National Tango Day
December 11, 2020
(the long version if you have a lot of time)
The International Day of Tango is celebrated annually on 11 December and started out as a joint birthday celebration for both Carlos Gardel, one the most famous and loved Argentine Tango singers of all time (“The Voice “, “The Creole Thrush”, “The Tango King”) and Julio De Caro, one of the most influential composers, violinists and orchestra conductors.
Carlos Gardel was born either in 1887, in Tacuarembó, Uruguay or in 1890 in Toulouse, France. By the age of 6 he was living in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Gardel was famous for the dramatic phrasing of his tango ballads and lyrics, which were played in nightclubs and in films in the 1920s and 1930s. Sadly, Gardel died in a plane crash in Medellín, Colombia in 1935 while on tour. Listen to Gardel and learn more about his life on TodoTango/Gardel.
Julio De Caro was born in 1899, the second of 12 children with Italian roots. In 1924, Julio made his first recordings of a new tango music style that he believed was at the same instrumental level as Carlos Gardel’s style at vocal level. De Caro’s music introduced a “softer” and more passionate violin, which forever replaced the somewhat “marching” tango-arrangements from earlier recording years. De Caro died on 11 March 1980. You can hear some fine examples of De Caro’s music on TodoTango/de-Caro.
The day of celebration was instigated by the composer, producer and talent scout, Ben Molar who was also a personal friend of Julio de Caro. However, it wasn’t easy to make the day an official celebration of tango! Molar first presented the idea to Ricardo T. Freixá the Secretary of Culture of the Municipality of Buenos Aires City in 1965. Freixá then had get the approval from all the arts organisations of that time; Sadaic , Argentores , Sade , Casa del Teatro, Sindicato Argentino de Músicos, Unión Argentina de Artistas de Variedades, Academia Porteña del Lunfardo, Radio Rivadavia, Fundación Banco Mercantil, La Gardeliana, Asociación Argentina de Actores and Asociación Amigos de la Calle Corrientes.
It took 11 years to pass and finally on 29 November 1977 the Decree No. 5830/77 was signed by the Municipality of Buenos Aires City. Some 13 days later during a tango festival organised by Molar at Luna Park, Buenos Aries, it was announced to some 15,000 dancers, musicians, singers, bands, broadcasters and journalists. Then on 23 December that same year, a decree was put forward and approved by the Secretary of Culture of the Nation, Dr Raúl Alberto Casa to make the 11 December a national day of tango in Argentina.
In 2009, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) approved a joint proposal by Argentina and Uruguay to include the tango in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists.
Today, officially or not, this special day of celebration is recognised by tango enthusiasts and artists around the world.
Happy birthday Carlos. Happy birthday Julio. Happy birthday Tango.
December 11, the birthday of the Argentine singer and film actor, the famous “King of Tango” Carlos Gardel celebrates International Day of Tango – a dance festival, the philosophy of which is in the confrontation.
There are several versions of the origin of tango. The most common of them is that originally a dance of this kind appeared in the port suburbs of Buenos Aires, where at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries the cultural traditions of many countries of the world met and merged into one whole – the rhythms of the Cuban Habanera, the African candombe, the Argentine milonga, the Spanish flamenco, and some other European dances brought in by foreign sailors. And although in Argentina it was a dance of the poor neighborhoods, a dance of immigrants, soon the lyrical and passionate tango sounded throughout the country.
Charles Romuald Gardès was born in Toulouse, France on December 11, 1890. His mother moved to Buenos Aires in 1893.
They lived at Calle Uruguay 162 in San Nicolás neighborhood of Buenos Aires.
It’s only recently been accepted that Gardel was born French.
The affinity makes sense. French and Argentines have a long love affair. Paris was the capital of the world and Argentina was one of the top ten richest economies. The Paris Tango Craze of 1913 made Tango dancing popular in Italy, New York, and then Buenos Aires.
Mi Noche Triste (My Sad Night)
Like many artists, Gardel started singing at parties and in bars. His version of Mi Noche Triste (1917) was a hit in Latin America. Gardel’s version was the first Tango with lyrics. The song was an instrumental from Buenos Aires. Gardel added unofficial lyrics from Montevideo, Uruguay. The pairing forever set the melancholy tone of Tango songs.
Percanta que me amuraste…
The Second International Latin Idol
Italian-American movie star Rudolph Valentino was the first Latin idol. Carlos Gardel was the second.
Back in the day in New York City, Latins in East Harlem would listen on the radio to Carlos Gardel and what was becoming Latin Jazz.
Tango got an international boost by the adoption of the phonograph. Many of the first recordings were of Tango. The technology spread Argentine Tango around the world.
Gardel’s musical style of simple guitar and voice played into the Gaucho myth of the Argentine cowboys. It’s one of Argentina’s founding stories. Interestingly, it was Valentino’s role as an Argentine Gaucho dancing a Tango that made him famous.
As Gardel’s popularity grew, he started making movies. He made some in New York City including The Tango on Broadway (1934).
Gardel’s American movies were some of the first Spanish-language movies that were not remakes of English productions. That made them especially popular.
In New York City, Gardel met a talented young bandoneon player Astor Piazzolla and invited him on tour. We are lucky that Piazzolla’s father declined the offer. Piazzolla went on to create Tango Nuevo, the Tango Jazz form which now dominates Tango music.
Gardel’s final film was Tango Bar (1935) which he shot at the Kaufman Astoria studios in Queens just before leaving New York for Medellín. It contains his famous song Por una cabeza. It’s funny that many people think the song is romantic, but it’s about horse racing.
Medellín, Colombia is the third city of Tango. Medellín has it’s own Tango culture. Men bond by drinking beers while listening to Tango songs.
Many Paisas of Medellín have an encyclopedic knowledge of Tango recordings in the way that some people memorize baseball statistics. Many Paisas can sing along. It’s one of the beautiful things that happens when you dance Tango with a Colombian. He is likely to sing along while dancing.
Gardel was on his way to perform in Medellín when his plane crashed while landing on June 24, 1935. The stars body was taken to New York City and Rio de Janeiro for idolation before Gardel was buried in La Chacarita, Argentina’s national cemetery.