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Land of winds > Rhythms and styles > Rhythm | Issue 04. Mar.-Apr.2011
By Edgardo Civallero | Sara Plaza


The bailecito is a rhythm (and a dance, as suggested by its Spanish name) originated in Bolivia, where its popularity remains undiminished. It was allegedly introduced in Argentina at the beginning of the 19th century though there is no conclusive evidence for this hypothesis. Looking up the origins of this piece of music in historical sources can be an arduous task for the term “bailecito” or “bailecito de la tierra” was a general expression used during the 19th century to refer to any picaresque dance in the north of Argentina, Bolivia and Peru at the time. The term was likewise used in the central-western region of Argentina to describe a rhythm (and a dance) which has no relationship with the Andean repertoire: the gato.
Even nowadays, in many parts of central Argentina, “bailecito” and “gato” continue to be used as synonym, while the “bailecito” of Andean roots herein described is called “bailecito norteño” and is only performed in the provinces of Salta and Jujuy located in the north-west of the country. There are several differences between the local and the Bolivian bailecito performed in this region, especially those referring to the choreography and a few musical nuances.
It is played in 6/8 time, with guitar, charango and bombo (bass drum) accompaniment and sometimes, depending on the area, also with the addition of instruments such as quenas (Andean flutes open at both ends), panpipes and/or the accordion. Most of the well-known bailecitos have lyrics (usually love or picaresque), though there a few ones that are only instrumental.
In Argentina, this rhythm is mainly associated with the province of Jujuy and the Andean context; however, it is also present in the province of Salta, where it is performed according to custom, and a good number of folkloric groups from different provinces of the country have included it in their repertoire.
Among the most famous Argentinean bailecitos are “Viva Jujuy”, “Casi me quisiste” and “Sirviñaco”, though several musicians such as Jaime Torres have popularized many others.

Bailecito, en Wikipedia [es].
El bailecito, in Club Eco – Folklore Argentino [es].
Bailecito, in El Folclore argentino [es].

Song 01. Bailecito “Viva Jujuy”. Los Andariegos.
Song 02. A selection of instrumental bailecitos. Raúl Olarte.
Song 03. Bailecito “K’uchi santos” (Bolivian). Aquí Bolivia.
Song 04. Bailecito “Mi pecado” (Bolivian). Los Kjarkas.
Song 05. Jorge Cardoso’s bailecito, performed by Xavier Zientarski.

Video 01. Bailecito, in a popular venue for folk musicians and enthusiasts in Jujuy.
Video 02 (low quality). Bailecito “Clavelito tilcareño”, in a popular venue for folk musicians and enthusiasts.
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