Tango: Protected for All of Humanity
The sexy, sultry, complicated tango was granted protected cultural status by Unesco’s Intergovernmental Committee of Intangible Heritage. The move was made at the body’s meeting this week in Abu Dhabi.
It appears Argentina and neighboring Uruguay have been at it for nearly a century, arguing over which is the true birthplace tango. The effort to talk Unesco into giving protected status was a joint one by the two countries and helps proclaim that the tango is worth preserving for all of humanity. In addition, other “intangibles” also added to the protected status list: the Procession of the Holy Blood in Bruges, Belgium and and the whistled language of La Gomera Island in the Canaries.
“Tango is a feeling that can be danced, and that feeling of course is passion,” Hernan Lombardi, the minister of culture of Buenos Aires, told the AP yesterday.
From a story in the Guardian:
“Tango has come a long way. Its exact origins are murky but the music, a blend of Spanish, African and central European rhythm, is believed to have emerged from European immigrants who populated the slums and bordellos of Buenos Aires in the 1880s. Lyrics that sang of nostalgia, loneliness, lust and betrayal were matched by a dance that was simultaneously sensual and aggressive.
The founding articles of the Buenos Aires-based National Tango Academy describe Argentina’s “creative validity” over a musical form that serves as the “authentic and deep-rooted expression” of the nation. Tango represents Argentina around the world like few other national art forms, it says.
That claim steps on Uruguayan toes. The world’s most popular tango song, “La Cumparsita”, was composed by a Uruguayan, Gerardo Matos Rodrígues, 90 years ago. It has inspired more than 2,500 variations and in 1998 became the country’s national hymn by presidential decree. Argentinians respond that the best known version of the song has lyrics written by an Argentinian, Pascual Contursi,and that the tune really took off only after Carlos Gardel, the most famous tango icon of all time and an Argentinian hero, recorded his own version in 1924. Beyond dispute is that Gardel’s death in a plane crash in 1935 broke millions of hearts and drove several women to suicide. His flower-strewn grave in Buenos Aires competes with that of Eva Perón as the country’s most famous tomb.”
When my husband and I were in Argentina a decade ago, we went to a little neighborhood club to watch the locals dance tango. We were struck by the difficulty, by the full body contact and by the ability of dancers, well beyond middle age, to move with the passion and ease of teen-agers.
To celebrate the tango news, I may now to go look for some fishnet stockings…and maybe a red rose for my hair…or maybe just a cutout to stand behind.