a slow pace that is conquering thousands of islanders

With strong Japanese influence, lyrics in Taiwanese or Mandarin, and slower and simpler than the original, Taiwanese tango has become a popular phenomenon on the island, where it has several thousand followers, despite being an unknown outside its borders.

Not so in the gardens or dance halls of the island, where at dusk tangos are heard in Taiwanese and with their own flavor, danced by groups of couples.

"It's impressive that Taiwan has developed its own tango," says Argentinean tango teacher Fernando Waisberg, who lives in the island. "It's a pretty magical, or mystical, issue."

According to Lili Chang, one of the managers of the Amanda Ballroom, with six venues on the island, in Taiwan there are "millions" of islanders who dance the Taiwanese tango, also in community colleges and centers for the elderly.

What is so special about this tango and how it has arrived and has become acclimated and expanded to the gardens, streets and island homes, becoming, along with other Latin rhythms, a daily ritual for many?

"We do not know, we listen to it, we dance it, but we do not have a concrete idea of ​​how it has come to us," says one client of Amanda named Li.

The Taiwanese and Latin American dance musicians and teachers do not provide a definitive answer either: "There are two versions: one that comes with the Japanese during the occupation here (1895-1945) and another one, from the USA during the Vietnam War, and it mixes with the ballroom dancing and creates the Taiwanese tango, "says Isabella Huang, local tango teacher.

The Paraguayan musician and composer Roberto Zayas, who played with tango legend Astor Piazzola in Japan, assures Efe that "so far only a very shallow analysis has been done" on the origin of this tango, a great unknown outside of the island and among many young Taiwanese.

"Tango, like traditional music composed in Taiwan, with lyrics in Taiwanese and Mandarin, was born in the Japanese colony, with Japanese musical influence, which does not exclude other origins, especially in dance," says Zayas.

The rhythm of the tango enchanted the Taiwanese, who "applied it to certain themes with pentatonic melody", with Japanese influence but its own flavor, because "they could dance in a group and with a partner", adds the Paraguayan musician.

Musically, the island tango "is not the European, let alone the Argentine", but closer to the first, and shows great influence not only of the traditional Taiwanese music, but also of the habanera of Bizet "Carmen" and of the tango " Jelousy, "says Zayas.

"During the fifties, Taiwanese music began to use the saxophone, because in the groups there was a saxophonist and he had to play in. All the tangos have that particularity -that in Argentine tango does not exist even in the continental tango- which is the saxophone and the castanets that always put him, "says the composer.

For his part, the tango teacher Waisberg explains that Taiwanese tango does not have as many changes of rhythm as the Argentine tango and it is much easier to dance.

Many of the Taiwanese tangos that are now danced in parks and halls of the island are heirs of the father of Taiwanese popular music, Teng Yu-hsien (1906-1941), who began composing these songs until, at the end of In the 1930s, Japan banned singing in Taiwanese, which continued but clandestinely.

In fact, Japan (whose presence on the island lasted 50 years, between 1895 and 1945) greatly influenced traditional Taiwanese folk music since most of the island musicians, until 1950, studied in Japan.

Francisco Luis Pérez


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