Tango is black: meet Horacio Salgán, name

Horacio Salgán lived a hundred years. One of the pioneers of tango in Argentina, The musician was descended from former slaves, and dates back to the origins of tango, which, like jazz, was born from the hands and minds of blacks and African descendants. A version of the story that is still little known since the names of reference in the genre were limited to white artists, such as Carlos Gardel and Astor Piazzola.

Born in 1906, Salgán was considered a child prodigy when he was a student at the National Conservatory and was later recognized worldwide for his disruptive style in the tango genre. He devoted himself mainly to the piano and his unique style was a source for musicians such as Astor Piazzola, who used to escape during breaks from where he played with his orchestra to see Salgán at the bar across the street.

Pianist, composer and orchestral director, at the age of 20 he was part of the Roberto Firpo orchestra and made arrangements for Miguel Caló’s orchestra. In 1944, he founded his own orchestra and released his best-known song, “in slow fire”, in 1955, a stylistic landmark that opened waters in the musical genre.

“The style of Horacio Salgán was unique and an arrangement that passed through his hands is noticeable”, points out Edgardo Sarri, radio broadcaster specializing in tango, who conducts the program “Every Tango“, on Rádio Melody. “Like him, several other black musicians had a trajectory that left a fundamental legacy for tango, as well as many women, who are also not mentioned.

tango is black

When taking the stage, singer Shirlene Oliveira usually emphasizes that she sings tango because it makes sense, due to the black roots of the genre. A black woman and migrant from Brazil, she decided to live in Argentina to dedicate herself to tango, and is a constant witness of social ignorance about her origins.

“The lack of knowledge and denial about the black origins of tango, in the country of birth of the style, is sad. While it denies its own identity, the culture and the entire population impoverishes,” he says. “My experience with tango is one of tenacity, I deal with comments and situations that could make any artist give up, however, I remain determined.”

“The tango is of black origin and built marginally, based on the great ethnic and migratory diversity”, says singer Shirlene Oliveira. / Amanda Cotrim

As a kind of cultural symptom of the country, in Argentina it is not customary to talk, study or know about enslaved Africans, who made up 46% of the population in 1778.

“The history of tango has popular roots, like jazz”, says Edgardo Sarri, who highlights two fundamental spheres for understanding the emergence of the genre. “There is the internal sphere, which has the confluence of Afro-descendant rhythms, such as candombe – that don don don that gives rhythm to tango, which is beautiful -; and there is the external sphere, of European migrants who arrived in the 19th century and settled in the tenements, and brought anxiety and depression to the tango, the stories of persecuted people, fleeing wars.”

:: Felipe Karam launches the song “Água de Santo” this Thursday on digital platforms ::

In researching the origins of tango, anthropologist Pablo Cirio, from the Carlos Vega National Institute of Musicology, discovered a document that records the word “tango” for the first time. Dated November 11, 1802, a purchase slip from a “place of blacks” in the neighborhood now known as Constitution.

“The generation of the 1980s built a narrative that considered Afro-Argentines as missing from history,” says Pablo Cirio on the national government’s culture portal. dominant narrative, they did not question it.”

For the anthropologist, knowing the roots of tango is knowing the genre itself. “Tango has black origins and is linked to urban milonga, and this one, with Candombe and other lesser-known Afro-Porto genres. And when you listen to Buenos Aires Candombe, which always has lyrics, dance, and you analyze the cadence of the melody, its harmonic structure, you start to hear structures similar to those of an old tango”, he comments.

“Listening is cultural, and we were educated not to see or listen to black people. When you listen to a tango or a milonga with your ears open to diversity, you begin to realize your black origin,” says Cirio.

In this sense, for Shirlene Oliveira, Horacio Salgán is one of the great references that must be recognized. “Salgán is one of the most emblematic references in tango, the Afro boy from Abasto, who contributed to the orchestras he directed, and whose black musicality continues influencing until today”, he points out.

“It is relevant to unveil the African origins of the genre, an important recognition that enriches the story, it lives up to all the contributions of people who suffered discrimination and derision, when they started the cultural movement around tango, such as the compadritos, the first prom conductors, composers, musicians, who were part of the first moments of this enormous present and legacy, today intangible cultural heritage of humanity”, completes the singer.

Edition: Thales Schmidt

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