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It Takes Two To Tango (and Samba)!


From soccer rivalries to friendship and alliances, Argentina and Brazil are the epitome of gated community neighbors that have formed a love-hate relationship that has existed for more than two centuries. Such is their relationship that in the 2014 World Cup Final held in the Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazilians proudly put on the Germany soccer jersey to celebrate Argentina’s defeat. Argentines and Brazilians are first to point out their differences and why the other is superior than the other especially when it comes to soccer and whether tango is better than samba.

Samba and tango are very unique in their own right and have been essential to the formation of their respective national identities.

Millions of people visit the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro every year to experience the samba rhythms on its largest scale as well as taking time to explore the tango history and culture in Buenos Aires. Both the Argentine tango and Brazilian samba have become national symbols not just in the eyes of the international community but in the hearts of their respective populations and make for a thrilling travel and cultural experience.

Tango in Buenos Aires

Discover the passion of the tango in Buenos Aires & the samba heartbeat in Rio de Janeiro / Source

♦ A brief history of Argentine tango

When thinking about traveling to Argentina, there are a few characteristics that may spring to mind; from the passion for soccer to the immense steaks. However, it is the tango music and dance that captures the hearts and infatuation of those who visit Argentina.

Part of the beauty of visiting Buenos Aires is the fact that around every corner and cobblestone street you will encounter the city’s love of tango.

The tango first appeared in Argentina in 1880 adopting the stylistic and musical elements of various African dances and cultural traditions brought over by Argentina’s immigrant population. Mixing of high society rejects in Argentina with the huge wave of European immigrants between 1821 and 1932 gave the Argentine tango its unique flavor and complexity. When at a tango show in Buenos Aires it is not difficult to be swept up by the passion of the dance which was born out of the marginalized immigrant and working class communities of Buenos Aires.

Esquina Carlos Gardel Tango Show in Buenos Aires

See a spectacular tango show in Buenos Aires to encounter Argentina’s national identity / Source

♦ A summary of samba in Brazil

Samba is so more than just the Carnival atmosphere you find in Brazil and is as much a part of its history and identity as the golden beaches of Rio de Janeiro and the iconic Christ the Redeemer Statue. Brazilian samba tends to stand alone when compared to the other rhythms of Latin America in terms of movement, the happy, uplifting music and the sound of the drums that vibrate through your body. Almost 30 years after the creation of tango, Brazil’s samba began to develop and evolve in much the same way as the Argentine tango.

Also with African roots created by a largely marginalized Afro-Brazilian population, samba was like its tango neighbor repressed by Brazil’s ruling oligarchy.

The joyful samba rhythms began emerging from popular parties in the Cidade Nove neighborhood in downtown Rio de Janeiro in the 1910s. Following the abolition of slavery in Brazil in 1888, and thanks to a mix of African and European dance styles, samba began to take shape. The ‘Marvelous City’ of Rio de Janeiro is considered the birthplace of samba and acted as a venue for the cultural expression of Afro-Brazilians and samba music and dance. If you can’t be in Rio de Janeiro during Carnival, make sure to experience an authentic night of samba at the Rio Scenarium, which you can have a sneak peek at in our travel video below.

♦ How Tango and Samba formed Argentina & Brazil’s identity

The samba and tango rhythms although at first may seem worlds apart share common origins, products of the mixture of European and African rhythms as well as having humble beginnings in their respective lower classes. Before the Argentine tango and Brazilian samba became popular at home, the music styles first had to travel abroad to the smart cafes of Paris and Europe.

Samba and tango have progressed almost identically to become self-proclaimed national dances and have cultivated a sense of national identity abroad as well as in Argentina and Brazil.

However, the samba and tango were by no means born national icons as both the tango and samba witnessed societal repression as well as playing a significant role in politics and unifying their respective nations. Due to the acceptance of these dance forms in Europe, the tango and samba became redefined by their nation’s elites and would be used to modernize each nation. From symbols of national the tango and samba underwent significant change to become symbols of national pride. The samba and tango acted as national and international ambassadors and signaled Argentina’s new-found pride in its immigrant history and Brazil’s distinctiveness and being a melting pot of cultures and traditions.

Carnival in Rio de Janeiro

The tango and samba have introduced the world to Brazil and Argentina’s national identity

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