In 1913, an interesting period began for tango which ended with the end of the first World War. Tango arrived in Paris. Though the upper classes of the Rio Plata region (Argentina, Uruguay) danced it in private, tango was still not yet socially accepted. But its mysterious history of danger and sinfulness held immediate appeal in Paris. Prior to World War 1, Paris was a centre for the world's intellectual elite, who gathered in its cafes and dance halls, and learned about this exotic music. After World War 1, Tangueros tried to regain European interest in tango and did so with only some success. However an important force then appeared in 1918 -- Carlos Gardel.
By this time, lyrics were being added to tangos. Tango had its own poets and a star singer, Carlos Gardel, who was to become somewhat of an ambassador of tango. He completed two films for Paramount Pictures and embarked on a Latin American Tour which included Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Cuba and Mexico. Later he planned to travel to other Spanish speaking countries. He would not complete his tour, as he died in a plane crash over Colombia. But his death seemed only to increase his importance in tango's history.
Gardel introduced tango in song to the World. Tango's popularity began to spread worldwide and more importantly, gain some acceptance in its homeland. Upon gaining world wide popularity, tango lost some of its clandestine character, ending its time as a joyful, provocative music to become a melancholy and nostalgic one.
The demographic of the Rio Plata region changed dramatically after the war with the influx of masses of immigrants from many regions of the world. The men mostly immigrated alone and this was said to raise the man-to-women ratio in Buenos Aires to 20-1. Prostitution was of course rampant. The woman's depiction in tango lyrics was now somewhat different than her actual situation in the dance. The men in tango sang about two main themes: losing their love to another, and nostalgia or loneliness for one's homeland or family.
By this time, tango music found what is considered today, one of its definitive elements, the bandoneon -- the accordion-like instrument originally invented as a replacement for the organ in small rural churches that could not afford their own. When incorporated, the bandoneon's distinct sound transformed the lightheartedness that the guitar and flute gave it, to a more languid, heavier quality and rhythm. continued >>