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Tango music developed among European immigrants to Argentina and Uruguay in the mid 19th century. African communities and their rhythms had a definite influence on this music. The first tango scores appeared in the last decade of the 19th century. Though initially associated with the underclass, by the 1920s tango had become a respectable form of music and dance, with classically trained musicians playing in tango orchestras. The music of this time was not necessarily aimed at the dance floor. Among pioneer bandleaders are Roberto Firpo and Julio de Caro. Singer Carlos Gardel, one of the most popular tango artists of all time, was pivotal in the development of the tango-canción, or sung tango.

1935 started an era known as The Golden Age of Tango, spanning about 20 years. It is during this same year that the orchestra of Juan D’Arienzo started to play with a crisp rhythm, bringing out dancers to the floor in large numbers. The Golden Age is a time when Tango dance dominates the culture of Buenos Aires. Significant bandleaders of this time, other than D’Arienzo, include Francisco Canaro, Carlos DiSarli, Anibal Troilo, and Osvaldo Pugliese.

The later age has been dominated by Astor Piazzolla, the father of Tango Nuevo. He created a new sound that for the most part was not directed at the dance floor. Piazzolla is almost single-handedly responsible for introducing tango music to wide audiences in the world.

Since the tango renaissance in 1983, various bands have formed with multiple ranges of electronic influence. They are more likely to be classisfied as Neo-tango, and much of the music they produce is for the dance floor. Gotan Project and Otros Aires are notable examples.

And then there is Alternative Tango, a term referring to the use of non-tango music for dancing tango. The success of doing this is heavily dependent on the skill of the DJ to determine what music is suitable for dancing.

Music of the Golden Age is still the most popular music for dancing tango.

Lastly, it may be of interest to our readers that tango has become part of the repertoire of many renowned classical musicians, and some classical composers have written tangos. Also, composers of world music in multiple countries have done tangos, and some popular tunes have borrowed their melodies from traditional tangos.