Argentine Music – Folklórico

Buenos Aires Los Cardones, Argentine folk music

When people think of music in Argentina, especially Buenos Aires, the first thing that comes to mind is always the tango.  You can see tango dancers in the street in many parts of the city, but the traditional music of the rest of Argentina is something entirely different.  There’s a few different types of folkloric music that have developed and if you can’t drag yourself out of the city you can head over to what’s called a peña and mingle with the mix of nostalgic northerners from Salta or Jujuy as well as city folk and students.  My ticket into the world was my friend Julio, a Colombian I met last year, who is studying anthropology at the University of Buenos Aires.  As an assignment he and a group of classmates had to go to one of the peñas, namely Los Cardones (Borges 2180, Palermo, Buenos Aires, 4777 1112), where a few groups were playing and afterwards do a couple interviews.

The joint was completely packed when we arrived with a lively crowd who clapped along intermittently while drinking wine and eating the normal Argentinian fare of pizzas, empanadas, and the like.  On the stage was a group of three men, two strumming on their guitars and the other playing a drum that looked like it was made by stretching a cow hide over the frame.  If you’re looking for an interesting place to go at night with live music, I would definitely recommend this.  All the groups were absolutely fabulous and the music easily drew me away into visions of the Argentinian countryside.  If there was a fault in the venue it was that Palermo is a little bit on the bougy end, with lots of financially well-to-do Porteños, and while the music was lively and clearly right for dancing there was, alas, no dance floor.  It was at least Julio’s main complaint, but of course it would be with his Colombian fanaticism for dance, though I admit I agree with him wholeheartedly.

After the performance they did their interview and I somehow ended up holding the recorder for the twenty minute interview they did with the owner of the place.  The parts of the conversation I managed to keep up with were very interesting and the owner had a deep affection for the music and the traditional life of the indigenous communities of the north.  He also did admit that, yes, dancing was one of the integral parts of the music and tradition that didn’t manifest itself there.

Sorry about the shitty quality… again, there is no place for a nice camera out on the town in Buenos Aires.  But you’ll get the idea from these couple snippets of the night.

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If you’re curious what else Argentina has to offer for musical stylings here’s a breakdown of a few of the different types Argentinians dig, besides rock music which they have been crazy about for some time now.

Folk Music

It’s from the Northwestern region of the country in the Andes where the largest indigenous population lives.  The music typically features soft sounds from string, wind, and percussive instruments.


Also from the northwest, it developed during the nineteenth century and was popular in the rural and farm areas where they would do group dances in the plaza.  Its upbeat drum and Spanish guitar are the most identifying features and its particularly concentrated in Santiago del Estero.


If you go to the city Corrientes in the eastern El Litoral you’ll probably hear Chámame took its influences from African, Caribbean, and Amerindian sounds.  Back in the day the dances would turn heads because it involved dancing close to your partner.

Nueva Canción

This is the protest music of Argentina in a sense, developing during the 50’s and 60’s and rising to prominence during the 1970s dictatorship where songs took decidedly political stances.  Its origins are from the Chilean national dance Cueca and a mix of other Latin American folk styles.


Cumbia isn’t from Argentina, but rather Colombia, though it has become quite popular here among lower/working classes with its tropical caribbean style.  The Argentine upper crusts tend to ignore it maybe because of its tendency to talk about taboo things like drugs and robbery.


Córdoba is the home of Cuarteto which combines accordians, pianos, and violins and draws from Spanish and Italian folk music.  The rhythms and dancing are a bit like merengue and the music has produced musical icons here.



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