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Music of Argentina

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Music of Argentina

Ariel Ramírez (at piano), President of the Argentine Society of Authors and Composers, with eminent folklore vocalist Mercedes Sosa, 1972.
Folk guitar virtuoso Eduardo Falú (right).

The music of Argentina is known mostly for the tango, which developed in Buenos Aires and surrounding areas, as well as Montevideo, Uruguay. Folk, pop and classical music are also popular, and Argentine artists like Mercedes Sosa and Atahualpa Yupanqui contributed greatly to the development of the nueva canción. Argentine rock has also led to a defiant Rock scene in Argentina.

Folk music

Atahualpa Yupanqui, 1968.
Folk music quartet Los Fronterizos, 1959.
Los Chalchaleros quartet, 1958.
The Ábalos brothers, 1945.

Folk music—called música folklórica or folklore in Spanish, from transliteration of the English folklore—comes in many forms, developed in different parts of Argentina with different European and indigenous influences. Among the first traditional folk groups to record extensively in Argentina, three of the most influential were from the northwest: Los Chalchaleros and Los Fronterizos from the Province of Salta and the Ábalos brothers from Santiago del Estero Province. Becoming nearly instant successes following their first albums around 1950, they inspired a revival of the genre in Argentina.

A famous soloist in the genre is guitarrist Eduardo Falú, known for the many compositions that set traditional poetry into music. Traditional folk music became increasingly important during the protest movement against the military dictatorship and the community divisions of the 1970s, with artists like Mercedes Sosa and Atahualpa Yupanqui, contributing to the development of nueva canción. Soledad Pastorutti ('La Sole') has brought folklore to a new audience, and in the early 21st century Juana Molina has proposed a fusion between electronic music and folklore with ambient sounds, a gentle voice and short zambas.

A well-known venue for Argentine folklore music, the Cosquín National Folklore Festival, has been gathering musicians from the genre annually since 1961. A modest event at first, the festival has grown to include folk musicians from neighboring countries and Asia, as well as from throughout Argentina, itself. Focusing on folklore music, the festival nevertheless features talent from the worlds of tango, acoustic music and international culture.[1] On the same time of year is made the Cosquín Rock festival.[2] Cosquín National Folklore Festival typically includes representatives from all musical genres created or developed in Argentina:

Andean music

An Indigenous Argentine quena, a traditional Andean instrument.

In northern Argentina, on the borders with Bolivia and Chile, the music of the Andes reflects the spirit of the land with the sounds of local wind, percussion and string instruments. Jaime Torres is a famous Argentine/Bolivian charango player.


Originating in Santiago del Estero, this folk music is accompanied by Spanish guitars and bombo legüero. The name originates from the word "chacra" ("farm"), as it was usually danced in rural areas, but it slowly made its way to the cities of that area.It is one of the few Argentine dances for couples where the woman has an equal opportunity to show off.


Accordion-based Chamamé arose in the northeastern region (provinces of Corrientes,Formosa & Misiones) an area with many settlers from Poland, Austria and Germany. Polkas, Mazurkas and waltzes came with these immigrants, and soon mixed with the Spanish music already present in the area. Chamamé was not very popular internationally in the 20th century, though some artists, such as Argentine superstar Raúl Barboza, became popular later in the century. In the early 21st century Chango Spasiuk, a young Argentine of Ukrainian descent from Misiones province, has once again brought chamamé to international attention.The main basis of all the music of this area on the banks of the Paraná River is its roots in the music of Paraguay across the water.

Popular music

Francisco Canaro and his Tango Orchestra, circa 1930.


Main articles: Tango music

Tango arose in the brothels, bars and port areas of Buenos Aires, where waves of Europeans poured into the country mixing various forms of music. The result, tango, came about as a fusion of disparate influences including:

Tango icon Carlos Gardel

That combination of European rhythms, brought to Argentina and Uruguay by traders and immigrants, developed into the swinging milonga around 1900.[4] The milonga quickly became the popular dance of Buenos Aires and slowly evolved into modern tango; since 1930, tango has changed from a dance-focused music to one of lyric and poetry, thanks to vocalists like Carlos Gardel, Roberto Goyeneche, Hugo del Carril, Tita Merello, Susana Rinaldi, Edmundo Rivero and Ignacio Corsini, was equally well known as a folk singer. The golden age of tango (1930 to mid-1950s) mirrored the golden age of Jazz and Swing in the United States, featuring large orchestral tango groups, too, like the bands (known as "Orquestas típicas") led, in particular, by Francisco Canaro, Julio de Caro, Osvaldo Pugliese, Aníbal Troilo, Juan d'Arienzo, and Alfredo De Angelis.

After 1955, as the Nueva canción and Argentine rock movements stirred, tango became more intellectual and listener-oriented, led by Ástor Piazzolla's new tango. Many of the musicians that helped Piazzolla promote nuevo tango went on to develop important careers of their own, like violinist Antonio Agri, fellow bandoneón virtuosi José Libertella and Rodolfo Mederos and pianists Horacio Salgán and Pablo Ziegler, who earned a 2005 Grammy Award. Today, tango continues to produce new exponents, has experienced a major revival, and the rise of neo tango is a global phenomenon with groups like Tanghetto, Bajofondo and Gotan Project.

Rock and roll

Argentine rock and roll is usually named like Argentine rock or rock nacional (national rock). Many times are wrongly include in the rock nacional songs or bands and artists of another music genres like pop (Virus, Los Abuelos de la Nada, Fito Páez), ska (Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, Los Auténticos Decadentes), reggae (Los Pericos), funk (Sumo), folk (Sui Generis, Las Pastillas del Abuelo, Pedro y Pablo, León Gieco) or blues (Manal). At the time (late 60s), popular music was a style called ritmo latino, a mainstream pop genre.

Soda Stereo in concert.

Bohemian hangouts in Buenos Aires and Rosario were the cradles of the genre, relying heavily on British rock influences, but in the mid-1960s musicians began exploring local musical roots, creating a local sound. Musicians like Litto Nebbia of Los Gatos began recording their own kind of rock. Los Gatos' La Balsa, released early in their year, established the distinctive sound of Argentine rock. In 1967, in the city of Quilmes, formed one of the most important bands in the history of Argentine rock and roll: Vox Dei. By 1970 Argentine rock had become established among middle class youth (see Almendra, Pescado Rabioso). In the 80s, Argentine rock bands became popular across Latin America and elsewhere (Serú Girán, Soda Stereo, Rata Blanca, Enanitos Verdes, Riff, Charly García). From that decade become a staple of popular culture with many cultural/social styles: underground, mainstream oriented, some associated with the working class (La Renga, Los Violadores, Hermética, Divididos, Attaque 77, Patricio Rey y sus Redonditos de Ricota) and with underclass youth (Viejas Locas, 2 Minutos, Flema, Jovenes Pordioseros, Intoxicados, La 25, Los Gardelitos). Current popular bands and soloists include: Charly García, Indio Solari, Skay Beilinson, Fabiana Cantilo, Andrés Ciro Martínez, Andrés Calamaro, Litto Nebbia, Juanse, La Renga, Vox Dei, Enanitos Verdes, Las Pelotas, Horcas, Carajo, Tren Loco, Jauría, Cabezones, Jovenes Pordioseros, Divididos, Attaque 77, La 25, El Otro Yo, Casi Justicia Social, Rata Blanca, Mancha de Rolando, Viejas Locas, Catupecu Machu, Almafuerte, Malón, Bersuit Vergarabat, Massacre Palestina, 2 Minutos. Dissolved bands who was popular were: Patricio Rey y sus Redonditos de Ricota, Soda Stereo, El Reloj, Pescado Rabioso, Serú Girán, Invisible, Los Gatos, Callejeros, Almendra, Los Violadores, Riff, V8, Ratones Paranoicos, A.N.I.M.A.L., Hermética, Latorre, Intoxicados. Argentine rock and roll was the most listened-to music among youth in the late 80s and 90s; its influence and success has expanded internationally owing to a rich and uninterrupted evolution.[5]

Some of the most popular Argentine rock musicians are Charly García, Gustavo Cerati, Andrés Calamaro, Luis Alberto Spinetta, Indio Solari, Litto Nebbia and Pappo.


Argentine electronic music experienced a surge of popularity in the 1990s.[5] Rocker Gustavo Cerati switched to electronica in 1999.[6] Electronic dance parties and shows like Creamfields BA are favorites among thousands.[7] Prominent electronica DJs include veteran Diego Ro-K, Hernán Cattáneo who has played Burning Man, and drum and bass star Bad Boy Orange.[5] Indietronica bands like Entre Ríos have also become popular. Bajofondo Tango Club and the Gotan Project have fused tango with electronica.[8] From the Zizek Club in Buenos Aires, ZZK Records began in 2007 to create a fusion of electronica and cumbia.[9]


Ballad crooner Sandro, 1966. "The Gypsy", as he is popularly known, was popular with female audiences.

Pop bands have seen great popularity, topped by Bandana, the most popular. Other artists in this genre include Miranda! with a touch of "electro" sound, and Babasónicos, of lasting popularity. Artists combining experimentation with glam include Airbag and Juana la Loca, in addition to Arbol, an artist combining hardcore with pop and violins.


Cumbia is an important part of contemporary Argentine music, originally derived from the Colombian cumbia. This genre become popular slowly from the 1960s with the irruption in Argentina of the important Colombian bands Los Wawancó and Cuarteto Imperial. Argentine bands and soloists of cumbia originated in the north of the country and in Santa Fe province, the first regions where cumbia become popular. In the next decades cumbia widespread by all the country, becoming in the late 1990s the most popular music in the lower class. In 1999, in the north of the Greater Buenos Aires, originated a lyric style of cumbia named cumbia villera (slum cumbia), who is aggressive and explicit (similar to punk rock or gangsta rap). From the 2000s to nowadays, cumbia become the most listened music genre among the youth. Current popular bands and soloists are: Los Palmeras, Los del Fuego, Damas Gratis, Los Leales, La Nueva Luna, Amar Azul, Los Lamas, Flor de Piedra, Meta Guacha, Mala Fama, Supermerk2, La Liga, Ráfaga, Jambao, Grupo Trinidad, Antonio Ríos, Daniel Agostini, Karina, Dalila, Sebastián Mendoza, Mario Luis, Mario Pereyra. Dissolved bands and dead soloists populars were: Los del Bohío, Yerba Brava, Pibes Chorros, La Base Musical, Grupo Sombras, Leo Mattioli, Gilda.


Cuarteto, or Cuartetazo, is a form of dance music similar to Merengue. It became popular in Argentina during the 1940s, beginning with the genre's namesake and innovator, Cuarteto Leo and was re-popularized in the 1980s, specially in Córdoba. A national idol emerged in the brief career of Rodrigo in the late 1990s. The most popular and enduring cuarteto singer is La Mona Jiménez, who has turned out more than 100 albums and continues recording; his work inspired other musicians in the genre.

Art music


Tito Alberti, 1957.
Tenorman Gato Barbieri, 1970.

Though much of Argentina's jazz scene revolves around the new tango popularized by Ástor Piazzolla in the 1960s, Argentine musicians have created or interpreted a considerable body of be-bop, straight-ahead and latin jazz, since then.

Among the first to garner a wide audience was guitarist modal jazz compositions like Suave como un amanecer in 1965. One of his frequent collaborators, pianist Gustavo Kereztesachi, became acclaimed for his airy interpretations of John Coltrane and Oliver Nelson standards, as well as for compositions of his own like the swinging The gun and Como luces esta noche.

Following the emergence of "new tango" in the 1960s, one of Piazzolla's fellow bandoneónists he influenced most became a noted jazz composer in his own right. Rodolfo Mederos' 1976 album Fuera de broma 8 fused be-bop with tango and acoustic rock; Mederos has since recorded numerous albums and film scores. His success with jazz fusion inspired others, like fellow bandoneónist Dino Saluzzi, guitarist Lito Epumer and alto sax man Bernardo Baraj. Later in the 1970s and through the 1990s, drummer Pocho Lapouble became well known for his jazz trio and film scores. Argentine jazz saxophonists have also become prominent in their genre. Alto saxophonist Andrés Boiarsky, who emerged in 1986 performing the film score for Hombre mirando al sudeste ("Man Facing Southeast"), records extensively to this day, collaborating with latin jazz greats like Paquito D'Rivera and Claudio Roditi. Carlos Franzetti's work and arrangements for the 1992 feature film, The Mambo Kings, earned him a Latin Grammy.

The best-known Argentine jazz musician internationally is probably Leandro Gato Barbieri. The tenor saxophonist worked with renowned big band orchestra conductor Lalo Schifrin in the early 1960s, shortly before Schifrin became internationally known for his composition of the theme to Mission: Impossible. Hired by jazz trumpeter Don Cherry, the two recorded Complete Communion in 1965, an album that secured their reputation in the jazz world. Barbieri went on to record his influential Caliente! (1976), an album combining latin jazz and experimental work such as his own and jazz fusion great Carlos Santana's, as well as Qué pasa (1997), which draws more deeply from Argentine folklore roots.

Growing from the Jazzología series begun by local jazz enthusiast Carlos Inzillo in 1984, the Buenos Aires Jazz Festival has, since 2002, attracted legends and newcomers from all major jazz genres, as well as avant-garde sounds. The festival has been graced by performers like Kenny Barron, Michael Brecker, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Herbie Hancock, Freddie Hubbard, Ron Carter and Chucho Valdés.

Classical music

The Buenos Aires Philharmonic has its home in the renowned Colón Opera House. Founded in 1946, it is considered one of the more prestigious orchestras in its nation and Latin America, and has received several honors in 60 years of history. Another well established orchestra is the Argentine National Symphony Orchestra.

Prominent Argentine composers in the genre include symphonic composer Juan José Castro, Alberto Williams, who was known for his early fusion of nativist and classical genres, Carlos Guastavino, known for his romanticist works, and Alberto Ginastera, a composer considered one of the most important Latin American contributors to classical music. Internationally known performers include pianist Martha Argerich, violinist Alberto Lysy, guitarist María Isabel Siewers, tenor José Cura, mezzo-soprano Margherita Zimmermann, and pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim, who has directed the Orchestre de Paris, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Berlin State Opera.




  • 1] Fuga y misterio. Ástor Piazzolla, music. Dancers: Vincent Morelle and Marilyne Lefor. (New Tango)
  • 2] Por una cabeza. Carlos Gardel, music and vocals; Alfredo Le Pera, lyrics. (Classic Tango)
  • 3] Medley. John Michel, cello and Mats Lidstrom, piano. (Milonga)


  1. ^ "Aquí Cosquín". Retrieved 2012-08-15. 
  2. ^ "CosquinRock.Com". CosquinRock.Com. Retrieved 2012-08-15. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Couple Dancing and the Beginning of Tango". Retrieved 2012-08-15. 
  5. ^ a b c Argentina (7 ed.). Lonely Planet. 2010. p. 49.  
  6. ^ Morales, Ed (2003). The Latin Beat: The Rhythms And Roots Of Latin Music From Bossa Nova To Salsa And Beyond. Da Capo Press. p. 341.  
  7. ^ Time Out Argentina & Uruguay: Perfect Places to Stay, Eat & Explore. Time Out Guides. 2010. p. 389.  
  8. ^ Lonely Planet 2010, page 48
  9. ^ Slater, Russ (2 August 2010). "The Story of ZZK Records – Argentina's Home of Digital Cumbia". Sounds and Colours. Retrieved 29 March 2012. 
  • Fairley, Jan and Teddy Peiro. "Vertical Expression of Horizontal Desire". 2000. In Broughton, Simon and Ellingham, Mark with McConnachie, James and Duane, Orla (Ed.), World Music, Vol. 2: Latin & North America, Caribbean, India, Asia and Pacific, pp 304–314. Rough Guides Ltd, Penguin Books. ISBN 1-85828-636-0
  • Fairley, Jan. "Dancing Cheek to Cheek...". 2000. In Broughton, Simon and Ellingham, Mark with McConnachie, James and Duane, Orla (Ed.), World Music, Vol. 2: Latin & North America, Caribbean, India, Asia and Pacific, pp 315–316. Rough Guides Ltd, Penguin Books. ISBN 1-85828-636-0
  • Fairley, Jan. "An Uncompromising Song". 2000. In Broughton, Simon and Ellingham, Mark with McConnachie, James and Duane, Orla (Ed.), World Music, Vol. 2: Latin & North America, Caribbean, India, Asia and Pacific, pp 362–371. Rough Guides Ltd, Penguin Books. ISBN 1-85828-636-0
  • Latin American Music Styles

External links

  • BBC Radio 3 Audio (60 minutes): Tango. Accessed 25 November 2010.
  • BBC Radio 3 Audio (60 minutes): The Humahuaca Valley. Accessed 25 November 2010.
  • Argentine music history
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