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. He is particularly 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 also 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 the neighbourhood of San Telmo, in a humble family where he was the first musician, he had difficulty convincing his parents to buy him an instrument. However his conviction was so strong and he insisted so much that they agreed to buy him a violin.

While studying at the conservatory of La Prensa, Biagi discovered his preference for the piano. He began working as a pianist at the Cine Colon when he was 13 years old. This is where Juan Maglio discovered him and asked him to join his famous orquesta típica. Together they performed at the Cafe Nacional for two years before they moved on to Bar Dominguez on Avenida Corrientes. Then 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 for a more engaged public so he went back to the Pigall and Casanova with the orchestra of Juan Canaro.

In 1935, Biagi joined the orchestra of Juan d’Arienzo who was performing at the cabaret ChanteclerTogether they worked for 4 years and began forging their own unique styles until Biagi went on to form his own orchestra in 1939 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 orquestas tipicas.

Biagi made his debut as a director at the cabaret Marabu and Radio Belgrano where he was remained for 20 years and received his surname of Mano BrujasSingers he worked with at the beginning of his career as a director are Teofilo Ibanez and Andres Falgas. In the 40s he worked with Jorge Ortiz, Alberto Lago, Alberto Amor, Carlos Acuna and Carlos Saavedra. Finally, in the 1950’s and 60’s, he worked with Carlos Heredia, Carlos Almagro and Hugo Duval. He appeared in the show Glostora tango club of Radio el Mundo and became the star of the television program 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. He can be seen performing 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/

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, former bandoneonista in the orchestra of Francisco Canaro. His older brother Vicente was also a musician and together, in their youth, they played in the cafes and theaters of Buenos Aires for a living.

Francisco Fiorentino was a talented musician and in 1924 he joined the orchestras of Francisco Canaro. These were the years when Canaro first incorporated singers into his orchestra and Fiorentino wanted to sing but Canaro did not think much of him as an estribillista at that time and Fiorentino went on working with other orchestras both as a bandoneonsita and estribillista in many ochestras including those of Juan Carlos Cobián, Juan D’Arienzo, Angel d’Agostino, Pedro Maffia and La típica Victor.

In the 1930’s Fiorentino he also worked as a solist and performed with Los Poetas del Tango.

Francisco Fiorentino may not have been the very first singer to perform with an orchestra. Other signers who worked with orchestras in those early year are Charlo and Roberto Díaz. However he was first to record a full song, “Serenata de amor” with the orchestra of Roberto Zerrillo, and more importantly he was first to fully integrate an ochestra tipica as a singer.

Fiorentino made his debut with Anibal Troilo on July 1st 1937. Together Troilo and Fiorentino recorded 62 tracks including “Yo soy el tango”, “Tinta roja”, “Fueye”, “Barrio de tango”, “Los mareados”, “Gricel” Garua, y “El bulín de la calle Ayacucho” and gave a second life to tango poetry and singing which was in need for new inspiration following the death of Carlos Gardel.

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 ochestra of Troilo. He works with Orlando Goñi for a while and forms his own orchestra with Astor Piazzolla. In 1948 he joined the ochestra of José Basso. He made many good recordings including 22 with Astor Piazzolla but never reached the same had  with Troilo.

In the 1950,s he began traveling to Uruguay and 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/

Anibal Troilo

Aníbal Troilo, also known affectuously as Pichuco, Gordo or El bandoneon mayor de Buenos Aires, was a renown bandoneon player, composer and director of the golden age of tango. With his personal charisma, sensitivity and excellence of interpretation he became one of the major figures of tango history. As a composer he left 60 pieces, many of which are now  great classics such as “Barrio de tango” (1942), “Garúa” (1943), “María” (1945), “Romance de bario” (1947), “Sur” (1948), “Che bandoneon” (1950), “Responso” (1951), “La cantina” (1954), “La ultima curda” (1956), and ”Nocturno a mi barrio” (1969).

Troilo was born in 1914  in the neighbourhood of Abasto. He was the son of a butcher who died when he was 8 years old. As a child he was fascinated by the bandoneon, and though to buy such an instrument was a considerable expense for his mother, by age 10 he convinced her to buy him one. A year later he was performing in public for the first time in a bar next to the mercado Abasto.

Anibal Troilo was 14 years old when he formed his first quinteto. In 1929 he was invited to perform with Juan Maglio at the Café Germinal and in 1930 with Ciriaco Ortiz for the Sexteto Vardaro-Pugliese and the Orquesta los provincianos. In 1932 he joined the orchestra of Julio de Caro. Other major orchestras he worked with as a bandoneonista in the 1930’s include those of Angel D’Agostino, Alfredo Gobbi, La Típica Victor, Juan d’Arienzo, Luis Petrucelli and Juan Carlos Cobian.

In 1937 Troilo finally formed his own orchestra. He was 23 years old. He made his debut as a director in the cabaret el Marabú and was almost immediately hired to perform at the Café Germinal. These were the years when Juan D’Arienzo brought tango dancing back into fashion and tango orchestras were needed all over the city. One year later he signed a contract with Odeon but unfortunately was requested to record only two tracks under this label. This is why  “Comme il faut” and “Tinta verde” are the only recordings he have from his early years as a director until he began working with RCA Victor in  1941.

In 1942 Anibal Troilo was hired at the Cabaret Tibidabo, a restaurant-dancing which was located on Avenida Corrientes 1244. There he performed (season) with Francisco Fiorentino and Orlando Goñi, turning the place into one of the hot spots of the golden age where poets and muscians such as Homero Manzi, Pascual Contursi, Catúlo Castillo, César Vedani and José Razzano used to gather.

Anibal Troilo was the main attraction at el Tibidabo for over 10 years. He also appeared regularly on popular radio programs such as Ronda de ases throughout the 1940’s. In 1953 he left el Tibidabo to perform with Roberto Grela in the musical “El patio de la Morocha”. The establishment was demolished two years later as cabarets began closing and tango orchestras were dismembered in the late 1950’s.

Though tango was going through profound a crisis in the 60’s and 70’s, Troilo continued working with small bands, duos and giant orchestras. Along with Astor Piazzolla he became one of the pillars of the Vanguardia and continued renovating and performing until his death in 1975. He left and left 449 recordings with his orchesta típica and many more with other other bands and ochestras. From 1948 to 1976 he appeared in various movies including El tango vuelve a Paris”, “Mi noche triste”, and “Tango Argentino”.

One of the most significant contribution of Anibal Troilo in the golden age was to give a second life to tango poetry, which had lost ground following the death of Carlos Gardel in 1935. Troilo was also first to fully incorporate tango signers to his orchestra, working with the best of them including Fransicso Fiorentino, Alberto Marino, Floreal Ruiz, Edmundo Rivero, Roberto Rufino, Raúl Berón and Roberto Goyeneche.

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Gobello.

100 anos.

Jose Gonzalez Castillo

Jose Gonzalez Castillo was a journalist, playwright and lyricist of the early years of the guardia nueva. He is the author of numerous sainetes including “Los dientes del Perro” which showcased the first tango canción, Mi noche triste,”  with the orchestra of Roberto Firpo in 1918.

Gonzalez Castillo was born in 1885 in the city of Rosario. Having lost his parents at a young age, he was raised by a priest in the Province of Salta and trained to become a priest himself.  However he left the church as a young man and with his education and writing skills, soon he became a journalist for the newspaper “La Republica” in Rosario.

Later on in Buenos Aires Gonzalez Castillo was a successful playwright. Shortly after the success of “Mi noche triste” he began writing his own tango songs. The first one of those, “Que has hecho de mi cariño,” was composed for a play entitled “Don Agenor Saladillo” and presented to the public in 1918 with the music or Juan Maglio. Other tangos by him include “Sobre el pucho”, “Organito de la tarde”, “Griseta”, “A Montmartre”, “Bandoneon”, “El porteño” and “Por el camino”.

Besides his activities as a playwright and lyricist, it is interesting to note that Gonzalez Casillo was among the first to notice Carlos Gardel and to attract attention on the duo Gardel-Razzano.[2] He worked on various films including the silent movie “Nobleza gauchesca”  (1915)  and “La ley que olvidaron” (1937). He is the father of Catúlo Castillo with whom he collaborated on many tangos including “Organito de la tarde”, “Silbando”, “El Aguacero”, “Papel picado” and “El circo se va”.

González Castillo died in Buenos Aires in 1937. π

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[1] Tálice, Roberto A. “Evocación y ubicación de José Gonzalez Castillo”. In La historia del tango: Los poetas (I). Buenos Aires: Corregidor, 1977.

[2] Del Greco, Orlando. Gardel y Jose Gonzalez Castillo. Todotango. Online.  http://www.todotango.com/creadores/ficha/296/Jose-Gonzalez-Castillo

Rudolph Valentino

Rudolph Valentino was a dancer and Hollywood superstar. He is famous for a scene in the 1921 movie “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” where he dances the tango with Beatrice Dominguez.

Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina d’Antonguella was born in 1895 in Castellaneta, Italy, of a French mother and Italian father. In 1913 he traveled to the United States in search of new opportunities and this is where he learned to dance the tango, possibly with Casimiro Aín.

These were the years when tangomania was taking over New York. Valentino worked as a taxi dancer in restaurants such as Maxim’s Restaurant-Cabaret where dancing tea parties were held in the British fashion. In 1917 he was entangled in a scandal with a married woman which led him to leave the city. This is how he began traveling and working with theatrical companies which took him to the west coast.

After traveling for a few months Valentino settled in Los Angeles where he worked as a dance teacher. He began looking for work as an actor and landed his first major role playing Julio Desnoyers in the silent movie “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”, the 1921 movie where we can see him performing the tango in his gaucho attire. [2]

Valentino’s good looks and seductive attitude on the dance floor made a strong impression on the american public and quickly turned him into a superstar. [1] The popularity of “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” and the so called “latin lover” was such that men were seen wearing gel in their hair and young people were suddenly interested in learning to dance the tango.

With his wife Natacha Rambova, Valentino toured the country to perform the exotic dance in his own particular style. He also pursued his career as a Hollywood actor and was starred in fourteen films including The Sheik, Blood and Sand, The Eagle, and The Son of the Sheik before he died in 1926 following a surgery. He was only 31-year-old.  π

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[1] GROPPA, Carlos G. The tango in the United states. Jefferson: McFarland & Company Inc. 2004. Print.

[2] QUIN, Eleanor. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921). Turner Classic Movies. Online. 

Pascual Contursi

Pascual Contursi was a guitarist, singer, playwright and innovative song writer of the early guardia nueva. He is known as the author of the first tango canción or tango song, Mi noche triste“, recorded by Carlos Gardel in 1917.

Contursi was born in Chivilcoy, province of Buenos Aires, in 1888. He grew up in the neighbourhood of San Cristobal and began singing and writing poetry in his youth. In 1914 he traveled to Montevideo where he began writing lyrics for popular tangos and performing them in public to earn a living.

Before Contursi, tango lyrics had been composed by other performers including Ángel Villodo and Alfredo Gobbi, but the lyrics of the guardia vieja tended to be more rudimentary and often reflected the rough reality of life in the streets and nightclubs of early century Buenos Aires. With Pascual Contursi, tango lyrics began to develop into decent popular songs with deeper characters and more complex story lines.

One day in Montevideo, Contursi presented his best tango, Mi noche triste,” to a popular cantor de estilos or singer of what we would call today folk songs. Carlos Gardel did not have any tango in his repertoire at that time, but he liked this particular one and he decided to record it in 1917.

That same year, Mi noche triste became a huge success in Buenos Aires as a part of a theatrical piece, a sainete entitled “Los Dientes del perro”. The success of Contursi’s tango was such that other authors immediately began to explore the genre and a new style of tango poetry quickly emerged.

Back in Buenos Aires, Contursi continued writing sainetes and composing tangos lyrics. He is the author of over 40 tango including “Champagne tango”, “Ivette”, “Flor de fango”, “El motivo”, “Ventanita de arrabal”, “De vuelta al bulin”, “La biblioteca” and “Si supieras”,  many of which were recorded by Carlos Gardel.

Contursi was a humble man and his poetry was written in a simple style. Most of his work revolves around a certain number of recurrent themes and characters which became archetypes of tango poetry for years to come.

Contursi traveled to Europe in the 1920s. He lived in France and Spain where he enjoyed his success until his mental condition deteriorated due to an untreated case of syphilis. He died in Buenos Aires in 1932 at age 44.  π

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[1] Pelletieri, Osvaldo. Siempre Contursi. La historia del tango: Los poetas (I). Buenos Aires: Corregidor, 1981.  Print.

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

[3] Astarita, Gaspar. Pascual Contursi, vida y obra. La campana, 1981. Print.