Category Archives: Biographies

Manuel O. Campoamor

Manuel O. Campoamor was a pianist and composer of the early days of tango. In his youth, he performed in private parties and houses as well as in casas de baile were tango was becoming popular at the end of the 19th century. He was one of the first artists to record in Argentina both as a soloist and as accompaniment of other pioneers including Linda Thelma, Gabino Ezeiza, Higinio Cazón and Ángel Villoldo.

Manuel Oscar Campoamor was born in Montevideo in 1877. He was only 7 years old when his family moved to Buenos Aires. There he learned to play piano on his own while working as a telegraphist. In 1897 he was hired at the luxurious department store of Gath y Chaves where he remained for 25 years, working his way from the accounting department to a management position.

While Campoamor relied on these jobs all his life for to make a living, he also began performing in public as a pianist. He made his debut at la Casa Suisa when he was 17 years old [2] and quickly made a name for himself, performing in private parties and houses where tango was not yet admitted. Then he began performing in casas de baile such as la Casa de Maria la Vasca and Lo de Hansen. He composed his first tango “Sargento Cabral” in 1899, followed by “El séptimo cielo” (1900), “La c…ara de la l…una” (1901), “La metralla” (1902), “La franela” (1903) and “Mi capitan” (1905).

The tangos of Campoamor are the fast paced, lighthearted and often naughty tanguitos of the 1890’s. These are among the very first compositions which can be fully distinguished from other musical genres that came into the creation of argentine tango such as the tango andaluz and the milonga.

By the time tango was beginning to gain popularity in Buenos Aires around 1910, Campoamor already felt that his music was going out of fashion and significantly reduced his musical activity. He returned to tango in the early 1920’s, forming a cuarteto with Raimundo Petillo. The cuarteto turned into a sexteto and together they went on performing tango in their own old fashion manner as other musicians were already moving into the guardia nueva.

Manuel O. Campoamor died in died in 1941, never adhering to any of the various currents of renovation tango had been through during his lifetime. He did no express any resentment about the musical evolution of tango and simply said he did not identify with it. He is remembered as one of the great pioneers and proponent of the guardia vieja.

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[1] Selles, Roberto. El tango y sus dos primeras décadas (1880-1900). La historia del tango. Corregidor, 1977. Print.

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

[3] Silbido, Juan. Manuel Campoamor. Todotango. Online. http://www.todotango.com/creadores/biografia/507/Manuel-Campoamor/

 

Rodolfo Biagi

Rodolfo Biagi was a pianist, composer and director of the golden age of tango. He is known for his bold, rhythmical style of interpretation which takes the piano out of the background and into the spotlight. His nickname, Manos Brujas, means “sorcerer’s hands”. He is the author of many popular tangos such as “Indiferencia”, “Humillacion” and “Campo afuera”.

Rodolfo Biagi was born in Buenos Aires in 1906. Growing up in a humble family in the neighbourhood of San Telmo, it was difficult to convince his parents of buying him an instrument in his youth. However his insistence in becoming a musician was so strong they eventually agreed to buy him a violin and went to study at the conservatory of La Prensa.

Soon after he began his musical education Biagi discovered his preference for piano. He began working as a pianist at the Cine Colon when he was 13 years old and this is where Juan Maglio discovered him. He was invited to join the famous orquesta típica of Juan Maglio and began performing at the Cafe Nacional and Bar Dominguez on Avenida Corrientes. Later on he worked with the orchestra of Miguel Orlando at the Maipu Pigall, alternating with Elvino Vardaro, Cayetano Puglisi and Juan Bautista Guido. In 1930, he recorded with Carlos Gardel in the studios of Max Gluksmann.

After refusing an offer to travel to Spain with Carlos Gardel, Biagi joined the orchestra of Juan Bautista Guido and performed at the Cine Real and Cine Suipacha. There he missed the pleasure of performing im a cabaret and went back to the Pigall and Casanova with the orchestra of Juan Canaro.

In 1935, Biagi joined the orchestra of Juan d’Arienzo performing at the Chantecler. Together they worked for 4 years while forging their own styles until Biagi decided to assemble his own orchestra in 1939. This is when he began to fully express himself as a musician, taking his instrument another step beyond the simple role accompaniment which was usually reserved to the piano in tango orchestras.

Biagi made his debut as a director at the cabaret Marabu and Radio Belgrano. There he was remained 20 years and received the surname of Mano Brujas.

Rodolpho Biagi had a long successful career as a director. He worked with many signers including estribillistas Teofilo Ibanez and Andres Falgas in the beginning; Jorge Ortiz, Alberto Lago, Alberto Amor, Carlos Acuna and Carlos Saavedra later on in the 1940’s; Carlos Heredia, Carlos Almagro and Hugo Duval in the 1950’s and 1960’s. He appeared in the show Glostora tango club of Radio el Mundo and was the star of the television program entitled Casino Philips on Canal 13.

Rodolfo Biagi died on September 24, 1969 leaving 187 recordings as a director with the labels Odeon, Columbia and Music Hall. We can see him perform with the orchestra of Juan d’Arienzo in the 1937 movie “Melodias portenas”.

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[1] Gobello, José. Mujeres y hombre que hicieron el tango. Buenos Aires: Centro Editor de Cultura Argentina, 2002. Print.

[2] Alvarez, Carlos. ”Biagi: Entrevista a Rodolfo Biagi en 1960”. Todotango. Online. http://www.todotango.com/historias/cronica/286/Biagi-Entrevista-a-Rodolfo-Biagi-en-1960/

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 mid 1930’s. With this renewed energetic style he gave a new impulse to tango as a dance and musical genre following 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.

In 1926 Juan D’Arienzo decided to dedicated himself exclusively to tango. 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. This is where he began working with Rodolfo Biagi (piano) and encountered the cheerful style of interpretation which brought tango back to life.

The success of Juan d’Arienzo at the Chanteclerc was sudden and intense. He began recording with RCA Victor and appearing on Radio Mundo. Dance halls and tango orchestras were flourishing 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 “Yo quiero ser bataclana” (1941), “El cantor del pueblo” (1948), “La voz de mi ciudad” (1953) and “Una ventana al éxito” (1966).

Though he thought singers were responsible for killing tango, taking the focus away from the beat, D’Arienzo worked with many distinguished estribillistas and signers throughout his career including Francisco Fiorentino, Alberto Echague, Hector Mauré and Armando Laborde. All of them were required to to follow the speed of the orchestra as d’Arienzo would never make any compromise on his conception of the music and rhythm.

Juan d’Arienzo is the author of many milongas of the new energetic and urban genre which we can hear in today’s milonga and contributes largely to impose this new genre in the 1930’s. This style of milonga must not be confused with the original milonga campera which pertains to Argentina folk music and contributed to the formation of tango at it’s origins.

While new musical styles were flourishing in the golden age, Juan D’Arienzo went on performing and recording with the same fast paced, rhythmical style. Critics said he had become repetitive and failed to evolve and this idea unfortunately has been repeated many time out of it’s original context. From a historical perpective Juan D’Arienzo was one of the most innovative director of tango history and the original force behind all the changes he has been accused of not following. It’s also important to note that he remains a favourite among dancers throughout the golden age and to this day.

When it became clear that tango dancing was not in style anymore, Juan d’Arienzo finally made some changes to his music and began performing on a more melodic tone in the 1960’s. 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/

Eduardo Arolas

Eduardo Arolas, also known as El tigre del bandoneon, was an influential bandoneon player, composer and director of the early days of the guardia vieja. He is the author of over 100 tangos including classics such as “Derecho viejo”, “La cachila”, “Retintin” and “Comme il faut”. With his inovative compositions and quality of interpretation, he contributed largely to define tango in it’s early stage. Many distinguished musicians of the guardia vieja made their debuts in his orchestra including Juan Carlos Cobian, Julio de Caro and Luis Bernstein.

Lorenzo Arola was born in Buenos Aires in 1892. He grew up in the neighbourhood of Barracas where his father owned a store. With his older brother he learned to play the guitar when he was 8-years-old and began playing in the cafes of la Boca. This is how he met Ricardo Gonzalez who first thought him to play the bandoneon. Together they performed as a duo until Eduardo decided to go his own way.

By the time he was 19-years-old Eduardo Arolas was and fully dedicated to music. He studied with Jose Bombig and opened a café called “Una noche de garufa” where he performed on his own. This is where he composed his first tango, which bears the same name as the cafe.

Like many tango musicians of the first generation, Eduardo Arolas couldn’t read or write music. But he was nonetheless a brilliant, prolific and innovative composer. He was also appreciated for his style of interpretation and phrasing, which was more fluid then other bandeonistas of that time and sets new standards for musicians.

With his talent as a composer and interpreter, Eduardo Arolas quickly became popular around the city. With Leopoldo Thompson (guitarra) and Ernesto Ponzio (violin), he began performing at Café La Turca and traveled to Montevideo. Back in Buenos Aires he formed another trio with Agustín Bardi (piano) and Tito Roccatagliatta (violin) and later on a cuarteto with flute. He was invited to perform at the prestigious cabaret Armenonville with Roberto Firpo in 1913 and then began forming his own orchestra.

With his orquestra típica, Eduardo Arolas continued performing in prestigious venues and cabarets such as El Estribo, L’Abbaye and Montmartre. He performed at Café Botafogo and Royal Pigall in In 1916 and Café Apolo in 1917. In those years he composed some of his most famous pieces and left recordings in which we can hear him play solo or with his orchestra.

During the last years of his life, Eduardo Arolas suffered from depression and alcoholism. He traveled extensively to Montevideo where he was a star at the carnavals of 1920 and to Paris where he performed at prestigious venues such as the Cabaret Parisien and Ermitage, contributing to the popularization of tango in the old world. He died in Paris in 1924. He was only 32-years-old.

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

[2] García Blaya, Ricardo. Eduardo Arolas. Todotango. Online. http://www.todotango.com/creadores/biografia/23/Eduardo-Arolas/

Estribillista

The estribillista is the singer of the orchesta típica of the 1920’s and 1930’s. It’s purpose is to perfom the estribillo (refrain) in such a way that the orchestra and the music remains at the center of attention. It differs from the cantor de orquesta (orchestra singer) of the golden age and solo tango singers.

In the early 1920’s, singing was reserved to soloists such as Carlos Gardel and Ignacio Corsini. These singers used to perform with guitars or small band which would accommodate their voice and were not concerned with delivering a steady beat for dancing. Orquestas típicas were performing instrumental pieces only.

Francisco Canaro was the first director to incorporate a singer to his orchestra. In his memoirs he says he felt something was missing and so he invited Roberto Diaz to perform the estribillo and began experimenting with duos.

The challenges to integrate a singer to an orchestra were many at a time were there were no microphones and amplifiers. The voice of the singer had to be powerful enough to accompany the instruments in noisy public places, cafes and nightclubs. Cone were used sometimes but not an ideal solution estetically. Also it didn’t seem to occurre to anyone to slow down the pace or do major efforts to accomodate the voice of the singer until Anibal Troilo began working with Francisco Fiorentino in 1937.

Besides all of this the contribution of the estribillista to the orchestra was rarely credited. Singers were not regarded as members of the band and their names often did not even appear on recordings.

However the estribillista became popular by the end of the 1920’s and some soloists such as Charlo were associated to an orchestras. Juan Carlos Thorry and Ernesto Famá worked with Osvaldo Fresedo, Félix Gutiérrez with Julio de Caro, Dante with D’arienzo, Teófilo Ibáñez with Roberto Firpo and Santiago Devin with Carlos Di Sarli.

The presence, status and recognition of the estribillistas continued to improve as electric technologies allowed for better performances and in the 1930’s all orchestra were working with singers. Some were associated to a particular orchestra like Roberto Ray to Osvaldo Fresedo and others like Luis Diaz and Francisco Fiorentino worked with many.

It’s not until 1937 that the orchestras finally begin to fully integrate the signer and to adapt the music to showcase the voice and poetry of tango. That all began with Anibal Troilo and the first cantor de orquesta Francisco Fiorentino.

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García Blaya, Ricardo. El cantor del Tango: su evoluci’on en el tiempo – El estribillista. Todotango. Online. http://www.todotango.com/historias/cronica/69/El-Cantor-del-Tango:-Su-evolucion-en-el-tiempo-El-estribillista/

Francisco Fiorentino

Francisco Fiorentino was tango musician, singer and director of the guardia nueva. He is famous for his work as a singer with the orchestra of Anibal Troilo and regarded as the first cantor de orquestra, the tipical singer of the golden age of tango.

Born in San Telmo in 1905 to a family of Italian immigrants, Francisco Fiorentino studied music at the conservatory of Minotto Di Cicco. In his youth he used to play with his older brother Vicente in the cafes and theaters of Buenos Aires for a living.

When he joined the orchestra of Francisco Canaro in 1924, Francisco Fiorentino wanted to sing. These were the years when Canaro was experimenting with estribillistas, however Canaro did not think much of Fiorentino as a singer back then. This is why Fiorentino left to work with other orchestras such as those of Juan Carlos Cobián, Juan D’Arienzo, Angel d’Agostino, Pedro Maffia and the Orquesta típica Victor, acting both as a musician and estribillista.

The estribillista used to sing only the refrain and were not usually considered as members of the orchestra.

When Fiorentino joined the orchestra of Anibal Troilo on July 1st 1937 he became the first orchestra singer. Together Troilo and Fiorentino recorded 62 tracks including “Yo soy el tango”, “Tinta roja”, “Fueye”, “Barrio de tango”, “Los mareados”, “Gricel” Garua, and “El bulín de la calle Ayacucho”. Their innovative collaboration also resulted in giving a second life to tango poetry and singing which was in need for new channels following the death of Carlos Gardel in 1935.

According to Blaya [2] Francisco Fiorentino was not technically a great singer. His voice and diction had certain limitations but he was good at conveying the emotion.

In 1944, Francisco Fiorentino leaves the orchestra of Troilo. He works with Orlando Goñi for a while and forms his own orchestra with Astor Piazzolla. In 1948 he joined the orchestra of José Basso. He made many good recordings including 22 with Astor Piazzolla but never reached the same success as he did in while working with Troilo.

In the 1950’s Francisco Fiorentino began traveling to Uruguay and to the interior of Argentina to perform. He died in a car accident in 1955 near Mendoza.

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[1] Gobello, José. Mujeres y hombres que hicieron el tango. Librerias Libertador, 2002. Print.

[2] Adet, Manuel. El Tano Francisco Fiorentino. El Litoral. Online. http://www.ellitoral.com/index.php/diarios/2011/11/05/escenariosysociedad/SOCI-04.html

[3] García Blaya ,Ricardo. Francisco Fiorentino. Todotango. Online. http://www.todotango.com/creadores/biografia/149/Francisco-Fiorentino/

Enrique Cadícamo

Enrique Cadícamo was a writer, poet, playwright and prolific tango lyricist of the guardia nueva. He is the author of 5 plays and 6 books including “El desconocido Juan Carlos Cobián” and “La historia del tango en Paris”. He is also the author of more then 400 tangos, many of which are great classics such as “Los mareados“, “Tres esquinas”, “Madame Yvonne” and “Nostalgias”.

Enrique Cadícamo was born in 1900 and grew up in the neighbourhood of Flores in Buenos Aires. As a young man he was required to spend long hours in public transportation and this is how he began reading classics such as Victor Hugo and Ruben Darío. He also began writing poetry and plays which were presented in the theaters of Flores.

Following the success of “Mi noche triste” in 1917 it was not uncommon for playwrights of the early 1920’s to write tango. Enrique Cadícamo wrote his first tango, “Pompas de jabón” in 1924. In 1929 he won the first place in Max Gluksmann’s contest with “De todo te olvidas” and he began working with Juan Carlos Cobián. His success with tango was such that 23 of his compositions were recorded by Carlos Gardel between 1925 and 1933, many of which were great hits.

One characteristic of Enrique Cadícamo as a poet was his ability to work with many different themes. “Tres esquinas” is a masterful piece about the neigborhood in the line of Evaristo Carriego and Homero Manzi. “Al mundo le falta un tornillo” is an existentialist tango comparable to those Discepolo. And on the romantic front he is the author of Los mareadoswhich is one of the most famous tango songs of all times.

Other well known tangos by Enrique Cadícamo include “Che papusa.. oi”, “Anclao en Paris”, “Niebla del Riachuelo”, “Garúa”, “La casita de mis viejos”, “Palais de glace”, “Tengo mil novias”, “Tres amigos”, “Muñeca brava”, “Compadrón” and “Pa que bailan los muchachos”.

Enrique Cadícamo remained professionally active until his death in 1999. He received many prices in his lifetime including a Premio Konex in 1885. He was declared Ciudadano illuste de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires in 1987 and Personalidad Emerita de la Cultura Argentina in 1996. [1] In 2011 the pasaje Carabelas was renamed Paseo Enrique Cadícamo in his honor. [2]

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[1] Sorias, Gabriel. (2002) Los Capos del tango: Enrique Cadícamo. Online. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uvnBkWGe4Uc

[3] “Cadicamo, en tiempo de homenaje”. In La Nacion, December 17, 2000. Online. http://www.lanacion.com.ar/45314-cadicamo-en-tiempo-de-homenaje