Category Archives: History

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 violin at the Conservatorio Mascagni when he was 11-years-old and completed his education 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 with 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 gave tango a second youth

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 and tango songs were responsible for killing tango, taking the focus away from the beat, D’Arienzo worked with many distinguished estribillistas and signers throughout his career. Francisco Fiorentino, Alberto Echague, Hector Mauré and Armando Laborde all excelled at singing at the powerful speed and rythm of the orchestra.

An important detail to note is the existence of electric recording device in the 1930’s which allows singers to be heard in the middle of the orchestra. When Carlos Gardel turned tango into a song, giving tango yet another youth, he disposed only of acoustic technologies and a more gentle musical background was required in order for singers to be heard.

Juan d’Arienzo is the author of many milongas of the new urban genre as we know it in today’s milonga. Along with Sebasitian Piani, Homero Manzi and Francisco Canaro he contributed largely to impose this new genre in the 1930’s. This style of milonga must not be confused with the milonga campera, or from the country, which  actually played a part in the creation of tango itself.

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. This idea unfortunately persisted even though it is now completely irrelevant. Juan D’Arienzo obviously is one of the most innovative director of tango history and a visionary we must thank for opening the way to all the refinements of the Golden age he has been accused of not following. It’s also impossible to denie that he remains a favourite among dancers to this day.

Only when it became clear in the 1960’s that tango dancing was not in style anymore, Juan d’Arienzo finally made some changes to his music and began exploring in more melodic tone. He went on performing and recording activley 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/

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.