The organito

The organito is a type of portable organ which was built to play music in the streets. It was very popular in Buenos Aires towards the end of the 19th century and contributed largely to spread tango music in every neighborhood in the city.

Popular tunes which were arranged for the organito were recorded on a cylinder containing about 8 to 12 pieces. The masters were not particularly easy to produce and the organitos tended to repeat the same songs over again. Because tango was a novelty and a popular genre at that time it was included in the repertoire of the organito along with other popular rhythms such as waltz.

At a time when tango was a product of poor uprooted immigrants living in sketchy neighbourhood in the fast growing city of Buenos Aires, the genre was not particulalrly praised in higher social classes. However the organito contributed to engrave it’s melodies in every soul in the city. The tunes it played over and over again became familiar to all and it is said tango entered every household through the windows and balconies because of the organito.

As recording technologies evolved and became increasingly accessible in the 1910’s and 20’s, the organito became obsolete. It continues to be evoked with delightful nostalgia in many tangos such as “Sobre el pucho” (1922), “La musa mistonga” (1926), “Organito de la tarde” (1924), Ventanita de arrabal” (1927) and “El ultimo organito” (1949). [1]

Francisco Canaro remembers in his memoirs how boys used to dance tango to the sound of the organito in the streets of Buenos Aires.

The organito has been celebrated in the writings of Jorge Luis Borges and his now mythical poet Evaristo Carriego.


[1] Del Priore, Oscar, and Irene Amachástegui. Cien tangos fundamentales. Buenos Aires: Aguilar, 1998. Print.

[2] Etchegaray, Natalio. De Garay a Gardel: La sociedad, el hombre commun y el tango (1580-1917). Buenos Aires, Ediciones Bilioteca nacional. 1998. Foro Argentino de cultura urbana. Online.

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