While Tango and Milonga present two different types of music in Argentina, they are closely related. The Milonga has a complicated history, and the word has many different meanings.According to Borges, milonga has folk chatacteristics and it is one of the most important expressions of Buenos Aires.
The first Milonga in Argentina was a form of folk music from the suburbs around Buenos Aires. The Milonga, which precedes tango historically, was a solo performance that was cherished in the 19th century by the gauchos (a kind of Argentinean cowboy).It was also very popular with payadores, singers who improvised and were famous for their inventive lyrics. The Milonga Surena or Canberra, is a folk song, which has neutral melody, with the lyrics overwhelming a strictly structured pace. It was the most important form of folk music in Buenos Aires before the appearance of the Tango (and certainly one of the major influences in the development of the Tango).
People would often go to places where they could hear payadores singing. These places were known as milongas. Other popular forms of music were played in those places and many of them had dancing character like Milonga Surena. The folklore community today argues that Milonga Surena was not accompanied by dance because it was mostly acoustic and everyone enjoyed its clever lyrics.
In any case, gradually, the definition of the word Milonga expanded into the concept of space events. Even today in Buenos Aires, when someone goes out to dance tango he or she is, going at «milonga».
Dale A. Olsen and Daniel E. Sheehy (ed.), The Garland Handbook of Latin American Music. NY & London: Routledge, 2000.
Jorge Luis Borges, Evaristo Kariegko, mtf.Tasos Denegris. Athens: Ypsilon, 1984.
Ana Cara-Walker, Borges’ Milongas: The chords of Argentine verbal art. In: Carlos Cortinez (ed.) Borges the poet. Fayetteville: The University of Arkansas Press, 1986.