Category Archives: Technologies

The organito

The organito is a type of portable organ which was built to play music in the streets.  It was very popular in Buenos Aires towards the end of the 19th century and contributed largely to spread tango music in every neighborhood in the city.

Popular tunes which were arranged for the organito were recorded on a cylinder containing about 8 to 12 pieces. The masters were not particularly easy to produce so the organitos tended to repeat the same songs over again. Because tango was a novelty and a popular genre at that time it was included in the repertoire of the organito along with other popular rhythms such as waltz.

At a time when tango was associated to the slums and lower classes, the organito was there to impose it to every soul in the city. Tango tunes which were played over and over again by the organito became familiar even to those who didn’t want to hear it. It is said that tango entered every household through the windows and balconies because of the organito.

As recording technologies evolved and became more accessible in the 1910’s and 20’s the organito became obsolete. It has been evoked with delightful nostalgia in many tangos including “Sobre el pucho” (1922) and “Organito de la tarde” (1924) by José González Castillo, “La musa mistonga” (1926) by Celedonio Flores and “Ventanita de arrabal” (1927) and “El ultimo organito” (1949) by Homero Manzi. [1]

In his memoirs, Francisco Canaro remembers how boys used to dance tango in the streets of Buenos Aires to the sound of the organito. The instrument has been celebrated in the writings of Jorge Luis Borges and Evaristo Carriego as well. π

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

[2] Etchegaray, Natalio. De Garay a Gardel: La sociedad, el hombre commun y el tango (1580-1917). Buenos Aires, Ediciones Bilioteca nacional. 1998. Foro Argentino de cultura urbana. Online. http://www.facurbana.com/tango.php?cc=101&t=El+Organito+y+Los+Poetas&ss=Costumbres&s=Enciclopedia+del+tango

First tango recordings

Sound recording and reproduction technologies first appeared and evolved in parallel with tango. The phonograph was invented by Thomas Edison in 1877 and the gramophone followed in 1887, allowing to capture sound on a flat surface or disc instead of a cylinder.

The first tango recordings where made on cylinders and 25 cm discs in Europe (1902) and Argentina (1904). [1] These first tango recordings featured various singers, musicians and bands such as Angel Villoldo, Alfredo and Flora Gobbi, Manuel Campoamor and Andree Vivianne. They also include performances by military and police bands. In Argentina these were made on mobile phonographs by Zonophone.

The first recording studio opens in Buenos Aires when Jose Tagini gets a license to record for Columbia in 1911. [2] Tango happened to be an increasingly popular genre in cafes around the city and the bandoneon had just been integrated to orchestras which specialized in performing the “tango criollo”. Tagini contracted Vicente Greco and produced the first recordings by an “orquesta típica criolla“. He also recorded with Eduardo Arolas, Angel Villoldo, Genaro Esposito, los Gobbi and Juan Maglio whose recordings were a huge success in 1912. [3] Tagini also also gave Carlos Gardel his first opportunity to record though none of these early recordings were tango.

Casa Lepage was among the first to import phonographs and gramophones in Argentina along with Casa Tagini. It was sold to Max Glucksmann who signed with the duo Gardel-Razanni under the Odeon label and recorded “Mi noche triste” with Carlos Gardel in 1917. Other labels which produced some of the first tango recordings include Atlanta, Victor, Era, and Pathé. [3]

All early tango recordings made in Argentina were sent abroad to be pressed in the United States, Germany or Brasil. The discs would come back to Argentina six months later to be released. Max Glucksmann’s house was first to produce discs in Argentina in 1919. π

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[1] Luci, H. Lorenzo. “Los payadores y las primeras grabaciones en Buenos Aires.” Todotango. WEB. Aug 2016.

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

[3] El tango: Un siglo de Historia. Buenos Aires: Editorial Perfil, 1992. Print.