Lunfardo

The Lunfardo is a popular language or slang characteristic of the Rio de la Plata. It appeared during the second half of the 19th century, just as tango did, as a result the massive immigration and cultural mixing which accompanied the expansion of the city of Buenos Aires. It is mostly composed of italian words from the genoese, toscan, napolitan and sicilian dialects as well as other expressions of afro-brasilian, Spanish, aboriginal and gauchesco origin. [3]

Like any other argots or slang, the lunfardo is not a language in itself but a set of words and expressions which are not a part of the official language. According to Jose Gobello, who was the first to study the phenomenon in the 1950’s, lunfardo expressions were initially meant to be unintelligible or playful. Lunfardo is a voluntary transgression of the official language. [4]

It is often said that the lunfardo was “the language of the thieves” (the word “lunfardo” itself refers to “lombardo” meaning thief) though it was most probably and simply the language of the streets at a time when things could get rough in the suburbs and poor zones of the city center.

As the city of Buenos Aires continued to expanded and develop at the beginning of the 20th century the lunfardo became a part of the new urban culture. It was naturally present in the lyrics of the music which was born of the exact same urban context, the tango. It was immortalized in the rudimentary lyrics of pioneers such as Angel Villoldo as well as those of  Pascual Contursi, Celedonio Esteban Flores and other poets the 1920’s.

During the dictatorship in the 1930’s the lunfardo was banned from all media in Argentina along with other improper language or allusions to undesirable topics. [1] As a result the lunfardo disappeared completely from tango lyrics during the golden age. When the prohibition was lifted in the 50’s it proudly reappeared in popular culture including late tango recordings and Argentine rock songs [2]. The lunfardo had become a symbol of national identity and remains present in everyday language to the point of being integrated to or undistinguished from the official language.

The Academia Portena del Lunfardo was funded in 1962 to document the history and evolution of this phenomenon. Over 6000 lunfardo words and 3000 expressions have been identified from contemporary and historical sources. π

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[1] Fraga, Enrique. La prohibición del lunfardo en la radiodifusión argentina 1933-1953. Buenos Aires: Lajouane, 2006.

[2] Gobello, Jose, and Marcelo H. Oliveri. Tangueces y lunfardismos del rock argentino. Buenos Aires: Corregidor, 2001. Print.

[3] Conde, Oscar. El lunfardo es un fenómeno linguístico único. Pagina12. Online. https://www.pagina12.com.ar/105340-el-lunfardo-es-un-fenomeno-linguistico-unico

[4] Entrevista a Jose Gobello. Revista El Abasto.  n .68, Aug 2005. Web. Sept 2016.

Tangomania (New York)

It wasn’t long before tango reached Paris in the 1910’s, soon after it began gaining popularity in Buenos Aires cafes and nightclubs. The tangomania  made it’s way from Paris to other parts of Europe, including London where tango became ultra fashionable with high society around 1913, [3]. From London tangomania made it’s way to New York where it conquered the public for the first time through a British musical presented on Broadway in 1914. [1]

Though there is evidence that tango was present in the US earlier in the 1900’s, it seems like the impact of this first contact was minimal. There is evidence that Los Gobbi came to the Philadephia in 1905 to record for Victor Talking Machine and were back in New York in 1911 to record with Columbia [1] and that El Cachafaz was invited to perform in the US in 1911 but nothing to suggest that their presence made a strong impression on the American public.

The first sign of popular interest for tango in the United States came with the presentation of “The Sunshine Girl”, a British musical  which had been a huge success in London in 1913. The American version presented on Broadway featured a couple of American ballroom dancers, Vernon and Irene Castle, who immediately became a reference for tango dancing and began teaching in the US. [2]

One year later tango was a huge phenomenon in New York. People gathered to dance at “tango teas”, [3] which were held in restaurants and hotels in the London fashion. Tango dancing was a scandal and a sensation at once and there is abundant evidence in newspapers that these gatherings were the object of a strong public controversy. It’s in one of these establishments that Rudolph Valentino worked as a taxi dancer before he made his way to Hollywood were he became a start dancing tango in “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”  in 1921.

The tangomania  came to an end in New York around 1918.  π

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[1] Groppa, Carlos G. The tango in the United States. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, 2004. Print.

[2] Castle, Vernon, and Irene Castle. “Teaching argentine tango in New York, 1914.” Todotango. Web. Aug 2016. Online. http://www.todotango.com/english/history/chronicle/ 99/Teaching-Argentine-Tango-in-New-York-1914/  

[3] Holland, Evangeline. “Tango Teas and tangocitis”. Edwardian Promenade. Web. Aug 2916. Online. http://www.edwardianpromenade.com/dance/tango-teas-and-tangocitis/ 

Tango Argentino (musical)

Tango Argentino is a musical by Claudio Sergovia and Hector Orezzo. It became a huge success in Europe and on Broadway in the 80’s and it contributed to spark the wave of popularity tango dancing is experiencing today around the world.

The premiere of Tango Argentino took place in 1983 at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris as a part of the Festival d’automne. It featured many well known dancers, singers and musicians such as Juan Carlos Copes, Maria Nieves, Horacio Salgán, El Sexteto Mayor and Roberto Goyeneche.

Tango dancing had been out of fashion for many years when Claudio Sergovia came up with this project and no one knew what to expect of it upon arriving in Paris. Shortly before the premier only 250 out of 2500 tickets were sold and the director was looking to invite friends to fill up the theater. [2] However the press wrote excellent reviews of the show after seeing the last rehearsal and on the first function Tango Argentino attracted more people then the organizers could handle.

The show ended up a being a huge success in Paris, traveled Europe and appeared on Broadway where it was offered 199 presentations between 1985 and 1986 [3], attracting not only tourists but locals, artists, personalities and a large cultivated audience. [4] After a year in New York the show went on a 3 years sold out tour of the US and stayed in Los Angeles for a few weeks before embarking on an international tour.

Tango Argentino went on traveled the world for a total of almost ten years and became the prototype of many other tango shows. It was  presented for the first time in Argentina in 1992 after touring the world. It was filmed in 1986 to be preserved by the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts Library and a remake was presented on Broadway in 1999 and 2000 as well as in Buenos Aires in 2006. The show was brought back to life again in 2011 for an open air performance at the Obelisco in Bueno Aires before a crowd of 15000 people. [1] π

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[1] “Claudio Segovia: el señor del tango.” La Nación. Aug 31, 2003. Web. Sept 2016 Online. http://www.lanacion.com.ar/523391-claudio-segovia-el-senor-del-tango  

[2] Gambarotta Lisandro. “Tango Argentino.” El Tangauta. #146, Dec 2006. Web. Sept 2016 http://www.eltangauta.com/nota.asp?id=589&idedicion=0#nota-mas 

[3] “Tango Argentino”. Broadway Database. Web. Sept 2016. Online. https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-production/tango-argentino-4380 

[4] Groppa, Carlos G. The tango in the United States. Print.

[6] Gazenbeek, Antón. Inside Tango Argentino: The story of the Most Important Tango Show of All Time. Enrico Massetti, 2013. Print.

Juan Maglio

Juan Maglio, also known as “Pacho”, was a popular bandoneonista, director and composer of the guardia vieja. He was among the first tango musicians to adopt the bandoneon along with Eduardo Arolas, Vicente Greco and Arturo Bernstein. He contributed to popularize tango in Buenos Aires cafes in the 1910’s and composed many titles still present today’s repertoire.

Juan Felix Maglio was born in Palermo in 1880 to a family of Italian immigrants. Together they moved to Boedo when he was 12-years-old. His father Pantaleón owned a concertina and used to perform in cafes in the neigbourhood and this is how Pacho first came in contact with tango.

After completing primary school Juan Maglio studied to become a mechanic and began learning to play the bandoneon on his spare time. He studied with Domingo Santa Cruz and eventually made a decision to dedicate himself to music.

In 1899 Juan Maglio began performing at the cafe El Vasco en Barracas and other cafes in the neighborhoods of San Telmo and Palermo. [3] By 1910 he was well known in the city and with his cuarteto he began to play at the cafe La Paloma and other cafes along avenida Corrientes. In 1912 he began recording for Columbia and his discs were so popular that a special label was created for him with his picture and signature. The other members of his cuarteto at that time were Luciano Rios (guitar), Carlos “Hernani” Macchi (flute) and Jose “Pepino” Bonano (violin).

His first composition was El zurdo followed shortly after by Armenonville. Other compositions by Juan Maglio Pacho include “La pareja”, “Margot”, “Sabedo ingles”, “Un copetin” and “Toma mate”. 

With all his success Juan Maglio was in a position to buy the cafe Ambos mundos where he used to play. He also invested in his recording company but lost everything during the war. Having lost his fortune he went on performing in cafes, carnivals, theaters and on the radio for the rest of his life. [2] In the 1920’s he created a sexteto where 15-year-old Anibal Troilo made his debut. He also founded a trio of bandoneon with Jose and Luis Servidio. Some of his work was signed with the pseudonym Oglima.

Juan Maglio held on the old fashion style of playing the tango until the end of his career. He died in 1934 leaving almost 900 recordings.   π

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[1] Tango: Cien anos de historia (Vol. II). Buenos Aires: Editorial Perfil, 1992. Print.

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

[3] Gobello, Jose. Mujeres y hombres que hicieron el tango. Buenos Aires: Centro editor de Cultura Argentina, 2002. Print.

Ángel Villoldo

Ángel Villoldo was a musician, signer and composer of the early guardia vieja. He contributed to popularize tango in Buenos Aires cafes in the 1900’s and is regarded as the father of tango. Some say he was among the first to bring tango to Europe along with Alfredo and Flora Gobbi. [1] He is also the composer of one of the oldest and most famous tango of all times, “El Choclo”.

Ángel Gregorio Villodo Arroyo was born in Buenos Aires in 1868 in the neighborhood of Barracas. In his youth he worked at many different jobs and learned to play the guitar and harmonica in his spare time. Around 1900 he made a name for himself as a payador and performing tangos as well.

Villoldo is the most important lyricist of the guardia vieja. [2] His lyrics were not of sentimental nature like those of Pascual Contursi and other poets of the guardia nueva. They were more closely related to the songs of the country though they did present urban scenes and characters such as the compadritos and cuchilleros which are associate to the origins of tango.

Villoldo composed over 70 tangos, the first of which was “El Portenito”, followed shortly after by “El Choclo” (1903). He also wrote lyrics for “La Morocha” by Enrique Saborido and “El Entreriano” by Rosendo Mendizábal. His songs were interpreted by himself and other signers including Dora Miramar, Linda Thelma, Flora Rodriguez, Lea Conti and Pepita Avellaneda. [2]

It is said that Ángel Villoldo traveled to Paris to record for Gath y Chaves and contributed to popularize tango in Europe, though according to Hector Benedetti there is no evidence that Viollodo did travel to Paris and these records were never seen. [3]

Back in Buenos Aires, Villoldo played in cafes near the corner of Suarez and Necochea in the neighbourhood of La Boca where an increasing number of tango musicians including Vicente Greco, Francisco Canaro and Roberto Firpo were also performing in 1908. [2]

Villoldo published a compilation of Argentine folk songs in 1889 and another compilation of popular Argentinean songs in 1916. [1] He died in Buenos Aires in 1919 at age 51. π

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[1] Pinsón, Néstor. “Biographía de Ángel Villoldo.” Todotango.com. Web. Aug 2016.

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

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

 

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

 

 

Orquesta típica

The orquesta típica in Argentina is a an orchestra specialized in performing tango. It is composed essentially of a two bandoneones, two violins, piano and double bass.

Before the orquesta típica was fully formed, tango used to be improvised or played by ear on commonly available instruments such as guitars, violins and flutes. The simple structure of the first tangos allowed for musicians to perform them on their own or in small bands of two to four musicians. [1] Tango was also performed by municipal, military and police bands.

The incorporation of the bandoneon in tango instrumentation around 1910 had a profound effect on the sound and feel of tango music. [2] It also creates a distinction between bands which specialized in performing the tango criollo and others which performed other rhythms as well since the bandoneon was not a common instrument and a difficult one to play.

The expression “orquesta típica criolla” first appeared on Columbia labels in 1911. It is is attributed to Vicente Greco who used it to distinguish his orchestra as one which was specialized in tango.

These first orquestas típicas were mostly cuartetos composed of guitars, violins, flutes and bandoneon. [1] The piano and double bass were included shortly after by Roberto Firpo and Francisco Canaro to complete the creation of the typical sexteto.  π

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[1] Pesce, Ruben. La historia del tango: La guardia vieja. Buenos Aires: Corregidor, 1977. Print.

[2] Zucchi, Oscar. El tango, el bandoneon y sus interpretes. Buenos Aires: Corregidor, 1998. Print.

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