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Top 10 Tango Artists

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Top 10: Tango Artists

One of Buenos Aires’ most famous aspects is its tradition of tango, which is also known as one of its greatest contributions to the world. There were uncountable contributors to the tango tradition, from those who developed the steps in the early days, to those who helped the dance gain popularity, to those who enjoyed the haunting music. But the biggest contributors have been the musicians and dancers who made great leaps in perpetuating the tradition, through songwriting, dancing, singing, or even reinventing. Here are the top ten tango artists of all time.

1. Carlos Gardel

Carlos Gardel is, without a doubt, the most famous and most important tango artist of all. Born in 1890, he became the Frank Sinatra of Argentina, and has been cherished long past his death in 1935. He was an incredible lyricist, and his voice became the quintessential sound of tango music.

2. Astor Piazzolla

Piazzolla, born in 1921, was one of those who reinvented the tango over time. Embracing jazz as it became mainstream, he skillfully married the two very different styles, and introduced tango to American jazz and bebop musicians. While he wrote many noteworthy pieces before his death in 1992, it was his overall direction of the music as an art form for which he is remembered.

3. Anibal Troilo

Anibal Troilo played a great role in the development of tango music during his life (1914 - 1975). Although the instruments used in a tango ensemble have changed throughout time, his contribution has become engrained in the dance, and today the steps are woven around the bandoneón, a type of concertina (similar to an accordion), of which he was a major proponent.

4. Juan Carlos Copes

If Anibal Troilo brought an important instrument into the world of tango, Copes, born in 1931, is responsible for many of the important accompanying steps. There is a large amount of drama in today’s tango, and Copes can be held responsible not only for developing these steps, but ensuring that they become an integral part of the dance.

5. Osvaldo Pugliese

Osvaldo Pugliese was a composer and pianist, but the accessibility of his music is what made him famous. Born in 1905, he was most famous during the Perón years, when he broadcast his music over the government-run radio, spreading not only the music, but his communist beliefs, as well. Pugliese died in 1995.

6. Azucena Maizani

Maizani was one of the most influential women in tango’s history. A contemporary of Gardel, she was twelve years his junior, but lived a long life, until 1970. During her most famous years, during the 1920s and ’30s, she had an incredible voice that took her to cities as far away as New York. She was known for dressing in men’s clothing, and also appeared in some of Gardel’s movies.

7. Horacio Ferrer

Ferrer, born in 1933, has done much over the years to contribute to the tango tradition. He has dedicated his life to documenting the music and dance, through books and research, but he is also an incredible lyricist, and his words are often set to Piazzolla’s similar, surreal music.

8. Carlos Saura

Not Argentine at all, Saura still made a great contribution to tango. While the director, born in 1932, is mostly known for other projects, he also made a film in 1998 appropriately titled Tango, which received worldwide exposure. The choreographer’s conceptual and controversial movie greatly perpetuated the international revival of tango.

9. Casimiro Ain

Just slightly older than Gardel, he was the visual force that took Europe by storm, accompanied by Gardel’s mesmerizing tunes. Ain, who lived from 1882 until 1940, showed Paris what it was all about in 1904, and later returned to convince everyone, including the archbishop, that tango was so much more than the sin it was perceived to be at the time.

10. Gotan Project

Today’s re-inventors, the Gotan Project is made up of porteños and Parisians alike, who have come together to combine electronic music with the classicism of tango. While many traditionalists aren’t completely keen on the new age tango, many people love the fusion, and are excited to see what they will come up with next.

For more information about Buenos Aires culture, see this Buenos Aires Travel Guide.

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