Category Archives: History

Derecho viejo (tango, 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 inovative compositions and quality of interpretation, he contributed largely to define tango in it’s 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 as a duo until Eduardo decided to go his own way.

By the time he was 19-years-old Eduardo Arolas was 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 couldn’t read or write music. But he was nonetheless a brilliant, prolific and innovative composer. He was also appreciated for his style of interpretation and phrasing, which was more fluid then other bandeonistas of that time and sets new standards for 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. He was only 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’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.

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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. 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.

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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 1900 and grew up in the neighbourhood of Flores in Buenos Aires. As a young man he was required to spend long hours in public transportation and this is how he began reading classics such as Victor Hugo and Ruben Darío. He also began writing poetry and plays which were presented in the theaters of Flores.

Following the success of “Mi noche triste” in 1917 it was not uncommon for playwrights of the early 1920’s to write tango. Enrique Cadícamo wrote his first tango, “Pompas de jabón” in 1924. In 1929 he won the first place in Max Gluksmann’s contest with “De todo te olvidas” and he began working with Juan Carlos Cobián. His success with tango was such that 23 of his compositions were recorded by Carlos Gardel between 1925 and 1933, many of which were great hits.

One characteristic of Enrique Cadícamo as a poet was his ability to work with many different themes. “Tres esquinas” is a masterful piece about the neigborhood in the line of Evaristo Carriego and Homero Manzi. “Al mundo le falta un tornillo” is an existentialist tango comparable to those Discepolo. And on the romantic front he is the author of Los mareadoswhich is 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” and “Pa que bailan los muchachos”.

Enrique Cadícamo remained professionally active until his death in 1999. 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 honor. [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 a well-known playwrite and poet Jose Gonzalez Castillo, in his youth he distinguished himself mostly as 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 for political reasons.

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.

Later in the 1920’s, Catúlo Castillo traveled Europe with his father and formed his own orchestra. From then on he would dedicate himself only to tango. As a composer he produced many pieces 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 socially engaged tango which was recorded by Carlos Gardel in 1925.

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

The 50’s were critical years for tango as rock and roll was taking over the youth. Feeling perhaps that this was the end of an era, Catúlo Castillo took tango poetry to it’s last apogee. He wrote master pieces such as “El ultimo café” and La ultima curda“, a deeply heart breaking tango where the bandoneon cries in 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 (tango, 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 “El entrerriano” offers the first printed tango partitions with registered author. [2] It is also the oldest tango still present in today’s repertoire and so is generally 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.

Lo de Maria la Vasca was 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. Ricardo Sergovia, to whom this tango was dedicated, was born in the province of Entre Rios in Argentina and this is why the piece was entitled “El entrerriano”. [1]

Like most early tango compositions, “El entrerriano” is essentially instrumental. Many different lyrics were written over the years by A. Semino y S. Retondaro, Planells y Amor, Julián Porteño and Homero Expósito but 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 by Genaro Espósito and 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.

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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.