Where does Tango come from? Is it “white”? is it “black”? Is it that simple? Film review of “Tango negro, The African roots of Tango”

This is a review of documentary film “Tango negro, The African roots of Tango”.

Tango, which has been part of UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists since 2009, remains a dance with uncertain, fuzzy, and even disputed roots to this day.

‘I’ll try to play for you some of the ‘’whitest’’ music on the American continent – which despite everything at its origins, there is a hint of Africanity by way of its root’.

This is how the late Juan Carlos Cáceres, one of the most eminent Argentinian musicians of his generation, sets the leading thread of this documentary.

Directed by Angolan filmmaker Dom Pedro, Tango negro, The African roots of Tango is a documentary film that follows the great Juan Carlos Cáceres and his inseparable piano from Paris to Buenos Aires, passing by Paraná in Brazil and Montevideo in Uruguay.

Through a succession of passionate conversations with historians, ethno-musicologists, journalists, musicians and even drums-makers, the film unveils how African beats and drums are indeed part of tango’s story – an aspect that, in his opinion, has been vastly dismissed in recounting the history of tango.

By delving into the roots of tango, Cáceres and Pedro inevitably end up discussing the sensitive theme of Argentinian roots too.

They show how African and European migration history to Argentina and Uruguay reflect the history of tango, and how the latter, in both music and dance, merged different ethno-musical elements as it evolved.

Elements like the guitar, for instance, came from European immigrants, mainly Italian and Spanish, who fled Europe in the 19th century in search of a better life.

Africans slaves, who landed in the Río de la Plata (at the borders between Argentina and Uruguay) in the same century, also brought their own musical legacies to the sounds of tango through “Milonga” music, “Candombe” dance, and “Habanera” rhythms, for example, all of which have roots in African rhythms.

Through charming walks (and dances as a matter of fact) around the streets of Buenos Aires, Montevideo and Parana, Cáceres and Pedro give us the heart-warming opportunity to listen to the lively rhythms of tango, Candombe, Milonga and African beats while learning about the fascinating history of Argentina and tango.

By Margot El-Khoury.

You can watch “Tango negro, The African roots of Tango” on VOD here: https://www.reelhouse.org/artmattanfilms/tango-negro

The film will also screen in New York on the 7th and 8th of December 2015 at Bow Tie Chelsea. For more information, please visit http://nyadiff.org/adiff-ny-2015-presents-tango-negro-the-african-roots-of-tango/

Painting; “Tango dancers” by Sharareh Chakamian. See more at: http://www.dancelink.co.uk/in-art_sharareh-chakamian/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *