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.

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.

 

Francisco Canaro

Francisco Canaro was a prominent orchestra director, violinist and composer of the guardia vieja. He had a long and prolific career covering a period of over 50 years from the early years of tango with Vicente Greco up to the beginning of tango concerts in the 1960’s. He recorded over 3500 tracks, including over 900 titles in the acoustic era [3]. As a composer he left us with many classics including “Mano Brava”, “Sentimiento gaucho”, “La ultima copa”, “Sonar y nada mas”, “Madreselva”, “El chamuyo” and “Se dice de mi”.

Francisco Canarozzo was born in Uruguay in 1888 to a humble family of Italian immigrants. By age 10 he began working in the streets of Buenos Aires selling news papers along with his brothers to help sustain his family. His first violin was made by himself out an oil can from a factory where he used to work. [1]

With his oil can violin Francisco Canaro began performing in public for money. By 1908 he was a regular in the cafes and nightclubs of La Boca. He began working with the orchestra of his friend Vicente Greco and together they made their first recording in 1911. He composed his first tango “Pinta Brava” in 1912. Contributed to shape the first orquestas tipicas.

By 1925 Canaro was in Paris with his own orchestra. He also went to New York and toured the interior of Argentina. Japan.

He was the first to include a signer, or estribillista, in his orchestra in 1924. Some of the signers most identified with him in the early years are Charlo and Ada Falcon, a woman with whom he had a notorious love affair. [2] 

Canaro and contributed to many movies as a composer, actor and producer. In 1934 he founded his own production company, Rio de la Plata, which produced 11 movies but without much success. He also fought for copyrights and founded the Argentine Society of Composers and Songwriters (SADAIC).

According to José Gobello, writer, poet and founder of the academia Portena del Lunfardo, Canaro is the second most important figure of tango after Carlos Gardel. His memoirs published in 1956 are an important source on the history of tanog.

Canaro died of Paget’s disease in 1964. π

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[1] Canaro, Fransicso. Mis memorias: Mis bodas de oro con el tango. Buenos Aires: Corregidor, 1999. Print.

[2]  Yo no se que me han hecho tus ojos. Dir. Lorena Muñoz and Sergio Wolf. 2003. Film.

[3] Lanner, Christoph. “Discografia de Francisco Canaro”. sites.google.com. Web. Aug 2016.

Guardia vieja

The period of tango history called guardia vieja can be divided into two stages: in the first, tango emerges as a distinct musical genre or “tango criollo” and, in the second, the initial trios and cuartetos evolve progressively into orquestas típicas.

According to Horacio Ferrer and the Academia nacional del tango, the two phases of evolution of the guardia vieja are:

  1. Eclosión (1895-1909)
  2. Formalización (1910-1925).

During the eclosión phase, tango becomes a historical reality with the first documented mention of a tango criollo in a zarzuela entitled “Justicia Criolla”. In the same period “El entrerriano” by Rosendo Mendizabál becomes the first printed tango partition with a registered author. Other early tangos with printed partitions that contribute to defining the genre at this early stage include “Don Juan“, “El Choclo” and “La Morocha”.

In the early stage of the formalización, the bandoneon is introduced in tango instrumentation and becomes a characteristic element of the first orquestas típicas, such as those of Vicente Greco and Juan Maglio which were dedicated exclusively to tango. The sound of tango evolves substantially as flutes and guitars are left behind and the piano is introduced to tango orchestras by Roberto Firpo in 1912.

Another important figure of the guardia vieja is Francisco Canaro who introduces the double bass to the orquesta típica, completing the creation of a traditional sexteto composed of two bandoneons, two violins, piano and double bass.

The guardia vieja is also a phase where tango begins to reach a broader audience in Buenos Aires cafes and nightclubs and abroad where tangomania begins spreading from Paris to other parts of Europe and the United States. Some of the musicians, signers and dancers who first took tango to the old world include Ángel Villoldo, Los Gobbi and Casimiro Ain. π

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[1] Ferrer, Horacio. El Siglo de oro del Tango: compendio ilustrado de su historia. Buenos Aires: Editorial El Mate, 1996. Print.

[2] Amuchastegui, Irene. “El día en que el tango tuvo nombre.” Clarín [Buenos Aires] 28 Sept. 1997. Web, 1 Aug. 2016.

[3] Pesce, Ruben. La Historia del Tango: La Guardia Vieja. Corregidor, 1977. Print.

[4] Zalko, Nardo. Paris / Buenos Aires: Un siglo de tango. Buenos Aires: Corregido, 2001. Print.

Tango

Tango is a musical genre and a type of social dance which emerged in the port cities of Buenos Aires and Montevideo towards the end of the 19th century. It is the result of a fusion between elements of African, European and local origin brought together by different waves of immigration.

Little is known about the exact circumstances in which tango emerged but the musical styles which came into the creation of tango include milonga, habanera, candombe, tango andaluz, mazurca and polka. Choreographically, tango adopted the controversial close embrace of waltz and was characterized in the early stages by the emblematic “cortes” and “quebradas“, whereas tango poetry, which emerged and developed later, built on the gaucho tradition of payadores and evolved into a new style of song which expresses urban concerns and realities of life in a fast growing city.

The history of tango is complex; it includes various phases of evolution and waves of popularity around the world. According to Horacio Ferrer [1] and the Academia nacional del tango it can be divided in six stages:

  1. Origins of tango (1850-1895)
  2. Guardia vieja (1895-1925)
  3. Guardia nueva (1925-1955)
  4. Vanguardia (1955-1970)
  5. Contemporaneo (1970-2000)
  6. Actual (2000- until now)

Each stage is divided into different phases and characterized by the evolution of musical structures, poetry and dance. π

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[1] FERRER, Horacio. El Siglo de oro del Tango: compendio ilustrado de su historia. Buenos Aires: Editorial El Mate, 1996.

on tango history