NPR : World Cafe

Latin Roots: The Trajectory Of Tango

For World Cafe's 13th episode of Latin Roots, Latin-music expert Ernesto Lechner talks tango. Lechner was born and raised in Beunos Aires, which is widely regarded as the genre's birthplace.

"Tango existed earlier in Europe, but it really blossomed in Argentina and Uruguay in the mid- to late 19th century," Lechner says. "It was brought from Germany by all the Italian immigrants and German immigrants who congregated in the Buenos Aires harbor, and who were very much nostalgic about home in Europe and had mixed feelings about migrating to South America."

Lechner was first fully immersed in Latin music after he moved to Los Angeles, and he's since written several books on the subject, including Rock en Espanol: The Latin Alternative Rock Explosion. He also co-hosts the NPR radio program Latin Alternative and is a contributing writer for Rolling Stone, Chicago Tribune and L.A. Times.

Instantly recognizable for its prominent use of the bandoneon, an accordion-like instrument, tango frequently involves both formalistic music and dance. Perhaps because of this, Lechner says, the genre was not considered cool as he was growing up in Argentina in the '70s. Eventually, though, innovators like Astor Piazzolla adapted the style and introduced jazz and classical influences.

Lechner also discusses tango's current revitalization, due to the influences of electronica on the genre. Paris' Gotan Project pioneered electro-tango, which may explain some of the renewed interest in the style across Argentina; state-sponsored milongas, or tango-dancing events, have become increasingly popular with Argentine youth. Lechner plays two tango tracks to give a full sense of the genre: "El Dia Que Me Quieres" by Carlos Gardel and "Diferente" by the Gotan Project.

Listen to Ernesto Lechner's essential tango playlist on Spotify.

Copyright 2012 WXPN-FM. To see more, visit http://www.xpn.org/.

NPR

Reflecting On Football And Addiction As 'Friday Night Lights' Turns 25

Twenty-five years ago, Buzz Bissinger wrote about the big-time stakes of small-town high-school football in Friday Night Lights. Now he talks about the impact the book had on the players and himself.
NPR

Heavy Loads Of Pollen May Shift Flight Plans Of The Bumblebee

Foraging bumblebees can pick up nearly half their weight in pollen before heading home to the hive, research shows. All that weight tucked into hollows on their hind legs can complicate flying.
NPR

President Obama Unveils New Power Plant Rules In 'Clean Power Plan'

Key elements include a requirement that would cut the power industry's carbon pollution by 32 percent below 2005 levels in the next 15 years.
NPR

Group Offers To Help Revive HitchBOT That Was Vandalized In Philadelphia

A kid-sized robot that's built around a PVC bucket and sports a friendly face, the hitchBOT couldn't make it out of Philadelphia in one piece.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.