Category Archives: Guardia vieja

Francisco Canaro

Francisco Canaro was a prominent orchestra director, violinist and composer of the guardia vieja. He had a long and prolific career covering a period of over 50 years from the early years of tango with Vicente Greco up to the beginning of tango concerts in the 1960’s. He recorded over 3500 tracks, including over 900 titles in the acoustic era [3]. As a composer he left us with many classics including “Mano Brava”, “Sentimiento gaucho”, “La ultima copa”, “Sonar y nada mas”, “Madreselva”, “El chamuyo” and “Se dice de mi”.

Francisco Canarozzo was born in Uruguay in 1888 to a humble family of Italian immigrants. By age 10 he began working in the streets of Buenos Aires selling news papers along with his brothers to help sustain his family. His first violin was made by himself out an oil can from a factory where he used to work. [1]

With his oil can violin Francisco Canaro began performing in public for money. By 1908 he was a regular in the cafes and nightclubs of La Boca. He began working with the orchestra of his friend Vicente Greco and together they made their first recording in 1911. He composed his first tango “Pinta Brava” in 1912. Contributed to shape the first orquestas tipicas.

By 1925 Canaro was in Paris with his own orchestra. He also went to New York and toured the interior of Argentina. Japan.

He was the first to include a signer, or estribillista, in his orchestra in 1924. Some of the signers most identified with him in the early years are Charlo and Ada Falcon, a woman with whom he had a notorious love affair. [2] 

Canaro and contributed to many movies as a composer, actor and producer. In 1934 he founded his own production company, Rio de la Plata, which produced 11 movies but without much success. He also fought for copyrights and founded the Argentine Society of Composers and Songwriters (SADAIC).

According to José Gobello, writer, poet and founder of the academia Portena del Lunfardo, Canaro is the second most important figure of tango after Carlos Gardel. His memoirs published in 1956 are an important source on the history of tanog.

Canaro died of Paget’s disease in 1964. π

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[1] Canaro, Fransicso. Mis memorias: Mis bodas de oro con el tango. Buenos Aires: Corregidor, 1999. Print.

[2]  Yo no se que me han hecho tus ojos. Dir. Lorena Muñoz and Sergio Wolf. 2003. Film.

[3] Lanner, Christoph. “Discografia de Francisco Canaro”. sites.google.com. Web. Aug 2016.

Guardia vieja

The period of tango history called guardia vieja can be divided into two stages: in the first, tango emerges as a distinct musical genre or “tango criollo” and, in the second, the initial trios and cuartetos evolve progressively into orquestas típicas.

According to Horacio Ferrer and the Academia nacional del tango, the two phases of evolution of the guardia vieja are:

  1. Eclosión (1895-1909)
  2. Formalización (1910-1925).

During the eclosión phase, tango becomes a historical reality with the first documented mention of a tango criollo in a zarzuela entitled “Justicia Criolla”. In the same period “El entrerriano” by Rosendo Mendizabál becomes the first printed tango partition with a registered author. Other early tangos with printed partitions that contribute to defining the genre at this early stage include “Don Juan“, “El Choclo” and “La Morocha”.

In the early stage of the formalización, the bandoneon is introduced in tango instrumentation and becomes a characteristic element of the first orquestas típicas, such as those of Vicente Greco and Juan Maglio which were dedicated exclusively to tango. The sound of tango evolves substantially as flutes and guitars are left behind and the piano is introduced to tango orchestras by Roberto Firpo in 1912.

Another important figure of the guardia vieja is Francisco Canaro who introduces the double bass to the orquesta típica, completing the creation of a traditional sexteto composed of two bandoneons, two violins, piano and double bass.

The guardia vieja is also a phase where tango begins to reach a broader audience in Buenos Aires cafes and nightclubs and abroad where tangomania begins spreading from Paris to other parts of Europe and the United States. Some of the musicians, signers and dancers who first took tango to the old world include Ángel Villoldo, Los Gobbi and Casimiro Ain. π

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[1] Ferrer, Horacio. El Siglo de oro del Tango: compendio ilustrado de su historia. Buenos Aires: Editorial El Mate, 1996. Print.

[2] Amuchastegui, Irene. “El día en que el tango tuvo nombre.” Clarín [Buenos Aires] 28 Sept. 1997. Web, 1 Aug. 2016.

[3] Pesce, Ruben. La Historia del Tango: La Guardia Vieja. Corregidor, 1977. Print.

[4] Zalko, Nardo. Paris / Buenos Aires: Un siglo de tango. Buenos Aires: Corregido, 2001. Print.