Cubans seek to revive little-known tango legacy - GulfToday

Cubans seek to revive little-known tango legacy

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Participants take part in the Caribbean qualifying round for the tango World Championship in Buenos Aires.

Cuba may be known now for upbeat salsa, but long before that genre even emerged its Afro beats fed into the melancholic Argentine tango which was widely popular on the Caribbean's largest island.

Now a small yet dedicated following of several dozen Cuban dance enthusiasts are seeking to expand its appeal once more, claiming it as their cultural legacy.

Two years ago, they launched an annual Havana tango marathon and festival, in addition to staging regular classes and milongas, or tango dance events.

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People dance tango during a weekly Sunday milonga on Havana's Paseo del Prado promenade, Cuba.

Last month, they hosted the first ever Caribbean qualifying round for the Tango World Championship in Buenos Aires.

"Tango runs through Cubans' veins because of its rhythm," said Agustin Garcia, 34, who runs a weekly Sunday milonga on a central, tree-lined Havana promenade, and is helping create an academy called Cuba Tango.

"Sometimes when I'm teaching, it's incredible how quickly students grasp the steps."

The word tango, of African origin, was used throughout Latin America around the turn of the 19th century to describe the social gatherings where slaves and free blacks would dance to the sound of drums, historians say.

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"Tango runs through Cubans' veins because of its rhythm" 

What is now known as Argentine Tango - as a music with lyrics and partnered dance - emerged later that century in the working class port areas between Argentina and Uruguay as a fusion of genres carried there by sailors and immigrants.

That included the Habanera - the dance of Havana - a mix of African rhythms and European musical elements, which explains perhaps why the tango ended up being so beloved in Havana.

"Sometimes we would take a break to forget the war with a bit of culture," said former guerilla Julio Lopez, 79. "The Che liked to sing a few tangos, and we loved it. He sang well."

Tango suffered a decline worldwide in the 1960s, staging a comeback as more of a niche interest in the 1980s.

Agence France-Presse