca" (the name of his home town).
Pugliese's first recordings were not too different from those of other dance orchestras, but he developed a complex, rich, and sometimes discordant sound, which is heard in his signature pieces, "Gallo ciego", "Emancipación", and "La yumba". Pugliese's later music was played for an audience and not intended for dancing, although it is often used for stage choreography for its dramatic potential, and sometimes played late at night at milongas.
The later age of tango has been dominated by Ástor Piazzolla, who became famous after Carlos Gardel's El día que me quieras was released. During the 1950s, Piazzolla consciously tried to create a more pop-oriented form of tango, earning the derision of purists and old-time performers. The 1970s saw Buenos Aires developing a fusion of jazz and tango, alongside tango-rock, mixing tango with rock and roll. Litto Nebbia and Siglo XX were especially popular within this movement. In recent years is important the work of argentine band 020 (zero2zero), whose epic album "End of Illusions" mixed British style pop-rock with nuevo tango.
The so-called post-Piazzolla generation (1980-) includes musicians such as Dino Saluzzi, Rodolfo Mederos, Enrique Martin Entenza and Juan María Solare. Piazzolla and his followers developed Nuevo Tango, which incorporated jazz and classical influences into a more experimental style.
Tango development has not stopped here. The following examples are not filed under "Tango Nuevo" since such classification is usually done with hindsight rather than when still undergoing development... These recent trends can be described as "electro tango" or "tango fusion", where the electronic influences are available in multiple ranges: from very subtle to rather dominant.
Tanghetto and Carlos Libedinsky are good examples of the subtle use of electronic elements. The music still has its tango feeling, the complex rhythmic and melodious entanglement that makes tango so unique. Gotan Project is a group based in Paris, consisting of musicians Philippe Cohen Solal, Edouardo Makaroff and Christoph H Muller. They formed in 1999. Their first release was "Vuelvo al Sur/El capitalismo foráneo" in 2000, followed by the album La Revancha del Tango and in 2004, Inspiración-Espiración. Its sound features electronic elements like samples, beats and sounds on top of a tango groove. Tango dancers around the world enjoy dancing to this music, although many more traditional dancers regard it as a definite break in style and tradition. Still, the rhythmic elements in Gotan Project's music are more complex than in some of the other "electro tango" songs that were created afterwards. Gotan Project is currently (June 2004) back in the studio creating a new album. Out-takes were aired on Gilles Peterson's show "Worldwide" aired on BBC one in May 2004.
The collection album Bajofondo Tango Club (Underground tango club) and its follower "Supervielle" is another recent example which has a much more electro feeling than Gotan. Its beats are more regular, more dominant. The rhythms are less complex - but the tango feeling is still there. Other examples can be found on the CDs Tango?, Hybrid Tango, Tangophobia Vol. 1, Tango Crash (with a major jazz influence), NuTango. Tango Fusion Club Vol. 1 by the creator of the milonga called "Tango Fusion Club" in Munich, Germany, "Felino" by the Norwegian group "Electrocutango" and "Electronic Tango", a various artists' CD.
Kevin Johansen is another new tango artist who has a number of songs that combine folkloric and pop music with a milonga rhythm in such a way that it is barely unrecognizable until trying to dance tango to the music.
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The dates and facts surrounding the birth of Carlos Gardel, even his real name and nationality, are still argued about--more than 60 years after his death in a plane crash. But his place as the greatest singer in the history of tango is indisputable. Gardel not only nearly singlehandedly defined the tango-cancion (sung tango) and set the standards of interpretation. For many, he embodied the very spirit of tango--urbane yet streetwise, romantic but also tough, sensual but oh-so-cool.
The album above is available on Amazon here.
Ástor Piazzolla (March 11, 1921 in Mar del Plata - July 4, 1992 in Buenos Aires) is widely considered the most important tango composer of the latter half of the twentieth century. His compositions revolutionized the traditional tango with a modern style - incorporating elements from jazz and classical music in a style termed nuevo tango. He was also a formidable bandoneón player, and often performed his own compositions with different ensembles. He is known in his native land of Argentina as "El Gran Ástor" ("The Great Astor").
You can find the album above on Amazon here.