For World Cafe's thirteenth episode of Latin Roots, Latin music aficionado Ernesto Lechner chats about tango. Lechner was born and raised in Beunos Aires, the birthplace of tango. He was first fully immersed in Latin music after moving to Los Angeles and has since written several books on the subject, including Rock en Espanol: The Latin Alternative Rock Explosion. Lechner also co-hosts the radio show Latin Alternative and is a contributing writer for Rolling Stone, Chicago Tribune, and L.A. Times.
Instantly recognizable for its predominant use of the bandoneon, an accordion-like instrument, and its striking syncopation, tango blossomed in Argentina and Uruguay in the mid-19th century. Like salsa, early tango involved both formalistic music and dance. Perhaps because of this, Lechner feels that the genre was not considered cool growing up in Argentina in the 70's. However, innovators like Astor Piazzolla adapted the style and introduced jazz and classical influences. Lechner also talks about tango's current revitalization, due to the influences of electronic on the genre. The Paris-based Gotan project pioneered electrotango, which may explain renewed interest in the style in Argentina. State-sponsored milongas, or tango-dancing events, are increasingly popular with Argentine youth.