“Sobre el pucho” by Juan D’Arienzo y su Orquesta Típica with Héctor Mauré in vocals, 1941.
José González Castillo
Poet and lyricist (25 January 1885 – 22 October 1937)
Lyrics for tango were born around 1914, based on those ones conceived by Pascual Contursi that year and the following years (“De vuelta al bulín”, “Ivette”, “Flor de fango”, “Mi noche triste (Lita)”), and they were growing strong very slowly.
So much so that in Carlos Gardel’s repertoire tangos were, until the next decade, a rare bird. There was not even a notion of how to sing a tango, a standard that Gardel was gradually establishing after 1922.
That was, precisely, the year José González Castillo truly disembarked in the genre with the lyrics of “Sobre el pucho”, after Sebastián Piana’s music, which was introduced at the talent contest organized by Tango cigarettes.
José Gobello (Crónica general del tango, Editorial Fraterna) stated about this work that, with it «some novelties broke into tango that the tango literary work of Homero Manzi would later turn into true constants. By the way, Pompeya («Un callejón en Pompeya/y un farolito plateando el fango…»); later, the description of the neighborhood and, soon, the enumeration as a descriptive procedure».
But in those lyrics there is something else, metaphor, that springs up in the memory that the malevo devotes to his lost love «…tu inconstancia loca/me arrebató de tu boca/como pucho que se tira/ cuando ya/ni sabor ni aroma da». It is clear that González Castillo was a forerunner, and also that other later lyricists were who deepened those trends.
He, as nobody else, knew how to combine the rhythmic cadence of tango with a harmonic structure, apparently simple, but full of nuances and subtleties.
He was not enrolled for any of the two streams of his time. His was neither a traditional orchestra, styled after Roberto Firpo or Francisco Canaro nor a follower of the De Caro renewal.
Di Sarli imposed a seal of his own; a different musical profile, which remained, unaltered throughout his prolonged career.
In the beginning, his sextet reveals us the influence of Osvaldo Fresedo. And certainly, I think there would have never been a Di Sarli had not existed a Fresedo. But, only as necessary forerunner of a style that, with time, would become a pure model with its own and differentiated nature.
He was a talented pianist, maybe one of the most important, who conducted his orchestra from his instrument, with which he mastered the synchrony and the performance of the outfit.
In his orchestral scheme there were not instrumental solos, the bandoneon section sang at times the melody, but it had an essentially rhythmic and danceable role. Only the violin was showcased in an extremely delicate way, on a brief solo or on a counter melody. Continue reading.
Listening to Roberto Rufino when he sang “María” or “La novia ausente” or “Malena” or any of the tangos he had chosen for his repertoire, was to realize that that tango was unraveling little by little and that the words sprang up separately, without forsaking the whole that gathered them, with the proper strength they had to have in their context.
Rufino was that: a storyteller, a phraser, an interpreter that perfectly knew which was the meaning of what he was singing.
He was born on January 6, 1922, on 753 Agüero Street —in the heart of the neighborhood of el Abasto—, son of Lorenzo Rufino and Agustina Guirin, although in his birth certificate is written the day he was filed on the records, on the 8th day of that same month and year. A little bit yonder, on Agüero and Guardia Vieja Streets, the café O’Rondeman was placed, where Carlos Gardel attempted his early songs. A premonition? Maybe, because Rufino as well started at the old café of his neighborhood, which still was run by the Traverso brothers. But there is a further coincidence: in the same year, 1935, his father and Gardel died. And in 1936, a few days after the cortege which was mourning Carlitos to his final abode had passed along Corrientes street, El pibe del Abasto —as he was called since the early days at O’Rondeman, made his professional debut; he was also called El pibe Terremoto— at the Café El Nacional, as vocalist of the Francisco Rosse typical orchestra, to switch, a little bit later, to Petit Salón, with Antonio Bonavena orchestra, composer of “Pájaro ciego” and uncle of the would-be boxer.
Firpo spent his childhood working in his family’s store. Although he showed interest in music and painting, his family could not afford an artistic education for him. Since they needed his help with the family business, his father took him out of school after fifth grade.
Enrique Cadícamo tells us that, as a teenager, he felt terribly ashamed when girls in the town watched him working hard as a delivery boy for his family business.
He confronted his father about his plan to leave Las Flores to find his destiny in the big city. Firpo displayed such determination that his father realized he could not retain him, and instead gave him the freedom to leave home and some money to start an independent life in Buenos Aires.
In 1904 he left Buenos Aires to work at the port of the City of Ingeniero White, where, at night, he played the piano at a bar of the port. This allowed him to round out his training, and when he made enough money to buy his own piano, he returned to Buenos Aires and did so.
Firpo said he always remembered that day as “the happiest of his life”. On a quest to perfect his technique, he continued his studies with Bevilacqua.
During the day, he took all sorts of odd jobs, while at night, he played in several neighborhood bars and cafés. Sometimes Firpo played in a duet with Bachicha, or others in a trio with Juan Carlos Bazán on clarinet and Francisco Postiglione on violin.
In 1907, he received an invitation to play at La Marina, a famous place in La Boca neighborhood. That engagement increased his fame and lead to his temporary contract with another prestigious place of the tango scene, “Hansen”, in Palermo neighborhood, at the rate of three pesos per night and permission to pass the dish (hat). From this moment on, he worked exclusively as a musician.
It was at “El Velódromo” (a place located close to Hansen), where Bazán began to blow a clarinet call, in order to attract the clientele that passed towards Hansen’s. The result was that the latter was almost empty, while “El Velódromo” was filling up. To solve the problem, the employer of the first contracted them again, this time for the sum of two pesos for each of them!
Firpo was at this time one of the most recognized and celebrated composer of Tango, and for that reason, the recording company Lepage Odeón, of Max Glücksmann, summoned him to make their first recordings. Firpo would start a catalogue of recordings on discs, only surpassed over the years by his colleague Francisco Canaro. From the piano, he directed a set that counted on Bachicha on bandoneon, Tito Roccatagliatta on violin and Bazán on winds. At the time, recording the piano with other instruments presented challenges because the overwhelming sound of the piano would drown out the other instruments. Firpo was able to resolve the problem by simply placing the instruments in an order that is still kept at the orquestas típicas. Due to the advantage this gave Odeón over other recording companies, in addition to his talent, it is perhaps why Firpo achieved such special position in the company. Odeón was known at the time for having the best technical equipment. Firpo was hired by Odeón with an exclusive contract: he would remain the only musician recording tangos with an “orquesta típica” for them.
Francisco Canaro recorded on the Era label. Following the success of his tango “El Chamuyo”, a manager of Odeón spoke with him about recording for them, but since Firpo had an exclusive contract, he was able to block other orchestras from recording. That is why Canaro began recording with a trio at Odeón, and sought an agreement with Firpo, “which consisted of paying him six cents for each record that was sold recorded by my orchestra” – said Canaro.
With respect to this fundamental tango, Firpo recalled: “In 1916 I was at “Confiteria La Giralda” in Montevideo, when one day a man arrived accompanied by about fifteen boys – all students – to tell me that they had a humble carnival march, and wanted me to take a look and fix it because they thought there was a tango. They wanted it for that night, because it was needed for a boy named Matos Rodríguez. In the score, in two by four, appeared a little of the first part and in the second part there was nothing. I got a piano and I remembered two tangos of mine composed in 1906 that had not had any success: “La Gaucha Manuela” and “Curda Completa”, and I put a little of each one. At night I played it with Bachicha Deambroggio and Tito Roccatagliatta. It was an apotheosis, and everybody celebrated Matos Rodríguez that night. But the tango was then forgotten. Its great success began when they attached the lyrics of Enrique Maroni and Pascual Contursi”.
On more than one occasion, Firpo shared the stage with the duet Gardel-Razzano, in addition to enduring their relentless jokes. Once, when Firpo played the pasodoble “Que salga el toro!” (Release the bull!), at the moment in which one of the members of the orchestra shouted the title of this song in the middle of the performance, Gardel – using his index fingers as horns – struck the musicians who went to the floor.
Beyond such terrible jokes, Firpo and Gardel-Razzano recorded together once in 1917, the tango “El Moro”, although in the label Gardel and Razzano do not appear, oddly, except – as it is – as authors. Revenge of Firpo? No. What actually happened is that no vocalization was planned. Gardel and Razzano just burst into the recording room and the joke, in this case, consisted of singing the lyrics of the song surprising Firpo. The recording company edited the record without modifying the disc label.
The success of Firpo was also financial. He made lots of money for his performances, but even more for his recordings and composer’s rights.
In 1928, he unexpectedly abandoned Tango for a while. He himself explained the reason to Héctor and Luis Bates: “With the money I received for the recordings, I felt like a cattleman. Everything I had, I invested in the hacienda. In a year, I got to earn a million pesos … Then came that sadly famous flood of the Paraná River that decimated my farm; I wanted to make up for so much loss and I tried my luck in the stock market. It was in 1929. There I lost everything I had left. I had to go back to the work I had done before, I formed my orchestra and started again.”
For instance, Julio De Caro‘s first public performance and the beginning of his career playing tango was with Firpo, when De Caro was only 17 years old. His friends arranged for De Caro to see Firpo playing at the cabaret Palais de Glace, even though De Caro was not old enough to be admitted in a cabaret. At the time, boys would not wear long pants until they were 18 years old. Parents would give them their “pantalones largos” as a admission into adulthood. So, Julio’s friends had to get a pair of long pants that would be the credential of being old enough to get into the cabaret, and once he was there, during Firpo’s performance, his “barra” (group of friends) started to shout “Que suba el pibe!” (Bring the boy to the stage!). Julio joined his friends in the shouting, not knowing that “el pibe” (the boy) was him. In short, his friends carried him onto the stage, Firpo asked his violin player to give Julio the instrument and asked him what he would like to play, to which De Caro responded “La Cumparsita”. Eduardo Arolas was also there, and was so impressed by De Caro’s playing, that asked him to play in his orchestra.
Roberto Firpo’s recording work is immense and surely many titles have remained unregistered. During the time of acoustic recordings he made more than 1650 records and at the end of his career, back in 1959, close to 3000 recordings.
Roberto Firpo is one of the first evolutionists of Tango as a director, interpreter and composer.
In those initial days of the “Orquesta Típica”, he definitively established the piano in the tango orchestra, which displaced the guitar, but his way of playing the piano borrowed a lot from the way of playing the guitar in Tango and in the native music of the gauchos, for instance the “bordoneo”, a technique used to embellish the melody with notes from the sixth string of the guitar -the lowest pitched string, called “bordona”.
His orchestra was a model that pointed the way to go, signaling a trend that will germinate in future tango formations.
As a composer, he introduced in Tango the romantic emotion, which until then was foreign to the genre.
His personality had the same magnetism as his work – tells us, again, Cadícamo. He was always great and sweet to everybody. Even at the peak of his fame and his fortune, he never made display of it, always living modestly, having all that he and his family needed.
He passed away at the age of 85, on June 14, 1969, being a living glory of Tango since a long time before.
Violinist, leader and composer
(14 December 1900 – 14 January 1976)
In 1949 D’Arienzo said: «In my point of view, tango is, above all, rhythm, nerve, strength and character.
Early tango, that of the old stream (guardia vieja), had all that, and we must try not to ever lose it. Because we forgot that, Argentine tango entered into a crisis some years ago. Putting aside modesty, I did all was possible to make it reappear.» Continue reading at www.todotango.com...