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The ambiguous term milonga means:

  • a rioplatensische genre - in gauch esque tradition play payadores , Gaucho - troubadours , milongas on the guitar and sing improvised poetry;
  • a form derived therefrom, a palo , of flamenco ;
  • a happy and fast dance genre - a forerunner of Tango Argentino ;
  • an event where people dance to three different styles of music from Rioplatina: Tango argentino, Vals and Milonga;
  • a dance hall or club, i.e. the place where milongeras and milongueros meet to dance.

Etymology and history of words

Title page of the Gaucho epic Martín Fierro , 15th edition 1894

According to José Gobello, President of the Academia Porteña del Lunfardo , the Lunfardo word milonga is an Afronegrism from the South West African Bantu language Kimbundu . It is the plural of mulonga , meaning "words", "talk". In this original sense, milongas (used plural) still means “lies and deceit” in today's Spanish .

Hispanist Dieter Reichardt writes about the history of the word milonga :

“While the original meaning 'words' or 'talk' was retained among the negro population of Brazil, in Uruguay the milonga refers to the payada pueblera , the city-style singing ... In Buenos Aires around 1870 , milonga meant festivities and dance events and their location ... Soon afterwards, milonga was a specific form of dance song. "

- Dieter Reichardt: Tango. Denial and grief. Contexts and texts,, p. 35.

Through the use of the word milonga in the 192nd verse, verse 1142, of the Argentine national epic El Gaucho Martín Fierro , this word milonga in the meaning of dance event is documented verbatim from 1872:

v 1139 Supe una vez por desgracia
v 1140 Que había un baile por allí,
v 1141 Y medio desesperao
v 1142 A ver la milonga fui.

Unfortunately, once I found out
that there was a dance event taking place there,
and half desperately
I went to see the milonga .

Milonga - the happier sister of tango

The melancholic, slower, meditative tango argentino is characterized as “a sad thought that one can dance” ( un pensamiento triste que se puede bailar) , according to a winged word that is ascribed to the tango poet Enrique Santos Discépolo .

In contrast, the picaresque Canyengue , the Valsecito criollo and the rousing milonga are the happier sisters of tango . A relaxed dance posture, emphasized body language and smiling faces are the hallmarks of Milona dancers, who are always ready for various jokes at shows.

A mischievous Uruguayan bon mot aptly expresses this sharp contrast to the serious tango with its stiff dance posture and its self-tearing lyrics full of "tearful man's eyes" :

En cada tango se muere un argentino. ( An Argentine dies in every tango. )


Habanera rhythm with dotted first quarter note.
Carlos Gardel (nicknamed "el zorzal criollo" Argentine song thrush ) sings in the Gaucho-style Payador the Milonga 'Flor de Fango' and accompanies herself on the guitar 1918
The singer Carlos Gardel accompanies himself to the guitar in the gaucho- payador manner.

The folkloric milonga music style originated in the Río de la Plata states. Their 2/4 time corresponds to that of the Cuban Habanera . Their African American candombe elements come from Uruguay . Gaucho poets, called payadores , sang improvised poems to this music with guitar accompaniment ( milonga campera or milonga pampeana ):

"The sound of the milonga, which preceded the tango, was determined by the guitar, which was used to accompany rural 'bailiff singers' (payadores) - this simple line-up can still be heard on most of Gardel's recordings."

- Gerhard Riedel: The great milonga leader, p. 230

In contrast to the tango, whose distinctive rhythmic accentuations are modified by syncopating from phrase to phrase and which does not have a fixed rhythm pattern, the milonga has a fixed rhythm pattern .

Depending on the form of articulation , tempo and type of singing, one differentiates:

  • Milonga candombe , in the original forerunner rhythm . E.g. Negrito , Tango negro . A specialty of this type of playing is the use of percussion instruments like the rioplatensian candombe .
  • Milonga campera ('rural'), also called Milonga pampeana and Milonga sureña ("southern"); z. B. "Milonga criolla" (Francisco Canaro). Payada-like (originally you sang gaucho poems to the guitar), melodic, legato .
  • Milonga ciudadana ('urban'), also called Milonga urbana or Milonga porteña . All of these names refer to the port city of Buenos Aires. One example is the “Milonga sentimental” by Francisco Canaro, staccato .

Important musicians, composers, arrangers, orchestra conductors and lyricists turned to the genre of the milonga at the beginning of the 20th century, such as Jorge Cardoso , Francisco Canaro , Pedro Laurenz , Miguel Caló , Abel Fleury, Ernesto Cordero.

Milonga titles often heard at dance evenings include:

  • Quickly played milongas:

El porteñito, Milonga de antaño, Papas calientes, Ella es así, Milonga de mis amores, Yo soy de San Telmo, No hay tierra como la mía, Silueta porteña, Reliquia porteñas, Milonga que peina canas, Flor de Montserrat, La cicatriz, El llorón, Cacareando, Milonga de mis tiempos .

  • slower milongas:

Milonga sentimental, Milonga brava, Milonga criolla, Milonga del 900, Reina de Saba .

  • Milongas with mischievous, cabaret texts:

Se dice de mí, Yo me llamo Juan Te Quiero, La milonga de mis perros, Milonga lunfarda .

Dance genre, dance styles

The milonga was already enjoying great popularity as a folk dance in the 19th century. Nowadays it is an integral part of every tango dance evening. In terms of dance , the milonga is considered the livelier, faster precursor of tango , which is why it is only danced with selected, uncomplicated tango movements:

"Dancing a milonga is twice as fast [compared to the tango] because a step is taken on the less accentuated beats ... In milonga music, however, there are passages in which dominant instruments only emphasize the ones, So one returns to the half-speed dance style. This is a suitable maneuver to switch down again with this spirited music and to avoid hectic rush. "

- Gerhard Riedel: The great milonga leader , p. 285.

Sometimes milongueros mark this change from fast to slow or from the Traspié style to the Lisa style with a one-time, loud stamping of the heel ( taconeo ).

There are two main styles:

  • Milonga-lisa       - you take full advantage of the dance room with long strides.
  • Milonga-traspié - you dance in a tight space with fast, doubled triple steps.

In contrast to tango , all melodic phrases of one and the same milonga piece have the same basic rhythmic pattern, but dancers can combine both styles within one and the same milonga:

“If you dance the milonga with simple steps [ Lisa style ], then you take the steps with the first and third beat of the basic rhythm. So you take steps of the same duration. However , if you dance with doubled steps [ Traspié style ], there are differences, depending on whether you dance the first or the second half of the rhythm pattern of the milonga. "

- Joaquín Amenábar: Tango. Dance to the music! Buenos Aires 2009, p. 89

Song lyrics

The milonga poetry is a further development of the payadas of the original gaucho poetry with improvised alternating singing. The text of a milonga ciudadana, the “milonga sentimental”, serves as an example of further developed milonga poetry.

Regarding itself, this song text tells of the fact that this milonga was composed and invented to remind of a failed love affair, which is a well-known topos of tango poetry. However, while in tango poetry the lyrical ego persists in macho self-pity and often dies of torment, it finds solace in the lively rhythm of the milonga to get over failure time and again: “Yo canto pa 'no llorar (I sing for not to cry)."

In this respect, the milonga can rightly be called “the happier sister” of tango.

Milonga sentimental (lyricist: Homero Manzi , composer: Sebastián Piana , 1931)
Caricatured portrait of the tango poet Homero Manzi .

Milonga pa 'recordarte,
milonga sentimental.
Otros se quejan llorando,
Yo canto pa 'no llorar.
Tu amor se secó de golpe,
Nunca dijiste por qué,
Yo me consuelo pensando
Que fue traición de mujer.

Varón, pa 'quererte mucho,
Varón, pa' desearte el bien,
Varón, pa 'olvidar agravios
Porque ya te perdoné.
Tal vez no lo sepas nunca,
Tal vez no lo puedas creer,
Tal vez te provoque risa,
Verme tirao a tus pies.

Es fácil pegar un tajo
Pa 'cobrar una traición,
O jugar en una daga
La suerte de una pasión.
Pero no es fácil cortarse
Los tientos de un metejón,
Cuando están bien amarrados
Al palo del corazón.

Varón, pa 'quererte mucho ...

Milonga que hizo su ausencia.
Milonga de evocación,
Milonga para que nunca
La canten en tu balcón.
Pa 'que vuelvas con la noche
Y te vayas con el sol.
Pa' decirte que sí, a veces
O pa 'gritarte que no.

Varón, pa' quererte mucho ...

Milonga to remember you,
Milonga of sensitivity
Others complain with tears,
I sing so as not to cry.
Your love suddenly dried up,
you never said why.
I comfort myself with the thought
that it was a woman's betrayal.

Man enough to love you very much,
Man enough to wish you all the best,
Man enough to forget insults
Because I've already forgiven you.
Maybe you'll never know,
Maybe you can't believe it,
Maybe you laugh at it,
When you see me lying at your feet.

It is easy to stab with a knife to
avenge a betrayal,
to wager with a dagger on the success of a passion.
But it is not easy to cut the fetters of a
passionate love
 When they are tied around
the stake of the heart.

Man enough to love you very much ...
(repetition of the chorus)

Milonga that arose from your absence,
Milonga of memory,
Milonga, so that it will never
be serenaded on your balcony.
So that you come back with the night
and leave with the sun.
To say yes to you or
to shout no sometimes .

Man enough to love you very much ...
(repetition of chorus)


The term milonga in the meaning of “dance event” has been used in the history of words since 1872 .

Nowadays tango dancers, tangueras and tangueros , milongueras and milongueros meet in milongas (pubs, clubs) to dance to three different rioplatensian music styles : tango , vals and milonga (style of music).

The queer tango movement tries to break up the heteronormative gender role distribution in order to give lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals a home in tango; their own queer milongas and queer tango festivals have also developed.

DJing - role of the DJ

A DJ or a DJane puts together tandas and cortinas . On the milonga evening he alternately plays three to four pieces of the same kind, mostly by the same artist. So z. B. a Tango Tanda, a Milonga Tanda and a Vals Tanda. At the end of each tanda there is a non-danceable piece, a cortina ('curtain'). It should be the signal for the dancers to separate, to go back to their own place and to start the game of finding dance partners for the next tanda all over again.

At the end of a milonga, it is customary for the DJ to play the last Tango el tango de los tangos (the tango of all tangos), La Cumparsita . This piece is the musical signal that shows the tango dancers that the event is nearing its end.

Code of conduct, request by Cabeceo

The harmonious course of a milonga is regulated by various behavioral norms . For example, milongueras and milongueros are encouraged to dance considerately on parallel tracks in a counter-clockwise direction , in a ronda . Tables are arranged around the dance floor. You are invited to dance either by direct, verbal request at the table, i.e. from close up and usually by the man, or non-verbally from a distance through eye contact ( mirada ) and a subsequent head movement, the cabeceo . If the woman now replies - also non-verbally - this discreet, inconspicuous invitation with a confirming nod of the head or a wink ( guiño ), then you meet directly on the dance floor. Otherwise the woman looks the other way and the man understands that she does not want to dance. This custom of an invitation from afar by a Cabeceo is a Rioplatensian milonga rite that is often practiced in the metropolises of Tango, Buenos Aires and Montevideo .

Grammatically, cabeceo is the first person present tense of the verb cabecear , which in the context of the milonga rites would translate as I move my head .. El cabeceo is the substantiated form of this verb, i.e. head movement in German :

«Cabecear: intr. Mover la cabeza a un lado ya otro o arriba y abajo.

Cabeceo m. acción de cabecear »

" Intr. Move your head from side to side or from top to bottom.

The act of moving your head. "

- María Moliner: Diccionaro de uso del español , 3rd edition 2007, Gredos publishing house, 2009, ISBN 978-8424928865 .

Compared to a direct invitation from close up at the lady's table, the indirect invitation from a distance via Cabeceo offers several advantages:

  1. The Cabeceo avoids the uncomfortable situation for the woman of being asked at the table if she does not want to dance. It remains her unpleasant predicament between politeness conditional commitment or a the Tanguero requesting disappointing rejection spared.
  2. The Cabeceo even allows an inconspicuous choice for women . The Tanguera looks around and fixes the dancer of her choice with a winning smile. The Tanguero viewed in this way will either reject this non-verbal request by looking away or accept it by moving his head:

"Since my experience in Buenos Aires, at the latest, I have known that I, as a woman, can very well ask ... The secret of asking by sight is that both potential partners select each other specifically ... The man with whom I then dance, In any case, I can be sure that I am completely with him in this tanda , that I give myself completely to this dance, at least for this seven [sic!] minutes. "

- Hedda Maurer: Do you want to dance with me? About the merits of the 'Cabeceo'. In: Tangodaza. Tango Argentino magazine , 3/2008.
  1. The Cabeceo avoids the possible "loss of face" of a rejected Tanguero. If a dancer requests a dancer personally by speaking at the table and if she rejects the Tanguera the request, the Tanguero can no longer ask any other dancer sitting nearby, because understandably no dancer wants to be asked as a second choice .
  2. The Cabeceo even makes it possible to request a tanguera if it is in conversation. If a dancer notices a tangero trying to make eye contact with her during her conversation, she can return this "mirada" with a cabeceo, break off the conversation and go to the dance floor or continue the conversation and possibly register the attempt for later.

At the end of a tanda, thank you and the man leads the woman back to her seat (very traditional). Breaking up while a tanda has not yet been completed - or even before the end of a piece - is considered impolite.

Dance hall, tango club

Renowned tango dance hall “La Confitería Ideal” in Buenos Aires

Dance events for Tango Argentino take place regularly in the same places, which are also called milonga in this context . Such tango dance halls often have Spanish names in Germany, such as B. in Berlin: Mala Junta , La Bruja , El Gato ... Often there are dance courses or prácticas (practice lessons) before the start and sometimes there are shows or orchestral performances during a milonga.

In Buenos Aires , the milonga culture was cultivated underground for a long time due to the ban on assembly imposed by the Argentine military dictatorship . Since the early 1990s, Tango Argentino has been developing very dynamically here . Many new milongas have been launched, so that today there is at least 15 different events on offer every day. Current information about milongas in Buenos Aires can be found in the free magazine El Tangauta .

The most famous milongas (dance halls or tango clubs) in Buenos Aires include:

  • Confitería Ideal : On the wood-paneled upper floor of the "Ideal", under golden chandeliers and crumbling plaster, the mostly older audience meets to dance.
  • Salón Canning : On Fridays, the traditional milonga organized by Omar Viola under the name Paracultural is the meeting place for the best dancers in town. The Estilo Milonguero , dancing in close embrace ( abrazo cerrado ), is especially popular here .
  • La Nacional and El Beso are other traditional milongas.
  • Sunderland Club : This is where the long -established milongueros meet and celebrate traditional tango with all of its strict rules of conduct ( códigos ).
  • La Viruta : dance floor for young dancers with mass dance lessons (up to 300 participants). Electrotango is strongly represented here.
  • La Marshall , milonga gay : This first queer tango salon opened in 2002. Same-sex dance couples are especially welcome here.


  • Joaquín Amenábar: Tango. Dance to the music! Buenos Aires 2009, ISBN 978-987-05-5573-5 .
  • Beutler, Anna: The Tango Argentino in Buenos Aires today: Motifs, places and relationships . GRIN-Verlag Norderstedt 2002, ISBN 978-3-638-72302-2 , chapter: "El Cabeceo", p. 56
  • Giovanni Gallucci: ABC ... del Tango argentino, Tango-Vals e Tango-Milonga. Youcanprint Self-Publishing, September 15, 2014, ISBN 978-88-911570-6-5 (Italian).
  • Ulrike Haerter, Homero Manzi : Corners in Buenos Aires. Tangos, milongas, valses and canciones by Homero Manzi. Verlag epubli 2017, ISBN 978-3-7450-5965-6 .
  • Dieter Reichardt: The Argentine tango and its texts. In: Iberoamericana (1977-2000), vol. 1, no. 1 (1), 1977, pp. 3-17, JSTOR 41670601 .
  • Dieter Reichardt: Tango. Denial and grief. Contexts and texts. Suhrkamp Verlag , Frankfurt am Main 1984, ISBN 3-518-37587-3 .
  • Gerhard Riedel: The great milonga leader. Everything you always wanted to know about tango but never dared to ask. Wagner Verlag Gelnhausen 2010 edition, ISBN 978-3-86683-698-3 , limited preview in the Google book search
  • Gerhard Riedel: The even bigger milonga leader. An amusing satirical guide to Argentine tango. Books on Demand 2016, ISBN 978-3-7322-6187-1 .

Web links


Dance styles


"Tango DJing" - role of the DJ

Code of Conduct, solicitation by Cabeceo

Dance halls

Wikibooks: Tango Argentino  - learning and teaching materials

Individual evidence

  1. Payadores play a milonga on the guitar and, in the Gauchesque tradition, sing a “Payada” on the occasion of a gaucho festival
  2. Milongas. In: Flamencopolis. Retrieved March 10, 2020 (Spanish).
  3. ^ José Gobello, Marcelo Héctor Oliveri: Novisimo Diccionario Lunfardo . Corregidor publishing house, 2004, ISBN 978-950-05-1526-9 .
  4. Maria Moliner, Diccionario de uso español, article 'milonga': 1 Cierto canto y danza popular de la Argentina (folk song and folk Argentine dance) 2 Mentira, engaño (lie, deceit): 'No me vengas ahora con milongas' ( Don't lie to me now!)
  5. José Hernández : El Gaucho Martín Fierro, 1872, Part One, Canto VII, verses 1139–1142, stanza 192 .
  6. At this milonga there is a duel, in which the gaucho Martín Fierro kills a black man while intoxicated. Hence the adverb unfortunately .
  7. ^ Dieter Reichardt: The Argentine Tango and its texts . In: Iberoamericana (1977-2000), vol. 1, no. 1 (1), 1977, pp. 3-17, p. 4 .
  8. Los Hermanos Macana dance the Milonga Reliquias Porteñas (Francisco Canaro) - (Video Youtube) - z. B. great fun at 1:13
  9. ^ Dieter Reichardt: Tango. Denial and grief. Contexts and texts. Suhrkamp Verlag , Frankfurt am Main 1984, ISBN 3-518-37587-3 , p. 171.
  10. ^ Joaquín Amenábar: Tango. Dance to the music! Buenos Aires 2009, ISBN 978-987-05-5573-5 , p. 24 and p. 79
  11. ^ Francisco Canaro: Negrito , 1934 video on YouTube
  12. Tango negro video on YouTube - Flaco Dany and Silvina Vals are dancing. Composer Juan Carlos Cáceres
  13. This is testified by Ventura Lynch in his book “La provincia de Buenos Aires hasta la definición de la cuestión Capital de la Republica”, published in 1883.
  14. Fixed rhythm pattern of the milonga on YouTube
  15. Tango and payadores -Spanish
  16. This interlinear translation from Argentine Spanish into German is from the author of this article, Hispanist .
  17. Spanish Milonga lyrics with audio sample and piano score of the "Milonga sentimental"
  18. José Hernández : El Gaucho Martín Fierro, 1872, Part One, Canto VII, verses 1139–1142, stanza 192 .
  19. Melina Sedó, Detlef Engel: The Argentine Tango and its Relatives (PDF)
  20. 9th International Queer Tango Festival 2019 in Berlin
  21. The DJ's Role
  22. 100 years of the famous tango La Cumparsita - on the website of the Uruguayan embassy in the Federal Republic of Germany.
  23. Art of the Cabeceo - The YouTube video illustrates the sequence of the non-verbal invitation to dance, the cabeceo
  24. Cabeceo - best practice for invitation - a tried and tested method for calling on
  25. The obvious and the hidden rules of a milonga
  26. ^ Milongas in Berlin with Spanish names
  27. ^ Famous milongas (dance halls) in Buenos Aires. In: ABC , November 21, 2012 (Spanish).
  28. Milonga Parakultural, Salón Canning, Buenos Aires
  29. website of Queer tango salons La Marshall, Buenos Aires . (Accessed June 6, 2010)