Music of Argentina - Traditional Argentinian Music
To many, the music of Argentina is tango, but music tastes of this diverse
country were built on numerous styles. Outside Buenos Aires, the cradle of
the traditional tango music, another musical style reigns and manages to
captivate minds of people - Argentine folklore.
Argentine folk music and dance
developed much before the arrival of tango, mixing the
styles of song and dance of indigenous people, colonial settlers from
Europe (mostly Spain), and African slaves who all started settling into the
newly formed country during the 17th century.
The arrival of tango put the Argentina on the cultural map of the world,
and since the early 1900s, this dance became one of the most popular Latin
dances worldwide. Developed by the underclass of Argentina and Uruguay, and
under influences of numerous European, African and indigenous styles (such
as milonga), tango quickly became one of the foundation stones of modern
Argentine culture and music.
As one of the largest South American countries, culture of this land is rich with countless types of music
Argentine Folk Music
Argentine folk music is today known under several names, most notablyfolklore music, folkloric music, or folklórica. It exists not as a single musical entity, but
as a mix of numerous styles and forms that differ one from another by the
influences of the region, climates and local traditions of the parts of
Argentine where they were developed. The exact origins of the any of those
individual regional styles are now lost to time, but modern versions of
those styles can be traced to individual influential artists and composers
who have contributed to the modern development of those styles.
Traditional folklore instruments are guitar, violin, and drums. Some music
styles also use bandoneón (best known for its use in tango music), and
indigenous Andean instruments such as wooden flute “quena”
and small banjo “charango”. Clothing is focused on
traditional Argentinian outfits, with women wearing long and full skirts
that allow movement, while men wear wide gaucho pants that get narrow at
the ankles (bombachas), wide brim hats, boots, and scarves. Some dances
require dancers to hold scarves in hand.
History of Argentine Folklorica
During the majority of the history of Argentine folklorica, this musical style existed only as a part of the non-written tradition of
Argentine heritage. It only received the name “folklorica” during
the middle of 19th century, coming from the English word folklore. While in
rest of the world “folklore” describes a wider expressive body of culture
that was shared by particular nation or group of people, in Argentina this
word is only used to describe “folklorica”, diverse folk music and dances
of this large country.
For centuries, folk music and dances of Argentina were not recorded in
written form. This changed during the early 20th century with the exploits
of Andrés Chazaretta (today known in Argentina as the
“patriarch of folklore”) who developed a group “Conjunto de Arte Nativo” (“The Collection of Native Art”) which was focused on preservation,
recording and showcasing of the Argentine folklórica across entire country.
Their first highly successful tour happened in 1906, kickstarting larger
movement of preserving Argentine musical and dance heritage, and creation
of many other musical groups which were focused on developing new
traditional music of Argentina.
Argentine folk music has managed to endure ages and still remain popular today
The modern history of Argentina featured numerouspolitical changes, which influenced or restricted cultural development, created rises and falls
in preservation and popularization of heritage and cultural values of this
country. This enabled folklorica (together with tango and other traditions
of Argentina) to become strongly linked with regional and national identity
during the 1950s and 1960s when Argentine folklore underwent through a
significant revival that is today often referred as “boom del folclore”.
During that time, many new bands, authors, singers, and composers started
producing brand new songs in the traditional styles of regional Argentine
folklore. Their efforts were boosted by the new recording and playback
technologies, political regime that was focused on the promotion of
traditional Argentine identity, as well as the more urbanized population
that was hungry to consume new music via radio, television, and cinema.
The years of “Boom del folclore” eventually crystallized into the “Movimiento
del Nuevo Cancionero” (The New Singer Movement) that lasted between the
1960s and 70s, featuring the rise of many popular Argentine folk singers
and musicians such as Armando Tejado Gomez, Toto Francia, Oscar Matus and
Mercedes Sosa. They all managed to mix the elements of traditional
Argentine folk music, tango, and rock into new forms of popular music.
1970s-1980s Dirty War and Folk Music
Change in government regime between 1976-1983 led to the return of the
repressed any form of free artistic, cultural and political expression
that subverted the image of the government. This led to the banning of the numerous folk songs because of their
non-approved subversive lyrics, government-backed disappearances of
artists, intellectuals, political opponents, and exile of many notable folk
musicians such as Carlos Carabal, Los Tucu Tucu, Cantores del Alba,
Atahualpa Yupanqui, Los Hermanos Ábalos, Manseros Santiagueños and others.
During those years, numerous
Argentinian music artists tried to openly defy the will of the
and their censorship measures by performing the banned songs, which in some
cases led to the reprisals by government forces. One of the most notable
examples of this is the rumored assassination of the famous folk musician
Jorge Cafrune who
was killed in a hit-and-run accident shortly after he sang an
Other performers who tried to do the same were often harassed by the
government or police personnel, or even interrupted and arrested during
live performances (such as folk singer Mercedes Sosa and his entire
audience in Mar del Plata in 1979).
After the early 1980s, government pressure against subversive songs
slackened, and many exiled folk musicians returned to Argentina which then
underwent another age of promotion of traditional values. Folk music was
reintroduced to people hungry for traditional values, and new generations
of composers, musicians and singers promoted folklorica into one of the
most popular musical styles of modern Argentina.
Regional differences of Argentine music
Here are folk music and dance styles that are popular in the regions of
Center Northwest Folk Music
Santiago del Estero - Chacarera, gato and escondido
Salavina - Vidala
Córdoba - Cuyo music
- Tulumba - Chachatera, zamba, jota cordobesa, bailecito cordobés and gato
Salta - Zamba and baguala
Littoral Folk Music
Guarani, schotis, galopa, chamame, chamarrita, rasguido doble, valseado,
chacarera estirada and milonga.
Southern or Buenos Aires Folk Music
Milonga, huella, cifra y estilo and Tango
Cuyo Folk Music
Tonada, gato and cueca styles, closely connected with influences of Chile
It is popular in provinces such as San Juan, Mendoza and San Luis, south of
Córdoba, Catamarca, La Rioja and La Pampa
Patagonia Folk Music
In Patagonia (provinces of Neuquén, Río Negro, Chubut, Santa Cruz and
Tierra del Fuego), most notable musical styles are loncomeo, cordillerana,
chorrillero and kaani.
Traditional Argentine folk dances differ widely across its large territory.
The most popular ones are without a doubt Chacarera, Chamamé, and Zamba.
Here are only some of numerous traditional folk dances of Argentina:
Tango arose in underprivileged parts of Buenos Aires and Montevideo
in the 19th century as the reaction to the mix of the incredible variety of
influences by newly arrived settlers from all around the Europe. A mix of
the styles of traditional Argentine songs of Milonga, Cuban hanabera,
Slavic polka, Spanish contradanse, Andalusian flamenco and Italian folk
music led to the creation of traditional tango, which continued to evolve
both in Argentina and outside of it when it managed to find worldwide
popularity in after the early 1900s.
Tango is today regarded as one of their greatest national musical styles
and dances, popularized by incredible variety of musicians and songwriters
that not only promoted tango in early 1900s (such as very popular Carlos
Gardel), but were also part of large bands during “The Golden Age of Tango"
(1930 to mid-1950s), development of Tango Nuevo and more modern Neo Tango.
Rock and roll
- Also known as Argentine Rock or Rock Nacional. This name is also
often closely connected with pop music, and styles such as Ska, reggae,
Funk and Blues
- Artists and bands such as Bandana, Miranda!, Alejandro Lerner,
Babasónicos, and many others.
- Argentine music with Colombian roots, rose in popularity after the
- A famous form of dance music that is closely connected with Merengue.
It gained popularity in Argentina during the 1940s and went through a
spike in popularity during the revival in 1980s.
- Less popular Argentine music style developed from the influences of
Balkan folk and Latin rhythm music, under the guidance of band La
Fanfarria del Capitán.
Art and Jazz music