Bandoneonist, leader, arranger and composer (29 January 1914 – 30 January 1987)
Luis Adolfo Sierra tells us in his book Historia de la orquesta típica: «Héctor Varela, lead bandoneon and arranger of the Juan D’Arienzo Orchestra, for ten years, identified himself with the trends of a genuine traditional origin, and his orchestra boasted, as major attraction, the precision of a difficult technical performance, in the middle of a very personal hasty rhythmic beat». And Jorge Palacio (Faruk) added: «And that is, exactly, what Varela strove for during his tango career: to play with his orchestra for dancers».
He was born in Avellaneda where he spent all his childhood and youth. He graduated as accountant but he never worked as such. He had his first studies of bandoneon with the teachers of his neighborhood, he later attended the conservatory led by maestro Eladio Blanco with whom, time later, he would play at the bandoneon section of Juan D’Arienzo. 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.
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.
He was an Oriental (Uruguayan) born in Montevideo on January 4, 1888. This is the exact date given by his nephew Bernardo, a pianist, who, besides exhibiting documents, stated that the right spelling of the family name is with “z” and not with “s”. As we found a certain generalized confusion about that, we think we have cleared out the issue.
Héctor Bates and Luis Bates (in La Historia del Tango) mention bibliographic references of the composer we are talking about. We include a summary of them:
«He was a little above one year old when he settled in Buenos Aires with his family. He studied up to third degree in grammar school, because he admitted he used to play truant. He carried out varied trades.
«His devotion for music was born after he heard Pacho who, by that time (1905), played at a café placed on Thames and Guayanas (now Niceto Vega).
«In his spare time he devoted himself to learn music: guitar, mandolin and violin. Finally he chose piano; his first lessons were taught by a hatter named Leopoldo, later he continued with Carlos Hernani Macchi. Continue reading.