Category Archives: Singer

Payador

Payadores traditionally were gauchos and poets who’s art consisted in improvising verses while playing the guitar.  They played a fundamental role in the gestation of tango music and poetry at the end of the 19th century when they came to the city as their life style in the country disintegrated.

The word payada is related to “palabra” in Spanish, which means “word”.  So the payador speaks with improvised verses, contemplating, philosophizing, arguing and commenting the facts of everyday life. In the background a milonga, cifra, cielito, estilo or other folk rhythm flowing from their guitar.

Payadores usually performed on their own, but some of them entered into duels, defying one another with verses until one fails to keep up with the argument. This is the payanda “a contrapunto”. The confrontation could last hours or days and build great prestige for those who excelled at it.

When the gaucho’s traditional lifestyle was disrupted in the 19th century, payadores came to the city to perform in circus, bars and theatres for a living. Their verses began reflecting the reality and anecdotes of life in the city and this is where the first foundation of tango poetry came from.

The intertwining between payada and tango from 1890 to 1920 was profound and had lasting effects. Payadores began using lunfardo terms and singing tangos while early tangos had titles evoking the country such as “El choclo” (The corncob), “El estribo” (The Stirrup)The milonga became one of the fundamental musical style in the gestation of tango and Carlos Gardel himself was an extension of the last urban payadores, performing folk songs as well as tango and always accompanied by a guitar.

Great payadores who are known for their contribution to tango as signers and composers are Gabino Ezeiza, Higinio Cazón, José María Silva and Arturo A. Mathon. These are the voices we hear in  the most primitive recordings of tango songs.

As recording technology continued to progress and proliferate, the art of improvising became less relevant. Tango grew into the predominant musical genre in the city and the payada definitely lost ground in the 1920’s.

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.

_____

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.

_____

[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/

Ángel Villoldo

Ángel Villoldo, also known as the “father of tango”, was a musician, singer and composer of the first generation of the guardia vieja.  As a performer he contributed to the popularization of tango in the early 1900’s. He is the composer of one of the oldest and most famous tangos of all times, “El Choclo” (1903).

Ángel Gregorio Villodo Arroyo was born in Buenos Aires in 1868 in Barracas. In his youth he worked at many different jobs and learned to play the guitar and harmonica in his free time. Around 1900 he made a name for himself as a performer in the cafes of La Boca, contributing greatly to popularize tango where the payada was still dominating. Heis also remembered for his performances at the prestigious Restaurante 3 de Febrero in Palermo where his tango “El esquinazo” made a lasting impression.

An interesting fact about Villodo is that he was the most important tango lyricist of the guardia vieja. At a time when tango was merely and instrumental affair, he began writing lyrics which were inspired by the poetry the urban payador. These are not the sentimental tangos of Pascual contursi and the guardia nieva but they do lay the foundation for His tangos are the kind which describe the life in the city and anecdotes involving the compadritos and cuchilleros we now associate to the origins of tango.

Ángel Villoldo was a prolific composer with over 70 tangos in his repertoire, including “El esquinazo” (1900), “El Porteñito” (1903) and “El Choclo” (1903). He wrote lyrics for many of his own compositions as well as for “La Morocha” by Enrique Saborido and for “El Entrerriano by Rosendo Mendizábal. His songs were interpreted by himself and by other performers such Dora Miramar, Linda Thelma, Flora Rodriguez, Lea Conti and Pepita Avellaneda.

According to some, Ángel Villoldo traveled to Paris to record for Gath y Chaves and contributed to popularize tango in Europe. Others point out there is no evidence of that and no traces of these recordings.

Angel Villoldo died in Buenos Aires in 1919 at age 51.

___

Pesce ,Ruben, Oscar del Priore, and Silvestre Byron. La historia del tango: La guardia vieja. Buenos Aires: Corregidor, 1977. Print.

El tango: Un siglo de historia (Vol. 3). Buenos Aires: Editorial Perfil, 1992. Print.

Benedetti, Hector Angel. “La tienda Gath & Chavez tambien publicó discos.” Todotango.com. Web. Aug 2016.

Carlos Gardel

Carlos Gardel was a signer, guitarist, composer and actor of the early years of the guardia nueva. In the 1920’s, he played an essential role in the renovation of tango as a sentimental song. With his vision, charisma and quality of interpretation, he became an international star and a pioneer of the sound recording and filming industries. His tragic death in a plane crash in 1935 turned him into a legend, and he remains to this day the most famous and respected figure of tango history.

Charles Romuald Gardes was born in 1890 in Toulouse, France, of an unknown father. His mother, Marie Berthe Gardes, immigrated to Buenos Aires when he was still a young child. There she worked as a planchadora, ironing clothes for a living, and together they lived in poor pensions known as conventillos in the neighbourhood of San Nicolas.

Growing up near the heart of the city, Charles Gardes was impresed and attracted to the nightlife of his neighborhood. He got his first job as a claque, applauding the artists in the theaters of Avenida Corrientes. Later, in the neighbourhood of Abastos, he began signing in public with the help of his mentor, the payador José Betinotti.

In 1911, Gardes met José Razzano with whom he began performing as a duo to perform at the Café de los Angelitos. In 1912 he got his first opportunity to record for Columbia under the name of Carlos Gardel.

The Gardel-Razzano duo began traveling to Uruguay and Brasil in 1915. This is where Gardel met the Italian tenor Enrico Caruso who had a profound influence on his signing technique. Two years later, in Montevideo, he met Pascual Contursi and recorded his first tango, “Mi noche triste“, opening the way to a new area of tango poetry and singing.

Before he recorded “Mi noche triste” (1917), Gardel’s repertoire was composed of estilos, zambas, tonadas, waltz and other popular folk songs and rhythms of the world. By the time he began his solo career in 1925, he had become the voice of a new genre of tango song. He composed the music of many tangos including two of his greatest hits, “Mano a mano” (with José Razzano) and “Mi Buenos Aires querido”.

In the 1930’s Carlos Gardel produced a series of short musical movies which are regarded as some of the first video-clips in history. He was the star of many movies including “Las luces de Buenos Aires”, “Melodia de arrabal”, “Cuesta abajo”, “Tango bar” and “El dia que me quieras”.

Carlos Gardel died in 1935 in a plane crash in Medellin, Columbia, while touring south America. According to the Internet Movie Database, his voice and image appeared in over 80 movies after his death. [3] It is said that everyday he sings better.

___

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

[2] Cárcamo, Antonio José. Carlos Gardel discographía. Por siempre…. Gardel. Online. http://gardel.unsl.edu.ar/carcamo.htm

[3] Carlos Gardel filmography. IMDb, Online. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0306624/#composer