TANGO’S CENTRAL CASTING
1. EL SOLITARIO, Carlos Acuña
2. TE LLAMAN MALEVO, Anibal Troilo with Angel Cardenas
3. DUELO CRIOLLO, Carlos Di Sarli with Mario Pomar
4. COMPADRON, Juan D’Arienzo with Hector Maure
5. UNION CIVICA, Miguel Calo
6. CHE BANDONEON, Susana Rinaldi
The lyrics of many tangos describe a cast of prototypical characters that appeared in Buenos Aires with the coming of age of the descendants of the first wave of disenfranchised immigrants.
The guapo, for example, was feared, envied and respected. His education took place on the streets of Buenos Aires. He worked typically as a butcher, horse breaker, or horse carriage driver. He was not always a rebel. Political bosses hired him for his temerity, his skill with the dagger, and in turn provided him with protection from the police. His Sundays were filled with all kind of gambling activities. He was admired in his neighborhood for his courage and reputation for being in the winning side of hundreds of fights, and for the deep scars that capricious blades had left on his face.
Same as the gauchos who carried a long knife that could also be used as a machete, the guapo preferred a blade. He chose a short blade dagger with a functional hil. The knife of the Pampas got shortened in the suburb. It went from being an ostentatious luxury wore on the waist to become a threat hidden in the confines of a vest. From being flaunted it became a premonition.
Another character often mistaken for the guapo or the compadre was the compadrito. He was essentially an imitator, a halfway guapo, a bragging insolent. He was notorious for his gratuitous provocation, for boasting a fake courage, and for claiming someone else’s exploits as his own. While the guapo only used soft spoken words, silences and stares, and dominated with his presence and conduct, the imitator resorted to shouting, to the self praise and also his flatterers. The compadrito was not loved nor respected. At best he was feared by those women he had under his control. He was a gaucho decayed into a common man, or a common man decayed into a gaucho. He walked with a breaking swagger as if trying to make himself small. He had a particular aversion for the town folks who dressed properly, calling them cajetillas to insult them, and amusing himself by provoking fights so he could brandish his dagger and mark the faces of his targets.
Towards the end of the nineteenth century, a German named Henry Band created, and a company named Union manufactured, one of the most important characters of the tango, the BAND-UNION or bandoneon.
Its role was to become a story or hundreds of stories. To be the melancholic transmitter of the porteña nostalgia rooted in the original immigrants’ uprooting. To represent the sadness of a past impossible to recover, and the reflection of the distance of the childhood landscapes.