Category Archives: History

Sainete

The sainete is a type of short theatrical play from Spain which includes musical parts. It was usually performed during interludes until it was integrated to another type of short play, the genero chico, in the 19th century. In Argentina it continued to exist as an independent genre and evolved into the sainete criollo which played an important part in the history of tango.

In the early 17th century Spain, the sainete was a very short comedy of popular tone. It usually featured a sentimental affair between two main characters surrounded by other stereotyped characters. The purpose of the sainete was to create a diversion between acts of a longer play or to be performed at the end of a function. It typically included musical parts and singing.

When the economical context in Spain called for the creation shorter plays in the mid 19th century, the zarzuelas were divided between the genero grande (long genre) and the genero chico (short genre). At this point the sainete was used to create short plays of about 45 minutes and assimilated to the genero chico.

In Argentina, the sainete continued to develop as an independent genre. There it was compbined with elements of the circo criollo (circus) and evolved into the sainte criollo.

The sainte criollo usually presented scenes of ordinary life in the conventillos, the shared houses where modest families of immigrants used to live in close proximity to each other in Buenos Aires. Unlike the original sainete, these were not pure comedies anymore and included elements of drama.

In the 1920’s, the sainete criollo played an important part in the emergence of the tango canción, the kind of tango songs which were promoted by Carlos Gardel. The so called first tango song, “Mi noche triste, was popularized by the sainete “Los dientes del Perro” by  José González Castillo and Alberto Weisbach.

Following the phenomenal success of  “Mi noche triste”, many other tango songs were written for sainetes. These new tango songs were interpreted by the actors such as Tita Merello and Sofia Bozan as well as signers such as Carlos Gardel and Ignacio Corsini and contributed to create a transition between the guardia vieja and the guardia nueva.

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1 Pellettieri, Osvaldo. Historia del teatro Argentino. La emancipación cultural (1884-1930). Buenos Aires: Galerna, 2002.

2 Pellettieri, Osvaldo. El sainete y el grotesco criollo. Buenos Aires: Editorial Galerna, 2008.

Zarzuela

The zarzuela is a form of musical theater from Spain which has the particularity of alternating between dialogues and musical parts. It played an important role in the genesis of tango by introducing the tango andaluz to the city of Buenos Aires.

The first documented mentions of a zarzuela goes back to 1657 with the premier of “El golfo de las sirenas” by Calderon de la Barca. The term zarzuela comes from the name of the royal theater in Madrid where this type of musical play first appeared. In the 19th century a short version of the zarzuela was created, the genero chico, which was more affordable to produce and attend and became popular in Latin american countries including Cuba, Venezuela, Mexico and Argentina.

A zarzuela  of the genero chico is a essentially a short comedy composed of one act which lasts for an hour or less. These short plays revolved around popular themes and usually unfold on a single set. They were often inspired by sainetes, another genre of short musical play related to the genero chico .

One of the ways in which the zarzuela influenced on the evolution of tango is by the introduction of the tango andaluz to the city of Buenos Aires. Theaters were an important vehicle through which songs were popularized as people learned and repeated the songs they heard in popular plays. These tangos andaluces soon inspired new local songs which reflected the reality of life in the rapidly growing city of Buenos Aires. Thought these very first tangos criollos did not yet constitute a new distinct musical genre, they are regarded as a very primitive forms of Argentine tango. This is the case for example of Andate a la Recoleta” (1800), which was inspired by a tango andaluz.

Another way in which the zarzuela played a role in the evolution of tango is through providing a space to present and promote the new local tango as a fully formed and recognized entity. The first documented use of the word “tango” in the sense of tango porteño was found in “Justicia Criolla”, a local zarzuela which proudly features the new tango music, dance and culture.

“Justicia Criolla” was premiered at the theater Olimpo in 1897, the same year El entrerriano was composed by Rosendo Mendizabal.

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[1] Pellettieri, Osvaldo. Historia del teatro Argentino en Buenos Aires. Editorial Galerna, 2002. Print.

[2] “El dia que el tango tuvo nombre”. Clarín. Online. https://www.clarin.com/espectaculos/dia-tango-nombre_0_S1luFxZRKx.html

 

Andate a la Recoleta

“Andate a la Recoleta” is a primitive, anonymous tango of andaluz influence. It was composed around 1880, long before El entrerriano by Rosendo Mendizabal (1897). It is sometimes attributed to Juan Pérez and was regarded by musicologist Carlos Vega as the oldest Argentine tango.

Like other early tangos which were composed in the 1880’s, “Andate a la Recoleta” is little more then a tango andaluz with adapted lyrics reflecting the local expressions and reality of life in Buenos Aires in the late 19th century. These lyrics were transmitted to us through oral tradition and their interpretation seems to be difficult and uncertain. They also seem to vary according to different sources.

The prevailing interpretation perhaps is that “Andate a la Recoleta”  was a song about the expansion of the railways toward the northern neighbourhood of Recoleta and an allusion to a strike or strong protest about poor working conditions such a those described in “El cochero de tramway” by Angel Villoldo.

Andate a la Recoleta, decile al recoletero que prepare una boveda para este pobre cochero. Sí, sí, sí, que Gaudencio se va a fundir. No, no, no, que Gaudencio ya se fundió. Y ven a los mayorales parados en los estribos con un letrero que dice: “calle de Estados Unidos”.

Others have pointed out that “going to la Recoleta” means going to party as the area around the cemetery of Recoleta is where the disreputable nightlife and tango dancing were happening in those days. According to this analysis, “Andate a la Recoleta” was rather a lighthearted allusion to nocturnal escapades in the neighbourhood of Recoleta. (Yes yes yes, tonight is my turn, no no no, tomorrow is yours)

Si, Si, Si, que esta noche me toca a mi. No, no, no, que mañana te toca a vos.

Another version shows how familiar “Andate a la Recoleta” must have been in those days as it goes “yes yes yes, son of a bitch”.

Si, si, si, la puta que te pario. No, no, no, que Gaudencio ya se fundio

Yet another version entitled “Vamos a la Plata” was about the foundation of the city of la Plata. This one describes the new city as a place to go in search of a better life where there is soup, women available for marriage, money and no need to work.

“Vamos a La Plata / la nueva capital / allí se come sopa / y puchero sin sal / Si, si, si, / que La Plata se va a fundar / No, no, no / que La Plata ya se fundó / Vamos a La Plata, / que hay mucho que ver / que se casa un hombre / con una mujer / Vamos a La Plata / que hay mucho que ver / hombres a caballo / mujeres de a pie / Me voy a La Plata / la nueva capital / que allí se gana plata / y no hay que trabajar”

These were all inspired by the “Tango de la casera”, the tango andaluz also known as “Senora casera” or “Tango de los merengazos”.

“Señora casera / ¿qué es lo que s’arquila? / Sala y antesala, / comedó y cocina / ¿Cuánto vale esto? / Vale cinco duros./ Dígale al amo / que les den por…/

“Si, si, si, / A mí me gustan los merengazos / No, no, no, / que a ti te gustan los medios vasos / Si, si, si, / a ti te gustan los pío nonos / No, no. no, / que ya te he dicho que no los como”

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[1] Matamoro, Blas. “Orígenes musicales.” In La historia del tango: sus orígenes. Buenos Aires: Corregidor, 1976. Print.

[2] Horvat, Ricardo. Esos malditos tangos: apuntes para la otra historia. Buenos Aires: Editorial Biblos, 2006. Print.

Tango andaluz

The tango andaluz is one of the main musical genres which came into the creation of Argentine tango. It became popular in Buenos Aires in the middle of the 19th century through Spanish theater and inspired the creation of local songs which evolved into one of the primitive form of tango criollo.

The history of the tango andaluz is complex and raises many difficult questions including that of the origin and meaning of the the term “tango”. According to the Argentine musicologist Carlos Vega, (1) when Spanish sailors came to South America at the end of the 18th century, they discovered afro-american rhythms which were integrated into their musical tradition along with the word “tango”. This is the origin of the tango flamenco which in itself has little or nothing to do with Argentine tango.

When the tango flamenco was integrated into Spanish theater in the 19th century it went through a process of transformation which led to the creation of the tango andaluz. Because theaters worked with piano and orchestra rather then guitars, the tango flamenco began to incorporate elements of the habanera, a Cuban rhythm which was very popular in Hispanic countries at that time and better adapted to orchestra instruments. This blend of tango flamenco and habanera is at the origin of the tango andaluz which entered Buenos Aires through the genero chico, a short genre of musical play or zarzuela.

In those days when there was no radio, movies or sound recording of any kind, theater was an important vehicle through which new songs were made popular. This is how the tango andaluz entered Buenos Aires where local versions were invented to better reflect the life situations and linguistic expressions of the Porteños. Many of those tangos acriollados were directly based on an original tango andaluz as Carlos Vega pointed out comparing the “Tango de la casera” with “Andate a la recoleta” (1880). Another example of an early tango which is little more then an adaptation of a tango andaluz is “Ay, qué gusto que placer” (1897) which can be compared to “Ar sal’i los nazarenos”.

Other primitive tangos of andaluz influence include “Bartolo” (1900), “El cochero de tramway” (1900), “La morocha” (1905), “Cuidado con los cincuenta” (1907), “Hotel Victoria” (1906) and “El caburé” (19). These are the tangos which were popularized by interpreters such as Angel Villoldo and Alfredo Gobbi. They contributed to the creation of other genres of  tango criollo and disapeared around 1910 in favour of another current related to the milonga.

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

[2] Matamoro, Blas. “Orígenes musicales.” In La historia del tango: sus orígenes. Buenos Aires: Corregidor, 1976. Print.

[3] Horvat, Ricardo. Esos malditos tangos: apuntes para la otra historia. Buenos Aires: Editorial Biblos, 2006. Print.

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/