[Tango-L] Kizomba, tango's African cousin

Shahrukh Merchant shahrukh at shahrukhmerchant.com
Fri Feb 1 03:33:16 EST 2008

Facundo and Kely claim that the Tango is traceable to the African dance 
called "Tambo" (from where it perhaps got the name as well), which 
continued to be danced by African slaves in the New World as a form of 
recreation. It combined with the Cuban Habanera to give Candombe, from 
which evolved Milonga and then Tango. I have no independent confirmation 
of this history, but it's my recollection of something Facundo said some 
years ago at a workshop in Boston.

Robert Farris Thompson, an art historian from Yale, has written a book 
that deals in large measure with the African roots of Tango, called 
"Tango: The Art History of Love." (He gave a lecture on the subject, 
along with Facundo and Kely in Boston in January 2003, well before the 
book was published, sponsored by the Tango Society of Boston and the 
Cambridge Center for Adult Education.)

I haven't read the book, and don't remember anything of the lecture, but 
some of what appear to be relevant to this theme (and must surely be 
elaborated upon in the book) appear in an interview which may be found at


A couple of excerpt from this interview:

NS:     Can you explain what candombe is?

RFT:   Yes.  In classical Ki-Kongo – ka, "pertaining to", plus ndombe, 
"black person," or "black people."  Candombe is, again, transnational. 
It's not just an Uruguayan and Argentine term.  It's a black nationalist 
term in Kongo itself.  In the 40s, when guys were plotting, "how can we 
get rid of the Belgians?", they called their group candombe, which 
roughly means, "all that we are as blacks."  ...


NS:     And we know that that word tango was already around.  There's 
that occurrence of it in 1786 in New Orleans, written down by the 
Spanish governor: "los tangos, o bailes de negros."

RFT:   Well, there you go.


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