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 so 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 associated to the slums and lower classes, the organito was there to impose it to every soul in the city. Tango tunes which were played over and over again by the organito became familiar even to those who didn’t want to hear it. It is said that tango entered every household through the windows and balconies because of the organito.

As recording technologies evolved and became more accessible in the 1910’s and 20’s the organito became obsolete. It has been evoked with delightful nostalgia in many tangos including “Sobre el pucho” (1922) and “Organito de la tarde” (1924) by José González Castillo, “La musa mistonga” (1926) by Celedonio Flores and “Ventanita de arrabal” (1927) and “El ultimo organito” (1949) by Homero Manzi. [1]

In his memoirs, Francisco Canaro remembers how boys used to dance tango in the streets of Buenos Aires to the sound of the organito. The instrument has been celebrated in the writings of Jorge Luis Borges and Evaristo Carriego as well. π


[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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