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About Tangos

Tangos Gitanos is one of a variety of musical styles found in the Spanish-speaking world
called "tango." Like the Tango Argentino it's roots lie in the way African and Caribbean
music blended with Spanish music in 18th and 19th century Latin America.

Like it's South American cousin, Tango Gitano consists of a simple, easily varied harmonic
and melodic structure over a four-count rhythm. Unlike other four-count patterns, the first
beat is weak while the other three beats are strong.

As Tangos became a part of flamenco in the 19th century, certain aspects of older flamenco
forms were folded into it, including 12-count soleares letras re-shaped to fit the four count
rhythmic pattern. Tangos of Granada shows traces of Moorish Zambras, while the Tango de
Cdiz, Tanguillos, is a compound rhythm of triplets and duplets.

As one might expect with such a maleable form, there is a wide range of Tangos associated
with different artists and regions in Andaluca.

The core of the Tangos is the letra, three or four octosyllabic lines. As with the Buleras, the
antecedent phrase (the first line) is often repeated, and the repeated lines are balanced by
a longer consequent phrase.

Before a letra a Tangos may open with a guitar falseta or an estribillo, in which the singer
sings a traditional melody with nonsense syllables ("le le le, ni, ni, etc.). The estribillo may
return throughout the piece as a chorus after a letra.

Once the letra begins it can be broken up several times with remates performed by the
dancer. This usually occurs between the first and second line of the letra, and often occurs
more frequently, giving the dance a improvisatory air.

Thus, the letras themselves can be further broken up with remates or escobillas from the
dancer or with guitar falsetas. A dancer may also choose to perform a long footwork
passage accompanied by comps patterns from the guitarist and palmista (an escobilla
performed "a palo seco" or dry, without guitar accompaniment).

As in Buleras, Tangos can end with a cierre - a closing pattern - that is based on a different
set of chords than the letras. The dancer can also perform a cue (llamada) that leads into a
traveling exit - a salida.

It's also common to end certain forms in flamenco with a macho, a transition into a faster,
related form. Tangos wiil often end with a brief Rumba Flamenca. Similarly, Tientos will
often end with a brief Tangos.


The underlying comps of Tangos is two sets of four counts.

The first beat of each set of four counts is silent or subdued. It's a foot stamp from the
palmista or dancer, or a tap on the top of the guitar, or a low note on the cajn. This is in
contrast to claps, chords or high cajn slaps on the other three beats.

It's common to divide the second beat of the second set of four counts into two beats.

1 +2 +3 +4 +1 +2 +3 +4

A phrase will generally end on the third beat of the second set of four counts, providing a
finish (a remate) to the sets of comps.

1 +2+3+4 +1+2+3+4+1+2+3+4+1+2+3+4+

The basic palmas pattern for tangos is two four-count sets. The first set simply
accents beats 2, 3, and 4. The second pattern adds a clap on the 'and' count after
1 +2 +3+4+1+2 +3+4

The two four-count patterns in the basic palmas pattern for Tangos can be
performed together as an eight-count pattern, or can each be repeated on their
own, depending on the underlying circumstances.
For Dancers
As well as footwork (zapateado/taconeo) and marking steps (marcando), Tangos
dance steps include hip rolls and flowing arm and hand gestures (braceo, manos
filigranas/rosas) and rhythmic finger snaps (pitos). The letras are usually broken up
into several sequences, for example; the first line of a song may be sung, and the
second line doesnt follow for one or two sets of comps while the dancer performs
footwork sequences, marking steps and long calls or cues - llamadas or desplante
llamadas. Free improvisations and mimed gestures are often performed in this
dance, which is similar in feel to the buleras. Both dances are "por fiesta/festero" -
performed frequently as short solos at parties, weddings and outdoor festivals and

Although there are many variations, the following is a traditional Tangos dance

1. Guitar Falseta guitarists introduction of the song/tempo/mood.

2. Llamada from the dancer (calls in/cues the singer)
3. Letra - song verse, broken into sections (where the dancer inserts footwork,
counter beat palmas, footwork or a desplante llamada)
4. Llamada from the dancer
5. Letra - song verse
6. Escobilla long footwork section
7. Cierre/Llamada (final cue going into the exit) and Salida (exit), which can also be
called a Cierre if the dance finishes on stage.
For Guitarists
Tangos Gitanos is a relatively easy form for guitarists to pick up, and it's one of the first
forms guitarists play. The most important thing for guitarists with backgrounds in other
styles to remember is to go light on the first count of each set of four. Play it too strongly
and you quickly lose the essential flamenco feel.
Here is a basic tangos pattern consisting of two sets of four beats. (X = golpe)

X Bb Bb f- g- a A A X
1 +2 +3 +4 + 1+2+3+4 +

This pattern, often used in the cierre, is based on the cadencia andaluz.
X Dm Dm Dm X C C C Bb Bb Bb X A A A
1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4

The traditional Tangos llamada begins and ends sections of the Tangos
X C C B Bb C A A A
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
Sample Cante
Here is a sample of a tradtional letra:

Le Le, le, le . . .
Le Le, le, le . . .
Triana, Triana,
que bonita esta Triana Triana, Triana
Cuando le ponen al puente how pretty Triana is
La banderita Gitana When they put the little Gypsy flag
on the bridge.
Maana me voy pa Cai
Salgo del Puerto Santa Maria. Tomorrow, Im going to Cdiz
Ay! mira que en el vapor, Im leaving from El Puerto Santa
pa contempla esa bella bahia. Maria
Tacita de plata...Reina del salero Oh, see how in the little steamship
Con este cante por tango yo One can gaze at this beautiful bay.
Quiero decirte lo que te camelo Little cup of silver, Queen of gracious
Que si que si, que no que no With this tango song, I want to tell
Que este Gitano me lo duermo
yo you that you have deceived me.

Yes or No?
Im going to sleep with this Gypsy!