Category Archives: Recording

Payador

Payadores traditionally were gauchos and poets who’s art consisted in improvising verses while playing the guitar.  They played a fundamental role in the gestation of tango music and poetry at the end of the 19th century when they came to the city as their life style in the country disintegrated.

The word payada is related to “palabra” in Spanish, which means “word”.  So the payador speaks with improvised verses, contemplating, philosophizing, arguing and commenting the facts of everyday life. In the background a milonga, cifra, cielito, estilo or other folk rhythm flowing from their guitar.

Payadores usually performed on their own, but some of them entered into duels, defying one another with verses until one fails to keep up with the argument. This is the payanda “a contrapunto”. The confrontation could last hours or days and build great prestige for those who excelled at it.

When the gaucho’s traditional lifestyle was disrupted in the 19th century, payadores came to the city to perform in circus, bars and theatres for a living. Their verses began reflecting the reality and anecdotes of life in the city and this is where the first foundation of tango poetry came from.

The intertwining between payada and tango from 1890 to 1920 was profound and had lasting effects. Payadores began using lunfardo terms and singing tangos while early tangos had titles evoking the country such as “El choclo” (The corncob), “El estribo” (The Stirrup)The milonga became one of the fundamental musical style in the gestation of tango and Carlos Gardel himself was an extension of the last urban payadores, performing folk songs as well as tango and always accompanied by a guitar.

Great payadores who are known for their contribution to tango as signers and composers are Gabino Ezeiza, Higinio Cazón, José María Silva and Arturo A. Mathon. These are the voices we hear in  the most primitive recordings of tango songs.

As recording technology continued to progress and proliferate, the art of improvising became less relevant. Tango grew into the predominant musical genre in the city and the payada definitely lost ground in the 1920’s.

Ángel Villoldo

Ángel Villoldo, also known as the “father of tango”, was a musician, singer and composer of the first generation of the guardia vieja.  As a performer he contributed to the popularization of tango in the early 1900’s. He is the composer of one of the oldest and most famous tangos of all times, “El Choclo” (1903).

Ángel Gregorio Villodo Arroyo was born in Buenos Aires in 1868 in Barracas. In his youth he worked at many different jobs and learned to play the guitar and harmonica in his free time. Around 1900 he made a name for himself as a performer in the cafes of La Boca, contributing greatly to popularize tango where the payada was still dominating. Heis also remembered for his performances at the prestigious Restaurante 3 de Febrero in Palermo where his tango “El esquinazo” made a lasting impression.

An interesting fact about Villodo is that he was the most important tango lyricist of the guardia vieja. At a time when tango was merely and instrumental affair, he began writing lyrics which were inspired by the poetry the urban payador. These are not the sentimental tangos of Pascual contursi and the guardia nieva but they do lay the foundation for His tangos are the kind which describe the life in the city and anecdotes involving the compadritos and cuchilleros we now associate to the origins of tango.

Ángel Villoldo was a prolific composer with over 70 tangos in his repertoire, including “El esquinazo” (1900), “El Porteñito” (1903) and “El Choclo” (1903). He wrote lyrics for many of his own compositions as well as for “La Morocha” by Enrique Saborido and for “El Entrerriano by Rosendo Mendizábal. His songs were interpreted by himself and by other performers such Dora Miramar, Linda Thelma, Flora Rodriguez, Lea Conti and Pepita Avellaneda.

According to some, Ángel Villoldo traveled to Paris to record for Gath y Chaves and contributed to popularize tango in Europe. Others point out there is no evidence of that and no traces of these recordings.

Angel Villoldo died in Buenos Aires in 1919 at age 51.

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Pesce ,Ruben, Oscar del Priore, and Silvestre Byron. La historia del tango: La guardia vieja. Buenos Aires: Corregidor, 1977. Print.

El tango: Un siglo de historia (Vol. 3). Buenos Aires: Editorial Perfil, 1992. Print.

Benedetti, Hector Angel. “La tienda Gath & Chavez tambien publicó discos.” Todotango.com. Web. Aug 2016.