Category Archives: Singer

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/

Carlos Gardel

Carlos Gardel was a signer, guitarist, composer and actor of the early guardia nueva. In the 1920’s he contributed to the renovation of tango by popularizing a new style of song known as tango canción. With his vision, personal charisma and quality of interpretation, Gardel became an international star and a pioneer in the sound recording and filming industry. His tragic death in a plane crash in 1935 definitely turned him into an legend and he remains to this day the most famous and respected figure of tango history.

Charles Romuald Gardes was born in Toulouse, France, in 1890 of an unknown father. He was still a very young child when his mother Marie Berthe Gardes came to Buenos Aires where she worked as a planchadora, ironing clothes for a modest living and raising her son in poor pensions known as conventillos in the neighbourhood of San Nicolas. Growing up near the heart of the city, Gardel was attracted to the nightlife of his neighborhood and he got his first job as a claque, applauding the artists in the theaters of avenida Corrientes.

Later in the neighbourhood of Abasto Charles Gardes began signing in public with the help of his mentor the payador José Betinotti. In 1911 he met José Razzano with whom he began performing ias a duo at the Café de los Angelitos, and 1912 he got his first opportunity to record for Columbia under the name of Carlos Gardel. In 1915 the duo Gardel-Razzano began traveling to Uruguay and Brasil where Gardel met the Italian tenor Enrico Caruso who had an important influence on him. Two years later in Montevideo he met Pascual Contursi and recorded his first tango, “Mi noche tristewhich opens the way to a profound renovation of tango.

At this point Gardel was a popular singer of folk songs and other fashionable rhythms from Europe.  His repertoire was composed of estilos, zambas, tonadas, waltz and other popular songs. Following the success of “Mi noche triste” he began working with a growing new repertoire of sentimental tango songs which are which is now known as tango canción. Not only did Gardel saw the potential of this new style of tango song but he was setting the standards for their interpretation. His repertoire would still include folk songs and an occasional foxtrop or pasodoble but by the time he began his solo career in 1925 he had become the voice of tango.

Besides his activities as a singer, Carlos Gardel wrote music for many tangos including two of his greatest hits, “Mano a mano” by Celedonio Flores (with José Razzano) and “Mi Buenos Aires querido” by Alfredo Le Pera. In the 1930’s he produced a series of short movies which are regarded as some of the first video clips in history and he was starred in various movies including “Las luces de Buenos Aires”, “Melodia de arrabal”, “Cuesta abajo”, “Tango bar” and “El dia que me quieras”.

Carlos Gardel died in 1935 in a plane crash in Medellin, Columbia,  while touring south America. According to the Internet Movie Database, his voice and image appeared in over 80 movies after his death [3] and a popular say in Argentina is that he sings better everyday.   π

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[1] Gobello, José. Mujeres y hombres que hicieron el tango. Librerias Libertador, 2002. Print.

[2] Cárcamo, Antonio José. Carlos Gardel discographía. Por siempre…. Gardel. Online. http://gardel.unsl.edu.ar/carcamo.htm 

[3] Carlos Gardel filmography. IMDb, Online.   http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0306624/#composer