Category Archives: History

Derecho viejo (1916)

“Derecho viejo” is a 1916 tango composed by bandoneonista Eduardo Arolas. The title, as it was often the case in those days when copyrights did not exist, was chosen in honor of those to whom the piece was dedicated, in this case a group of law students.

According to an interview with musicologist Rafael Tuegols, published in the magazine Cantando in 1948, “Derecho viejo” was first performed at the cafe La Morocha where Arolas used to play for a crowd of workers from the brick kiln of the Parque Centenario.

Like many other compositions by Eduardo Arolas, “Derecho viejo” is structured in a way which allows for rich arrangements. It has been recorded countless times by various orchestras and solo artists from Julio de Caro and Francisco Canaro, to Juan d’Arienzo, Francini-Pointier, Nelly Omar, Astor Piazzolla and many others including contemporary orchestras. It has become one of  the best known pieces of the repertoire along with “La Cumparsita” and “El Choclo” and is commonly featured in tango shows. There unfortunately are no  recordings of it by Eduardo Arolas.

Though “Derecho viejo” is almost exclusively known as an instrumental theme, it is good to know that two sets of lyrics were written for it many years after its creation. The first one was written by Andrés Baldesari and recorded by the Orquesta Típica Victor with estribillo by Teófil Ibáñez in 1934.

Usted sabrá que cuando el amor comienza a taconear sentimientos en el pecho, la dulce tentación, sentimos sed de amar, de amar de corazón!

Y yo tambien amé con gran passión, amé con gran delirio, y coseché martirios, porque un padecer me brindó esa mujer que fue mi perdición!

The second one was written by Gabriel Clausi shortly before the 50th anniversary of Eduardo Arolas’s death and was officially registered in order to extend the copyright on “Derecho viejo” by the composer’s successors. This version was recorded by Nelly Omar accompanied by guitars in 1979.

Tango de mi ciudad, malevo y sensual, cayengue y triston, color de arrabal. Señor de salon, tienes emoción de noche porteña.

“Derecho viejo” is the title of a 1951 movie by Manuel Romero, inspired by the life of Eduardo Arolas.

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[1] Del Priore, Oscar, and Irene Amachástegui. Cien tangos fundamentales. Buenos Aires: Aguilar, 1998. Print.

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

 

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 vanguardist compositions and quality of interpretation, he contributed largely to define tango in its 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 in duo for a while until Eduardo went his own way.

In 1911, Eduardo Arolas was 19 years old 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 didn’t know how to read or write music. However he was a brilliant, prolific and innovative composer. He was also known for his style of interpretation and phrasing, which is more fluid then other orchestras of that time and sets new standards for tango 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 at 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 must be distinguished from the cantor de orquesta (orchestra singer) of the golden age and solo tango singers.

The purpose of the estribillista is to perfom the estribillo (refrain) in such a way that the orchestra and the music remains at the center of attention. 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  invited Roberto Diaz to perform the estribillo with his orquestra. In his memoirs he says he felt like something was missing before that and soon he experimented with duos as well.

The challenges to integrate a singer to an orchestra were many at that time as there were no microphones to amplifying the voice of the singer which had to be powerful enough to accompany powerful instruments in noisy public spaces, cafes and nightclubs. Cone were used with were not estetically . Also it did not occurre to any director to slow down their pace or do major efforts to accomodate the poetry and voice of the singer until Anibal Troilo began working with Francisco FIorentino and appeared the orchestra singer in 1937. Besides the contribution of the estribillista was rarely credited. Singers were not considered full members of the orchestra and names often did not appear or recordings.

However the estribillista became popular and by the end of the 1920’s, well known soloists such as Charlo began performing with orchestras. Juan Carlos Thorry and Ernesto Famá worked with Osvaldo Fresedo, Félix Gutiérrez with Julio de Caro, Dante with D;arienzo, Teófilo Ibáñez with 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. In the 30;s all orchestra were working with singers, some of which were associated with a particular one like Roberto Ray to Fresedo and others like Luis Diaz and Francisco Fiorentino worked with many.

But woulnt be fully integrated in the orchestra and music with full poetry until the end of the 1937 with Troilo and Fiorentino inventing the Cator de orquesta.

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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, 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/

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 General Rodríguez in the Province of Buenos Aires in 1900. When he was 6 years old his family moved to the city and he spent his youth in the neighborhood of Flores. His first job as a young man required that he spend long hours traveling to Palermo and this is how he began reading classics such as Victor Hugo and Ruben Darío. Later he worked for the archives of the Consejo national de educación and began writing poetry and plays which were presented in the theatres of Flores.

From theatre to tango was only a short step in those days as plays were often written to showcase new tango songs in the style of “Mi noche triste”. In 1924, Enrique Cadícamo wrote his first tango, “Pompas de jabón” which was recorded by Carlos Gardel in 1925. In 1929, he won first place in the 6th contest organized by Max Gluksmann with his tango “De todo te olvidas” and he began working with Juan Carlos Cobián among other composers. By the time Carlos Gardel left Argentina in 1933, he had recorded 23 of Cadícamo’s compositions, many of which were great hits.

One remarkable characteristic of Enrique Cadícamo as a poet was his ability to work with many different themes. For example, “Tres esquinas” is a masterful piece about life in the neigborhood in the line of Evaristo Carriego and Homero Manzi. “Al mundo le falta un tornillo” is an existentialist and socially engaged tango which became a precursor to “Cambalache” by Enrique Discepolo. On the romantic front, he is the author of “Los mareados” which became 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” andPa que bailan los muchachos”.

Enrique Cadícamo remained professionally active until his death in 1999. He was 99 year-old. 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 honour. [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

 

Catúlo Castillo

Catúlo Castillo was a pianist, composer, director and poet of the guardia nueva. Son of  Jose Gonzalez Castillo, in his youth he distinguished himself a musician and composer. After the death of his friend Homero Manzi in the 1950’s, he revealed himself as the last great poet of the golden age.

Ovidio Catúlo Gonzalez Castillo was born in Buenos Aires in 1906. He grew up in Chile where his father José Gonzalez Castillo exiled himself until 1913 because of his political ideas.

Back in Buenos Aires, the family moved to Boedo where Catúlo began learning the violin with Juan Cianciarullo. By age 17 he was an accomplished musician and boxer. He won the national championship of lightweight in Argentina and almost reached the Olympic games of 1924. That same year he won the third place in a contest organized by Max Glucksmann with his tango Organito de la tarde.

During the 1920’s, Catúlo Castillo definitely turned to tango as he traveled Europe with his father and later with his own orchestra. As a composer he produced many tangos including Organito de la tarde”“Silbando”, “El Aguacero”, “Papel picado” and “El circo se va” with the lyrics of his father Jose Gonzalez Catillo, “La violeta” (1930) with Nicolás Olivari and “Viejo ciego” (1926) with his friends Sebastian Piana and Homero Manzi. He is the author of both music and lyrics of “Caminito del taller” (way to the shop), a politically engaged tango which was recorded by Carlos Gardel in 1925.

In the 1930’s and 40’s Catúlo Castillo became increasingly engaged with poetry. With his friend Sebastian Piana and other composers he wrote remarkable pieces such as “Tinta roja” and “Caseron de tejas” (1941). In 1945 he began working with Anibal Troilo with whom he produced his best work as a poet in the 1950’s.

The 1950’s were critical years for tango as rock and roll was taking over in popularity with the youth. The great poets of the golden age were gone or had diminished their activities and it became increasingly difficult for tango orchestras to get work. Feeling perhaps that tango was coming to an end and building on the work of every other authors who came before him from Evaristo Carriego to Enrique Discepolo, Catúlo Castillo took tango poetry to it’s last apogee with titles such as “El ultimo café” and “La ultima curda” where the bandoneon cries in to the lonely man’s imagination “life is an absurd wound”.

Other tangos of that period by Catúlo Castillo include “Domani”, “La calesita”, “El cafe de los Angelitos” and “El patio de la Morocha”.

Besides his activities as a lyricist, Catúlo Castillo had an active professional life. In the 1950’s he became President of the SAIDAC and president of the Comisión Nacional de Cultura . He was declared Ciudadano Illustre of the City of Buenos Aires in 1974 and died the following year at age 69.

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

[2] Baccarelli, Nicolás Sosa. Catúlo Castillo o el existencialismo en la poesia del tango. Correveidile. Online. http://www.correveidile.com.ar/2014/11/12/catulo-castillo-o-el-existencialismo-en-la-poesia-del-tango/

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

El entrerriano (1897)

“El entrerriano” is regarded as the first tango in history. It was composed in 1887 by pianist Rosendo Mendizábal under the pseudonym of A. Rosendo. Along with other early compositions such as Don Juan (1899) and “El cholco” (1903), it contributed to establish and consolidate the musical structure of tango.

Many others tangos had been composed and popularized before 1887, but   offered the first printed tango partitions with registered author[2] It is also the oldest tango still present in today’s repertoire and this is why it is regarded as the first tango in history.

“El entrerriano” means “the one who comes from the province of Entre Rios“. It was dedicated to Ricardo Sergovia, a member of a young men’s club which regularly held their parties at lo de Maria la Vasca, a well known casa de baile where Rosendo Mendizábal had become the regular pianist. Since copyrights didn’t exist at the end of the 19th century, it was common for composers to dedicate their work to someone who could pay them in return for the favour, in this case Ricardo Sergovia who was born in the province of Entre Rios. This is why the first tango in history is entitled “El entrerriano”. [1]

Like most early tango compositions, “El entrerriano” is essentially an instrumental piece. Many different lyrics were written for it over the years by A. Semino y S. Retondaro, Planells y Amor, Julián Porteño and Homero Expósito but these were rarely used or recorded. Ángel Villoldo also added some verses to “El entrerriano” for Pepita Avellaneda in 1900:

“A mí me llaman Petita, ay ay, de apellido Avellaneda, ay ay, famosa por la milonga, y conmigo no hay quien pueda” 

Unfortunately Rosendo Mendizábal died in 1913 leaving no recordings. That same year “El entrerriano” was recorded twice, first by Genaro Espósito and later by Eduardo Arola under the labels Atlanta and Odeon respectively. Other early recordings of “El entrerriano”  include that of Ciriaco Ortiz with his trio and another recording by the municipal band.

Many versions of “El entrerriano” were recorded by orchestras of the guardia vieja and of the golden age including those of Francisco Canaro, Julio de Caro, Osvaldo Fresedo, Juan D’arienzo, Alfredo de Angelis, Anibal Troilo and Osvaldo Pugliese. Astor Piazzolla  recorded his own version of the first tango in history with his Octeto Buenos Aires.

“El entrerriano” was performed in the Argentine sound film “Tango” (1933) by the Orquesta de la guardia vieja of Ernesto Ponzio and Juan Carlos Bazan. π

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[1] Del Priore, Oscar, and Irene Amachástegui. Cien tangos fundamentales. Buenos Aires: Aguilar, 1998. Print.

[2] Selles, Roberto. El Entrerriano. La historia de “El entrerriano” y sus principales grabaciones. Todotango. Online. http://www.todotango.com/historias/cronica/380/El-entrerriano-Historia-de-El-entrerriano-y-sus-principales-grabaciones/

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