]Tangos from the cave of Maria "La Canastaera" one of the best places to see traditional flamenco in Granada,

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 Cádiz, 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 Andalucía.




Video Samples

About Tangos


The core of the Tangos is the letra, three or four octosyllabic lines. As with the Bulerías, 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 compás patterns from the guitarist and palmista (an escobilla performed "a palo seco" or dry, without guitar accompaniment).

As in Bulerías, 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 compás 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 cajón. This is in contrast to claps, chords or high cajón 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 compás.

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

Palmas 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 2.

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 doesn’t follow for one or two sets of compás 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 bulerías. Both dances are "por fiesta/festero" - performed frequently as short solos at parties, weddings and outdoor festivals and events.

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

1. Guitar Falseta – guitarist’s 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 . . .

Triana, Triana,
que bonita esta Triana
Cuando le ponen al puente
La banderita Gitana

Mañana me voy pa’ Cai
Salgo del Puerto Santa Maria.
¡Ay! mira que en el vapor,
pa’ contempla esa bella bahia.
Tacita de plata...Reina del salero
Con este cante por tango yo
Quiero decirte lo que te camelo

Que si que si, que no que no
Que este Gitano me lo duermo yo

Le Le, le, le . . .

Triana, Triana
how pretty Triana is
When they put the little Gypsy flag
on the bridge.

Tomorrow, I’m going to Cádiz
I’m leaving from El Puerto Santa Maria
Oh, see how in the little steamship
One can gaze at this beautiful bay.
Little cup of silver, Queen of gracious style.
With this tango song, I want to tell you that you have deceived me.

Yes or No?
I’m going to sleep with this Gypsy!

Video Samples

Al Baile

Al Toque

Al Cante