El esquinazo (tango, ~1900)

“El esquinazo” is one of the oldest tangos of the repertoire. It was composed by Ángel Villoldo around 1900 and is the archetype of the old tango-milongas of the guardia vieja. It had a phenomenal success in the cafes  of Buenos Aires where tango was making it’s debuts  at the turn of the 20th century and figures among the oldest tango recordings. This was the first great success of Villoldo before “El porteñito” and “El Choclo” in 1903.

According to Jose Gobello, “El esquinazo” is a lunfardismo meaning to let down or to dump someone. And so the lyrics by Carlos Pesce and Antonio Polito (A. Timarni) are about a man defiantly turning his back on a woman who disappointed him.

I care nothing for your love. Just keep hitting!

These words, combined with the peculiar knocking in the music, seem to have resulted in a habit of banging on tables and dishes during performance. In fact, the enthusiasm it generated grew to a point where an incident was reported to the police and “El esquinazo” was banned at the Lo de Hansen in 1902. It is said that the house was almost destroyed and a sign was posted by the owner saying “Permanently forbidden to perform El esquinazo. We beg you to be careful”.

Another indication of the popularity of “El esquinazo” is the fact that it figures among the oldest tango recordings. At a time when recording technologies were new and harldy available, “El esquinazo” was included in the repertoire of bands such as the Banda Española,  the Rondalla criolla and  the Orquesta internacional.

Less primitive recordings of “El esquinazo” include those of Roberto Firpo, Francisco Canaro, Juan D’Arienzo, Donato Racciatti, José Basso, Los Tubatangos, and Los Muchachos de antes.

“El esquinazo” is the archetype of the tango-milongas of the 2X4 era. This is the kind of tango Sebastián Piana “exhumed” from “old partitions” to produce “Milonga sentimental” in 1931. Therefore it is the prototype of the urban milonga we know today as a subgenre of tango music.

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Selles, Roberto. “El tango y sus dos primeras decadas (1880- 1900)” in La historia del tango: Primera epoca. Buenos Aires: Corregidor. 1977. Print.

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

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