Tango certainly has African, Latin American and European traces but its cultural origin is such a fusion that it is impossible to recognize the true roots.
In essence, Tango is a result of a fusion, an artistic expression, it is wholly urban in nature and has suburban roots (“arrabalero”) and it is closely linked to the historical process of massive immigration, mainly European, which really changed the face of River Plate societies, especially Buenos Aires and Montevideo starting in the last decade of the 19th Century. Argentina had a population of 1,100,000 people in 1850 and received 6,600,000 million immigrants between 1857 and 1940. Uruguay went through a similar process, a sort of flood, quite a unique experience in contemporary history.
The number of immigrants who came to the River Plate was superior in numbers to that of the native population and it produced, with the mixing of people a “ half-breed” ( “mestizaje” ) process both multicultural and multiethnic encouraged by the State through the public education school system. So the Tango is the “half-breed” ( mestizo ) son resulting from this union. What we do know is that the first “tangueros” were Afro-Argentine and Afro-Uruguayan. The “bandoneon” comes from Germany; the sensuality factor has its origins in the brothels where immigrants had contact with native Afro-Argentine and Indo-American women known as “chinas”.
The Tango slang (“lunfardo”) is full of Italian and African expressions. The rhythm and the nostalgic climate are quite close to Cuban Habanera, to Fado from Portugal, Tuna, and Jota (a dance and tune from Aragon in Spain). It is also said that: “Tango, Milonga, Malambo and Candombe “are part of the same musical family with African roots and also represent gaucho habits originating in the gauchos who migrated to the city.
However, Tango cannot be confused with, nor comes directly from any other musical style. Ernesto Sabato, the well-known Argentine writer says that, above all, Tango is a hybrid, a new and original expression which was born from an exceptional, gigantic movement of people across the world.