Bandoneon player, leader and composer
(8 March 1901 – 4 September 1971)
His style was a breakthrough for the groups of the period, because he played all kinds of genres, introduced miscellaneous instruments and his repertoire, always assorted, only included merry or romantic tunes.
But when he played tango, you heard the brilliant sound of a well-rehearsed orchestra, with simple nice arrangements and also with very good vocalists. Continue reading.
Composer and lyricist (16 February 1861 – 14 October 1919)
He bears the title of Father of Tango, a somewhat exaggerated qualification because there were many circumstances which originated our music. But his influence was so important in the beginnings and its development which made him deserve this designation.
He is the great transformer of the Spanish tanguillos, the cuplés, the habaneras, turning those musics into a River Plate rhythm.
A natural artist, he avoided no activity which enabled him to earn some money for a living. It is said that he was a typographer, circus clown and any other job he was required for.
He was also a cuarteador (a person taking care of an extra horse or joke of oxen for dragging uphill) in the neighborhoods far from downtown. He was a horserider who used to wait for the arrival of a big coach or a streetcar at the bottom of slopes to help them get out of the mud or to go uphill. This meant to fasten the vehicle with a rope tied to his horse and help it in the effort.
With a facility for writing, he devised stanzas for carnival costumed groups and numerous poems and prose writings for well-known magazines of the time: Caras y caretas, Fray Mocho and P.B.T.
All through his work is present the wit sarcasm, and his dialogues were thought for the common man’s tongue and were always referred to real situations in the leasehold houses, the neighborhood and, many times, to love affairs which portrayed the way of speaking and behavior of the lowest social level of our society.
His wit, his facility in speaking, helped him to mix up with payadores and to put forward performances of scarse formality and, sometimes, completely shameless.
Always accompanying himself on guitar, with a harmonica added, he succeeded in telling stories by singing, which encouraged the audiences at the low cafés and joints. Continue reading.
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. Continue reading.