Anibal Troilo, The Man Behind ‘The Troilo Sound’

“The Troilo Sound” in tango is described as “a rich, fluid approach to the tango which juxtaposed staccato and legato figures.” The man responsible for this is the Argentine musician Anibal Carmelo Troilo (nicknamed ‘Pichuco’), who is considered a tango pioneer.

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Troilo was born on July 11, 1914 in Buenos Aires and, at an early age, was spellbound by tango. When he was 10 years old, he persuaded his mother to by him his own bandoneon after hearing its sound in cafes all over his neighborhood. Troilo’s first performance for an audience was at age 11, on a stage near a noisy fruit and vegetable market. Troilo’s mastery of the bandoneon is hailed as one of the best ever. He played the instrument for a number of orchestras including the sextet led by the violinist Elvino Vardaro and the pianist Osvaldo Pugliese. Later, he became part of a larger orchestra with the violinist Julio De Caro, to participate in a contest. Troilo also joined Cuarteto del 900, with the accordeonist Feliciano Brunelli, Elvino Vardaro and the flutist Enrique Bour.

In 1937, Troilo assembled his own orchestra and by the 1940s, was one of the most influential figures in Argentinian music. He had an eye for talent and people like Astor Piazzolla, bassist Kicho Diaz and singers Francisco Fiorentino, Alberto Marino, Floreal Ruiz and Roberto Goyeneche are just some of the other tango legends that played for him.

As a musician, Troilo has been described as “a master of personality and feeling in his expression.” He was usually seen playing his bandoneon bent slightly forward, eyes closed and chin hanging. Troilo once remarked, “It is said that I am very often moved and that I cry. Yes, it is true. But I never do these things for trivial reasons.”

As an orchestra leader, it’s been said of Troilo, “He dug an undoubtedly tango style, balanced, without [histrionics] and of undeniable taste. He knew how to choose the best players according to his musical ideas, he selected good singers, who beside him achieved their best, to such an extent that when they left the orchestra, only partially and for a short time could they reach a similar level. He also knew how to choose a repertory without having to accept the conditions suggested by the recording companies.”

Troilo also set the foundation for the “nuevo tango”(“new tango”) movement in the 1950s popularised by Piazzolla. His orchestra worked with singers like Alberto Marino, Floreal Ruiz, Edmundo Rivero, Jorge Casal, Raúl Berón, Roberto Rufino, Ángel Cárdenas, Elba Berón, Tito Reyes and Nelly Vázquez. Musicians who played under him also became band leaders of their own, such as Orlando Goñi, José Basso, Carlos Figari, Osvaldo Manzi, Osvaldo Berlingieri and José Colángelo.

His instrumentals, particularly those with Florentino, are a favourite of contemporary tango salons (milongas) for social dancing. Troilo continued to make recordings until his death on May 18, 1975. The poet Adrian Desiderato said of Troilo’s death, “It was on an eighteenth day of May when the bandoneon happened to let Pichuco fall from its hands.”