Category Archives: Compositions

Yira Yira (tango, 1929)

“Yira yira” is a famous 1929 tango by Enrique Santos Discepolo. It is one of the most profoundly cynical tangos ever written and is regarded as a reflection of Argentina’s painful social reality in the 1930’s. It remains a classic to this day and it’s popularity goes beyond the genre of tango with modern pop and rock interpretations.

Though Discepolo says “Yira yira” was coming to him before 1929 and describes a feeling of hopelessness he experienced in various circumstances in his life, it’s at the beginning of the terrible decada infama of the 1930’s that he found the words to write it down. It’s also during that period that he felt it the most deeply. [2]

“Yira yira” is only a part of a series of related tangos in which Discepolo explores the topic of decadent social values from various point of view. Other socially engaged tangos by Discepolo include ” Que vachaché” (1928), “Que sapa senior?” (1931) and “Cambalache” (1934).

In “Yira yira”, Discepolo offers a rather pessimistic outlook on human nature. He warns us that there is no true love in this world and everything deep down is motivated by selfish interests. You can search and hope all your life but on the day you die, when your last hopes prove to be vain, you will have to admit true compassion is nowhere to be found.

When all the bells you ring die out, and you look in vain for a brother to die in embrace, then you will understand (remember) these words.

…(refrain)

You’ll see that everything is a lie, you’ll see that nothing is love, and to the world nothing matters, it goes round and round.

The word “yira” is a lunfardo expression meaning “goes round”.

“Yira yira” was recorded by Carlos Gardel in 1930. It was also featured in one of his videoclips whit a sketch where Discepolo presents the song  to Gardel himself. It was prohibited under the military government in 1943 due to the use of lunfardo and probably for ideological reasons as well.

Other recordings of “Yira yira” include those of tango, folk and pop artists such as la Orquesta Típica Victor, Ada Falcon, Ignacio Corsini, Edmundo Rivero, Roberto Goyeneche, Hugo del Carril, Francisco Canaro, Javier Calamaro and Julio Iglesias.

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

[2] Peñas, Alberto. Recopilación antológica para una sociologia tanguera. Corregidor: Buenos aires, 1998.

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.

 

Los mareados (tango, 1942)

“Los mareados” is one of the most famous tango songs of all times. The version we know today was written in 1942 by Enrique Cadícamo at the request of Anibal Troilo and to the music of Juan Carlos Cobián. “Los mareados” became one of Troilo’s greatest hits and the recording they made on June 15, 1942 remains among the greatest classics of the golden age.

One day in 1942 Enrique Cadícamo  was at the cabaret Tibidabo when Anibal Troilo came to him with an old instrumental recording by Osvaldo Fresedo. It was a 1922 recording of a tango by Juan Carlos Cobián entitled “Los dopados”. Troilo felt strongly about it and he wanted rearrange and present it to the public as soon as possible. And he wanted Cadícamo to write lyrics for him.

Cadícamo says he hesitated because Cobián was away in Mexico and had not given his consent for the project. However Troilo convinced him that it would be a winning situation for everyone if “Los dopados” resurfaced twenty years later as a hit. Cadícamo agreed to write the lyrics and changed the title to “Los mareados”.

The new version was premiered shortly after at the Tibidabo by the orchestra of Anibal Troilo with the voince of Francisco Fiorentino. “Los mareados” became an instant hit and when Juan Carlos Cobián returned to Argentina he could only be pleased to find his music was in vogue. What Troilo and Cadícamo didn’t know however is that “Los Dopados” already had registered lyrics by Raul Doblas and Alberto Weisbach.

Bebe ese olvido que te ofrecen, que acallara tu almita herida, y asi podra, embrutecida, amar, beber, reir…

Busca del vicio el triste ensueño, bebe el olvido en su veneno, que si el beber hace olvidar, sera esa tu mayor felicidad.

Drink the forgiveness which is offered to you, which calms your soul, so you can, numbed, love, drink and laugh…

Go for the sad illusion of the vice, drink the forgiveness in its poison, and if drinking makes you forget, let that be your greatest happiness.

“Los Dopados” by Juan Carlos Cobian, Raul Doblas and Alberto Weisbach had been composed in 1922 for a play which was presented at the Teatro Porteño. It was recorded in 1923 by Roberto Diaz with the original lyrics and by Osvaldo Fresedo in instrumental version. Though “Los Mareados” are now one of the most famous Argentine songs of all times, the original lyrics by Doblas-Weisbach have fallen into oblivion.

In 1943, “Los Mareados” was banned by the new military government along with many other tangos which contain lunfardo terms or allusions to drunkenness. Cadícamo wrote a new version entitled “En mi pasado”, which in spite of its beauty, and like many other pieces which were rewritten at that time, was hardly ever used or recorded.

When the prohibition was lifted in 1949, “Los Mareados” gained back its popularity. Since then it has been recorded by countless artists of all styles including Hector Mauré, Floreal Ruiz, Suzana Rinaldi, Raul Lavié, Astor Piazzolla, Mercedes Sosa with Roberto Goyeneche, Adriana Varela and pop singer Andrés Calamaro.

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

Garua (tango, 1943)

“Garua” is a very popular 1943 tango by Anibal Troilo and Enrique Cadícamo. It is the second of 3 tangos produced by them both, the other two being “Pa’ que bailen los muchachos” (1942) and “Naipe” (1944).

According to a story told by Cadícamo himself, Troilo came up to him with a musical piece one night after his show at the cabaret Tibidabo. Troilo asked Cadícamo if he could create lyrics for hus music and as he walked back home that night there was a very light rain falling over him. This is where Cadícamo conceived the first verses of one of his most famous tangos. [1]

Drizzle!

Sad and lonely along the road,

goes this heart striken with sadness

Like an abandoned house

Garua is a lunfardo term of Quechua origin which translates to “drizzle”. [4]

The rains is a recurrent theme in tango and has been evoked directly or indirectly in many other pieces such as “El café de Los Angelitos”, “El ultimo café”, “Charlemos”, “Tarde gris”, and “La noche que te fuiste” as a symbol of sadness and loneliness. [3]

It wasn’t long after that night under the drizzle that Cadícamo came back to the Tibidabo with “Garua”. A few days later Troilo was rehearsing with Francisco Fiorentino and the song was an instant hit. It was first recorded by Troilo and Fiorentino on August 4, 1943 under the label RCA Victor. Pedro Laurenz recorded his own version two days later with Alberto Podestá under the label Odeon.

“Garua” became a great classic of Troilo’s repertoire and in 1962 he recorded it again with Roberto Goyeneche who also had great success with it and went on recording two other versions with Raul Garello and Astor Piazzolla.

Other well known interpretations of “Garua” include those of Hugo del Carril and Adriana Varela.

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

[2] Garúa. Tangos al Bardo, 2013. Online. http://tangosalbardo.blogspot.com.ar/2013/07/garua.html

[3] El tango y la lluvia. El Litoral, 2011. Online. http://www.ellitoral.com/index.php/diarios/2011/08/20/escenariosysociedad/SOCI-02.html

[4] Diccionario lunfardo. Todotango. Online. http://www.todotango.com/comunidad/lunfardo/?i=G&s=all

La ultima curda

“La ultima curda” is one of the last great poems of the golden age of tango. It was written in 1956 by Catúlo Castillo to the music of Anibal Troilo. It tells the story of a deeply disillusioned man, talking to a bandoneon about the futility of life and the profound emotions he feels at the sound of a tango.

Curda is a lunfardo term which means “drunkenness” or “inebriation”; thus La ultima curda would translate as “the last inebriation”. It is the third of a series of tangos which presents the bandoneon as a living character and friend of the lonely man in the style of “Che bandoneon” by Homero Manzi. It also resonates with the work of Enrique Discepolo as it takes tango poetry down to it’s deepest level of existentialism.

(man talking to a bandoneon)

I know.. don’t say it. You are right!

Life is an absurd wound

and everything is so ephemeral

that it’s as good as getting drunk

to even bother telling my story

In his memoirs, Roberto Rivero remembers a beautiful summer evening when they were rehearsing “La ultima curda”. They were all gathered in Troilo’s apartment on Parana street near Avenida Corrientes, across the street from the cabaret Chanteclerc. They were making the last arrangements when they noticed a crowd was amassed in the street, interrupting late night traffic. Then they went out on the balcony and performed “La ultima curda” for the first time in public. It was such a magical night, Rivero says it felt a bit strange to sing “life is an absurd wound” in his book “Una luz de almacen”.

“La ultima curda” was recorded for the first time in 1956 by Anibal Troilo with the voice of Edmundo Rivero. It became a classic of his repertoire and he recorded another version with Goyeneche in 1963, followed by an in instrumental version in 1969. Both Roberto Goyeneche and Edmundo Rivero adopted it as well and continued performing and recording “La ultima curda” many times over.

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

[2] Adet, Manuel. La ultima curda. El Litoral. Online. http://www.ellitoral.com/index.php/diarios/2013/03/09/escenariosysociedad/SOCI-03.html

[2] Riveo, Edmundo. Una luz de almacen. Buenos Aire: Emecé editores, 1982. Print.

Organito de la tarde (tango, 1923)

“Organito de la tarde” is a 1923 tango composed by Catúlo Castillo with the lyrics of his father Jose González Castillo. It celebrates in very poetic terms the obsolete portable instrument which used to “fill the neighborhood with musical notes” at the turn of the 20th century.

Al paso tardo de un pobre viejo
puebla de notas el arrabal,
con un concierto de vidrios rotos,
el organito crepuscular.

At a time when tango was little more then a vulgar product of poor uprooted immigrants jamming together in the suburbs and recording technologies were not yet available, it is said that the organito allowed it’s melodies to enter every household through the windows. The organito became obsolete in the 1920’s and so it’s repetitive, monotonus sound ceased to fill the air as described by José Gonzalez Castillo.

“Organito de la tarde” was presented in the first contest organized by Max Glucksmann in 1924 at the cine-teatro Gran Splendid. Only the music was eligible for the contest at that time. Each piece was performed by Roberto Firpo and voted by the public in various elimination rounds. [2]

Apparently this public contest was not very objective as there is evidence that Canaro, Lomuto and Gonzalez Castillo were competing to buy entries in order to win the vote. [1] Catúlo Castillo won the third place with “Organito de la tarde”. In firts and second place were “Sentimiento gaucho” by Francisco and Rafael Canaro and “Pa’ que te acordes” by Francisco Lomuto.

One year after the contest, “Organito de la tarde” was premiered in Teatro San Matín by Azucena Maizani. Soon after it was recorded by the orchestra of Francisco Canaro and featured in a 1925 silent movie also entitled “Organito de la tarde” by José Agustín Ferreyra. Carlos Gardel recorded his own version in his early years with Odeon and Carlos Di Sali produced 3 instrumental versions in 1942, 1952 and 1954. Other recorded versions of “Organito de la tarde” include those of Rodolfo Biagi (1956) and Roberto Ruffino (1959).

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

[2] Concursos de Max Gluksmann. Wikipedia. Online. https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concursos_de_Max_Gl%C3%BCcksmann

[3] Tálice, Roberto A. “Evocación y ubicación de José Gonzalez Castillo”. In La historia del tango: Los poets (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.