Tango is a melting pot
The first generation of tango players, called the “Guardia Vieja” (the Old Guard), were recent immigrants. By mixing their own culture and heritage, they participated in creating tango, a new music genre blending European, African and salon music.
Guarda vieja instruments
Originally, tango was played on a variety of instruments, from violins to guitars – perhaps a heritage of migrants music from Spain and Italy. Bandoneón only arrived at the end of the 19th century; additionally, organito, a portable player-organ, was instrumental in making certain songs popular. Some ensembles also featured a clarinet. Famous artists from the period include Eduardo Arolas and Vicente Greco.
The tango sextet (Sexteto Tipico)
In the early 1910s, Roberto Firpo of the Guardia Vieja, a pianist and leader of one of the most successful Tango bands of the time, created the standard Tango sextet – two bandoneons, two violins, piano and double bass. Here are some tracks we like from Firpo:
The orquesta típica criolla
After 1913, these sextets developed even further to include a flute rather than a double bass. These became known as orquesta típica criolla (traditional creole band); eventually the term criolla was dropped and ensembles were called simply orquestas típicas.
Orquestas típicas usually comprise:
– a string section (with violins, viola, and cello)
– a bandoneón section (with 3 or more bandoneons)
– a rhythmic section (with piano, and double bass).