Juan D’Arienzo

Juan d’Arienzo was a violonist, composer and influential director of the guardia nueva. Also known as El rey del compas, or king of rhythm, his style of interpretation is characterized by a fast and steady beat which appealed to the youth in the 1930’s and gave a new impulse to tango as a dance and popular musical genre in Buenos Aires after the death of Carlos Gardel in 1935.

Juan D’Arienzo was born in the neighborhood of Balvanera to a family of Italian immigrants in 1900. He began studying the violin at the Conservatorio Mascagni when he was 11-years-old and completed his education with professor Fassano at the institute Thiebaud Piazzini. With his friends, Angel d’Agostino (piano) and Carlos Bianchi (bandoneon), he formed his first trio and began performing tango and jazz.

It’s not until 1926 that Juan D’Arienzo finally dedicated himself exclusively to tango. For the next few years, he performed in movie theaters with the Orquesta típica Paramount and the sexteto Los Ases. He also began forming his own orchestra and made his first recordings with Electra and the voice of Carlos Dante.

When sound films entered movie theatres in the 1930’s, leaving many musicians out of a job, Juan d’Arienzo was hired to perform with his orchesta típica at the cabaret Chantecler. This is where he spent the best years of his career and became the orchestra director we remember today. There he began working with Rodolfo Biagi (piano) and defined the rhythmical and cheerful style of interpretation which brought tango dance and music back to life.

His success was sudden and intense. Juan D`Arienzo began recording with RCA Victor and appearing on Radio Mundo. Dance halls and tango orchestras began flourishing in every neighbourhood around the city. D’Arienzo began traveling to Montevideo and became a regular at Teatro Solis and Café Tupí Nambá. In 1937, he appeared for the first time in a movie, “Melodias porteñas”. This movie was followed by many others including “Tango” (1933), “Yo quiero ser bataclana” (1941), “El cantor del pueblo” (1948), “La voz de mi ciudad” (1953) and “Una ventana al éxito” (1966).

Though he said singers were responsible for killing tango, taking the focus away from the music and the beat, D’Arienzo worked with many distinguished singers and estribillistas throughout his career including Francisco Fiorentino, Alberto Echague, Hector Mauré and Armando Laborde, never compromising on the rhythm and speed of the orchestra. He is also the author of many milongas, a new energetic and urban genre, which differs from the milonga campera, that he contributes to impose in the 1930.

While new musical styles were flourishing during the golden age, Juan D’Arienzo went on performing and recording with the same fast paced, rhythmical style. Critics began saying he had become repetitive and failed to evolve. Because this idea has often been repeated out of it’s original context, it is important to remember that Juan D’Arienzo was one of the most innovative director of tango history and none of the renovation, which he was accused of not following, would have taken place without him. It is also important to emphasize that he remains a favourite among tango dancers throughout the golden age and to this day.

When it became very clear that tango dancing was not in style anymore in the 1960’s, Juan d’Arienzo finally made some changes to his music and began performing tango in a more melodic manner. He went on performing and recording until his death in 1976.

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[1] Tango: Cien anos de historia (Vol. III). Buenos Aires: Editorial Perfil, 1992. Print.

[2] Gobello, José. “Juan d’Arienzo” in Tango y Lunfardo. Chivilcoy, 1997. Todotango. Online. http://www.todotango.com/creadores/biografia/32/Juan-DArienzo/

[3] Jara, Fernanda. Hace 42 anos moría Juan D´Arienzo, El rey del compás. Infobae. Online. https://www.infobae.com/cultura/2018/01/14/hace-42-anos-moria-juan-darienzo-el-rey-del-compas/

 

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