Archive for the ‘El tango cuenta su historia’ Category




01 BOLICHE, Angel Vargas
02 VAYAMOS A AQUEL BAR, Argentino Ledesma
04 EL ULTIMO CAFE, Rosana Falasca
06 CAFE LA HUMEDAD, Ruben Juarez


Early in the twentieth century El cafe became a neighborhood institution. It was the place to meet friends who conformed to a particular category, people with whom one could talk about everyday life, about football and politics, on the events of the neighborhood or personal problems. These conversations rarely entered their respective homes as if home and coffee were completely opposite places.
For the tango, El cafe is also the site where one can learn from other more experienced men.

“Cafe in a Buenos Aires neighborhood Sunday night, paper’s sixth edition, cup, the topic, soccer and ponies.
Four guys around the table discussing whether River Plate is better than Boca Jrs.
If Leguisamo is a better jockey than Antunez or which orchestra is superior.
Anselmo shares his sorrows, Ricardo his bad luck, and Jose very sadly tells that his things are getting worse.”

El Cafe is the warm shelter of the man who is alone and waiting, smoking, staring distantly into his memory. It represents the occult science of knowledge, the quiet intelligence.
Going to a coffee always gave me an almost savage joy since I was very young, when after the theater my father would treat me to a delicious chocolate with churros. Why in the cafe? Yeah, sure, we could go anywhere, to a bar, or a self-service. But what mattered about El cafe, was the magical air, that air of magic hospitality that sometimes made me think that the elves of Buenos Aires  lived there…




3. VIEJO RINCON, Carlos Gardel
4. EL PANGARE, Carlos Gardel
5. EL MORO, Carlos Gardel
6. EL CIRUJA, Carlos Gardel
7. SILBANDO, Carlos Gardel
8. EL CARRETERO, Carlos Gardel
9. MI NOCHE TRISTE, Carlos Gardel
10. MILONGUITA, Carlos Gardel
11. POBRE PAICA, Carlos Gardel
12. MANO A MANO, Carlos Gardel
13. BAJO BELGRANO, Carlos Gardel
14. SOY UNA FIERA, Carlos Gardel
15. TOMO Y OBLIGO, Carlos Gardel
16. MELODIA DE ARRABAL, Carlos Gardel
17. SILENCIO, Carlos Gardel
18. VOLVER, Carlos Gardel
19. CUESTA ABAJO, Carlos Gardel
20. EL DIA QUE ME QUIERAS, Carlos Gardel


Every year on this date, June 24th, we’re haunted by the imagery of the fiery airplane crash that took the lives of Carlos Gardel and Alfredo Lepera in 1935. For most folks born outside South America, it is nearly impossible to understand what it meant for the nation of Argentina, and many other South American countries, to wake up on the morning of June 25, 1935 to the chilling news shaped in bold letters headlines that, except for minor variations in copy, were saying the same unthinkable fact: GARDEL IS DEAD.

Gardel and Lepera had become very successful partners in the tango-for-films department. Under contract with Paramount, Carlos Gardel was becoming a box office attraction in South America because of his personal appeal, his baritone voice, and his successful tours around Western Europe. Yet, the underlying attraction of Gardel, the music and lyrics of his tangos, had presented a public relations problem for the Hollywood suits. There was something about the language and jargon embedded in the lyrics of the tangos Gardel sang that didn’t fly very well outside Buenos Aires.

So they brought Alfredo Lepera, a Brazilian born writer and poet then living in Buenos Aires. His mission was to write new lyrics in a more pure Castilian language that would be universally understood and appreciated in all of South America and Spanish speaking Europe. The resulting body of work represents the most popular and celebrated songs that are easily recognized by people all over the world, even when many may not realize that they were all written for films starring Carlos Gardel. Can you remember hearing any of these titles: Cuesta abajo, Volver, Melodia de arrabal, El dia que me quieras, Por una cabeza…? It was during a promotional tour for his latest film, El dia que quieras, that Gardel and Lepera met their untimely deaths. First Puerto Rico, then Cuba and finally Colombia were visits that attracted large crowds eager to see, touch and listen to Carlos Gardel.

Towards the end of the tour, Gardel and his entourage boarded a plane at Medellin airport for a short flight to Cali, where he would make his final appearance on a radio program before returning to New York, in time to board a ship to Buenos Aires to fulfill a promise he had made to his mother, that is, spending more time with her. The aircraft never got completely airborne as it suddenly veered of course and slammed into another aircraft waiting to enter the runway. Among a twisted pile of melting metal and an infernal blaze, Gardel ended his mortal existence.

Almost instantly he became immortal, and his image, his legacy and his works eternally became the subject of a religious adoration and veneration for a large majority of people spanning many generations.

When his remains arrived in Buenos Aires almost a year later, the city came to a grinding halt. He laid in wake for a day at the Luna Park stadium, located where Avenida Corrientes begins its growth up into the heart of the city. Dignitaries, musicians, singers, artists, and plain people all shed tears of sorrow and mourning before his casket began its final journey along Corrientes Avenue to the cemetery of Chacarita where he was laid to rest. The slow pace of the funeral march was accentuated by a shower of flowers and tears being cast from every balcony and every door along the way.

So, if shouldn’t come as a surprise that every June 24th, as it has been happening since 1935, men and women in Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Bolivia, Uruguay, Puerto Rico, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Mexico will listen to Gardel with a very special purpose, to continue paying respect to his memory, to continue admiring a singer that sings better every day.

Perhaps what it is most important to understand about Gardel, the man, the myth, the icon, is the identification that the common people of Buenos Aires have with his rise to fame from humble beginnings. With his unmatched fame and success, and his eternal smile, he has been shining a ray of hope over the tribulations of those who face life challenges from a less than ideal social standing. Gardel is the epitome of the socially challenged immigrant who made it out of the tenement and into the royal palaces of Europe all the while retaining the modesty, humility, loyalty and generosity of those who never forget the friends they make on their way up because they know that they’ll still be there when it’s time to come down. The eternal smile reminds us of that.


orq_troilo THAT GUY TROILO


4. SUR


For many, Anibal Troilo is the archetype of the 1940s tango. Somehow, among the many luminaries that emerged during the golden years, Anibal Troilo has been elevated to the category of myth. This explains why his artistic achievements, his musical prowess, and his personal life have been chronicled in many oblique ways, the way religious writ- ings deal with the unexplainable mystery of faith. Ironically, though having been dubbed in the early 1960s “el bandoneon mayor de Buenos Aires (the premier bandoneon of Buenos Aires)” by poet Julian Centeya (a moniker widely accepted and adopted as dogma), his name does not seem to generate much excitement among dancers outside Buenos Aires.

The word that describes the Troilo style is complete. His solos demonstrate a sound that does not need technical jargon. He was not narcissistic, ostenta- tious, or exhibitionistic; the bandoneón in his hands, held on his knee, hardly moved. The stage lights would dim, leaving him alone in the spotlight with the mystery of his romance with the instrument. Those who have seen him and heard him can only describe the experience as the deep eruption of emotions that occurs when the magic of his sound takes possession of the body. Among the many merits attributed to Anibal Troilo were his intuition in selecting his musicians and singers and his ability to adapt them to his ensemble. The selec- tion of his repertoire also indicates his brilliance. His favorite composer was himself. Forty-one of his recordings were his own.

The life of Anibal Troilo moved around heartaches. A mild stroke had affected him seriously a year before his death. For 20 years he dealt with the excruciating pain caused by an arthritic hip. He once went through hundreds of cortisone shots within a 60-day period. On the morning of May 18, 1975, Troilo fainted, and spent most of the day in intensive care at the Hospital Italiano. That evening, around 8 p.m., patrons were filing into the doors of the Teatro Odeon for a performance of the musical Simplemente . . . Pichuco (Simply Pichuco). However, that evening the show didn’t go on. At 11:40 p.m. the heart of Anibal Troilo played its final note. The torture of the man had come to an end. The peace of his soul had begun. The city mourned the death of an idol baptized on the sidewalks with the teardrops of his sobbing bandoneon.




1. A HOMERO, Susana Rinaldi
2. FUIMOS, Osvaldo Pugliese with Roberto Chanel
3. CHE BANDONEON, Hector Artola with Raul Alonso
4. BARRIO DE TANGO, Anibal Troilo with Roberto Goyeneche
5. DISCEPOLIN, Anibal Troilo with Raul Beron
6. SUR, Edmundo Rivero

Homero Manzi was an author of tango lyrics that became true porteño anthems , he was also an activist  speaker who always spoke in favor of the disenfranchised people. Both in the arts and in life Homero Manzi walked the popular sidewalk. On May 3, 1951, consumed by a relentless disease, he stepped into immortality.

Homero Manzi will always be evoked when the definitive history of the creators of the music and poetry of Buenos Aires is written.
Very few have chronicled with such talent and tenderness, the archetypes and the ghosts of a city humid and nostalgic, the voices, the caricatures and the contradictions of a traumatized society .

Before Manzi, the tango was a dense musical expression with blurred poetic expressions. Most poets and authors had created a stereotyped anthology of the complaint. The most distinguished aspect of Homero Manzi was to not contribute to the increasing flow of porteño tears. He used his provincial eyes to paint the neighborhood and its characters, avoiding kitsch to write about kitschy things such as simple domestic lives.

Until the arrival of Manzi, the narrative style which prevailed in tango typified evil and fugitive women in licks and ermine, who abandoned their beaus to end up in their older days in some tubercular hospital.

Homero Manzi’s legacy is his poetry, filled with neighborhoods nostalgia and landscapes of Buenos Aires with his characters lost in deep love relationships.
Homero Manzi represents for many Argentines the epitome of a country that could be and often have been denied. A rural man, a connoisseur of the land that is the root of all things, he was also a neighborhood porteño with an privileged intellect to serve the people.

A renovator poet who dared to take hold of the poetry of books to convert them into the verses of the popular song.




Julio Sosa, a big guy, moody, great friend and singer was born in the locality of Piedras, province of Canelones in Uruguay on February 2, 1926

He was probably the last tango singer who really attracted big crowds. The fact that almost half of his repertoire was identical to that of Carlos Gardel, didn’t seem to matter although he also interpreted quite a few contemporaries titles.

Historians agree that Sosa’s was one of the most important voices that the tango had during the second half of the nineteen fifties and early nineteen sixties, a period during which the music of Buenos Aires wasn’t doing too well with the younger generations.

His early death, gave some people an excuse to repeat the myth of Gardel, but Sosa was not Gardel. His extroversion and the lack of tenderness in his voice set him apart from the paradigm of the tango singer.

Journalist Ricardo Gaspari, press and promotion executive of a record company, gave Sosa the nickname for which he will be eternally known, El Varon del Tango, (The Male of Tango). That was the name of his first LP. Everything seemed to be going his way. Reality was not far off, as Sosa got the youth to come back to the music that belonged to them in the first place. The tango.

Regardless of the tango and poetry, Sosa had another passion, cars. He owned an Isetta, a De Carlo model 700 and a DKW Fissore. He crashed with all three because he had a taste for high speed. The third accident was fatal. At dawn on November 25, 1964, Julio Sosa run into a warning light lamppost at the corner of Avenida Figueroa Alcorta and Mariscal Castilla. He was admitted to the Hospital Fernandez and then transferred to the Hospital Anchorena, where he passed away at 9:30 am on November 26, 1964.

His remains lay in wake at Salón La Argentina, but an overflow crowd forced the vigil to be moved to the Luna Park (legendary boxing stadium with capacity for 25,000 people). Two days earlier he had sung his last tango, La gayola (The jailhouse). The last verses end in a prophetic way, “To make sure I get flowers when I’m in the coffin.”

His memory remains alive, and his figure continue to acquire myth dimension as the years go by with the generation, and the generations that follow, that lived his rise to fame as one of the most prominent figures in the history of tango.



1. EL TORITO, Francisco Canaro
2. ARRABALERA, Francisco Canaro
3. RECUERDO, Osvaldo Pugliese
4. EL MONITO, Julio de Caro
5. TIERRA QUERIDA, Julio de Caro
6. BOEDO, Osvaldo Pugliese


Roberto Firpo is considered to be the first serious musician of tango. Little by little, the unforgettable nights of the cabaret Armenonville saw the birth of what it would be a long list of musicians and styles.
Leopoldo Thompson, a bass player who had joined Firpo’s group, created a special effect striking with the arc and the extended hand the cords of the instrument. That particular sound was named the canyengue effect. The word, very controversial and used and abused too much, has a clear and specific meaning, deteriorated, lethargic. Its application to the rhythm of the tango seems to be a consequence of the turn of the century choreography. The ostentatious dancers showed their skills affecting indolence, laziness, and reluctance. At the beginning of the twentieth century there exist numerous prejudices, among which was the belief that the lower layers of the society produced lethargic and useless individuals. The tango may evolved as a much needed way of expression for a social class.

The situation of postwar period and the international prices of Argentine farming products allowed President Marcelo T. de Alvear to administer a prosperous country without any acute social conflicts. The new ruling class under the conservative regime, one step below the aristocracy, became a tango consumer and constituted the new customer of the night clubs. The cabarets of the nineteen twenties witnessed the arrival of conservatory musicians that were going to give to tango music a greater melodic and sonorous richness.
These are the times of the first book of Borges, Fervor of Buenos Aires, the astonishment of fascism in Italy, and the films of Charlie Chaplin and Rodolfo Valentino. In the nineteen twenties, a melody with a calmer rhythm, to be danced by walking, is the founder of a lineage that persists until the present.

These are the times when Boca Juniors becomes the first Argentine futbol team that tours Europe, when Luis Angel Firpo knocks Dempsey off the ring, when the voice of the tango is Carlos Gardel, and music is Julio De Caro. The Decarean sound becomes the foundation of all the typical orchestras that helped the tango become the music of Buenos Aires. The music that has captivated the entire world with his musical and poetic wealth, with its melodic variety and its unmistakable beat.



1.SHUSHETA, Angel Vargas with Angel D’Agostino
2. NINO BIEN, Tita Merello with Francisco Canaro
3. COMPADRON, Carlos Dante with Alfredo De Angelis
4. AMARROTO, Alberto Echague with Juan D’Arienzo
5. CHORRA, Hugo del Carril


The tango lyrics draw images of characters of the Buenos Aires fauna who have been typified as the years have given the tango a narrative character and have accepted it as a faithful reflection of the city and the people that gave it origin.

There is the phony type who feels the need to try to be what he is not, mainly because he believes that that will overcome his innate complex of inferiority and social disorientation. The niño bien represents that caricature. Other characters are notorious for their propensity to boast. The compadron, for example is the caricature of a false gutsy man, and often confused it with the compadre. The compadrito, is essentially an imitator, a half size hero, a fetus that didn’t reach its term, a suburban premature baby, a braggart, indecent, somebody similar to the dandy from Madrid. He is recognized by his gratuitous provocation, the boastfulness of a false anger, and taking credit for other people’s feats.

For a society that inherited from Spain an allergy to work, all type of tasks that generally involve manual activity or a relation of dependency, was reserved for riffraff, rabble, the tanos, the gallegos. In contrast, there is a character who makes an obsession of work, thus becoming the target of ridicule by the wise guys because he does not to share the same tastes in matters of leisure and relaxation. The obsession is more about being stingy, being an amarroto. The amarroto eventually falls in love with a mature matron that spends his money as if there is no tomorrow. That is the deserved punishment he gets for not being capable of enjoying a hard fought horse race at the racetrack.

The ambitious and egoistic woman also has her place in our history. Product perhaps of a society where being born in the wrong cradle is akin to a life sentence of poverty and suffering, the tango draws images of women without purity, with no heart and no feelings. A common scheme of the social life of the population is to seek a wealthy future for a maiden daughter, speculating with candidates with money and if it is possible without a brain. Too late, the man discovers that he married a chorra, a thief, not only of his fortune but also of his love. For this man there will never be a good woman that will restore his faith and his confidence in love.



1. LA ULTIMA GRELA, Susana Rinaldi
2. MILONGUITA, Carlos Gardel
3. FLOR DE FANGO, Carlos Gardel
4. GRISETA, Roberto Rufino
5. MELENITA DE ORO, Floreal Ruiz with Francisco Rotundo
6. MADAME YVONNE, Susana Rinaldi
7. AQUEL TAPADO DE ARMINO, Angel Cardenas with Anibal Troilo

One of the subjects that has lasted the most in the tango lyrics thematic is the one about the woman who lost the honesty in her heart.
It is described with different names but the path and the end are always the same.
A humble girl dressed in percale, daughter of gringos with a good and poor boyfriend who lives as she does in a working neighborhood.
One day she leaves home. She leaves forever the paternal love, her friendships, her job, to run away with a wealthy man who promised her a home, stability, and respectability.
Just a short time later she realizes that the promises are not fulfilled and she is left with two options. She prostitutes on her own or becomes one by imperative of the man who forces her to do it by means of corporal punishments.
In any case at the end she is left with the cruel shattering of her dreams and the hardship of a ruthless life.





1. FLOR DE FANGO, Alberto Castillo
2. CON PERMISO SOY EL TANGO, Alberto Castillo
3. YO LLEVO EL TANGO EN EL ALMA, Alberto Castillo
4. CUCUSITA, Alberto Castillo
5. LOS 100 BARRIOS PORTEÑOS, Alberto Castillo
6. ASI SE BAILA EL TANGO, Alberto Castillo


The proletariat and marginal people who came to power with the rise of Peronism did not need to imitate the upper classes to disguise their origin. By contrast, they were proud of themselves. In the mid 1940’s, when the anti peronism establishment baptized the immigrants from the provinces “cabecitas negras” (black heads because of the color of their skin and their hair), instead of feeling offended, the peronist working class base adopted the insult with pride for their origin.

Evita understood the social transformation that was taken place. Those who were labeled “grasas” (greasers) by the elitist upper class became the affectionate and dear fellow “grasitas” when she turned the verbal adjective and disparaging insult into a symbol of pride.

Alberto Castillo, more than a singer was also a symbol. Perhaps without intending it, he found a place where his vocal capacity was not as important as his emblematic character. Although he had been singing since 1934 during his years as a medical student, his professional debut came in 1939 with the orchestra Los Indios directed by Ricardo Tanturi.

Those who know consider that Castillo’s voice had a good pitch and a tone that was both jokingly and funny, with a drawl on the phrasing and an exaggeration of gestures that set him apart from the stereotypes of the time. They looked at him with sympathy. At least Castillo was different than the massive proliferation of Gardel imitators that had appeared since the accident in Medellin.

After leaving the Tanturi orchestra in 1944 Castillo formed his own orchestra and finally found his definitive form. He amplified strokes, featured the distinctive aspects of his wardrobe, and when he become a movie actor, he stressed the marginal conversational aspects of his phonetics as Gardel had done it before to accentuate the suburban cadences of his speech.

Instead of trying to reflect reality, appearing as the college educated singer he was, and consequently dressing in agreement with the canons of the middle-class, Castillo chose the path of classlessness. He choose costumes of bright blue fabrics, suits with very wide crossed lapels that reached nearly to the shoulders. He wore ties with a wide and square knot that was in contrast to the fashion of the elegant middle class that called for a tight and narrow knot. The coat rampant backwards and a handkerchief protruding exaggeratedly from the pocket. Wide waist trousers with wide cuffs completed the attire that was more a dare than clothing.

The wardrobe that Castillo wore were the fashion created by Guillermo Divito as a ridicule to the commons person. From a position as the drawing pen for the oligarchy, Divito, a famous comic strip creator of classics like El otro yo del Dr. Merengue and Fallutelli, accented lines as if they were a ridiculous caricature reflecting from a mirror . On the opposite side, Castillo along with prizefighter Jose Maria Gatica assumed the role of prototypes of the marginal class that had shown their loyalty to Juan Peron on October 17, 1945. And although nobody actually dressed like them, by elevating their wardrobe to the grotesque, they transformed self-confidence into aggression. This tendency is present in the singer’s lyrics. Castillo makes fun of the middle-class and its uptight rules.




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.