The Man Who Revolutionised Tango – Astor Piazzolla

Argentine Tango Composer, Astor Piazzolla

Once described as “the world’s most foremost composer of tango music,” Astor Pantaleón Piazzolla established nuevo tango (new tango), a blend of jazz, classical music, and tango.

Nuevo Tango BrisbanePiazzolla was born on March 11, 1921 in Mar del Plata, Argentina. His parents were Italian immigrants Vicente ‘Nonino’ Piazzolla and Assunta Manetti. At birth, Piazzolla’s right leg was twisted due to polio and he underwent repeated operations until it was fixed, albeit one leg was slightly shorter than the other.

In 1925, the family moved to New York, where they lived until 1936. They first went to New Jersey, then Manhattan, near Little Italy. While the young Piazzolla adjusted well enough to American life, he was expelled from school for fighting and consequently earned the nickname ‘Lefty’ because of his left-hand punch.

It was around this time when he received his first bandoneon at age eight. He learned to play this instrument along with the piano. Initially, Piazzolla was not argentine tango classes near mekeen on the gift. In one interview, he said, “[My father] brought it covered in a box, and I got very happy because I thought it was the roller skates I had asked for so many times. It was a let-down because instead of a pair of skates, I found an artifact I had never seen before in my life. Dad sat down, set it on my legs, and told me, ‘Astor, this is the instrument of tango. I want you to learn it.’ My first reaction was anger. Tango was that music he listened to almost every night after coming home from work. I didn’t like it.”

In 1929, The Great Depression struck and the family moved back to Mar del Plata in 1936, only to return to New York nine months later. At 11, Piazzolla began playing his bandoneon on stage and started taking lessons with Andres D’Aquila, an Argentine pianist. He also made his first recording, ‘Marionette Spagnol,’ and composed his first tango, ‘La Catinga,’ which has never been recorded.

Piazzolla was introduced to jazz in New York, when he would sneak into clubs, where Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Benny Goodman and other jazz icons would play. Meanwhile, it was pianist and neighbour Bela Wilda, who taught him the piano and introduced him to classical music. One of Piazzolla’s earliest and long-lasting influences was Johann Sebastian Bach. Wilda even taught him to play Bach on the bandoneon.

Argentine Tango Classes BrisbaneAt age 12, Astor Piazzolla’s life would change. It was 1933 and he learned one of his idols Carlos Gardel was in town. Piazzolla went to Gardel’s building and what followed next was something straight out of a movie. Gardel’s assistant was outside and had left his key inside the room. Piazzolla volunteered to climb the fire escape and went in through the window to wake the sleeping Gardel. Turns out, it was lyricist Alfredo Le Pera. One thing led to another and the two became good friends. Piazzolla eventually became Gardel’s translator and his bandoneon player.

The Piazzolla’s moved back to Argentina in 1937 and the teenage Piazzolla immersed himself in tango. By the time he was 17, he moved to Buenos Aires and was invited to play the bandoneon in one of the most prestigious tango orchestras at the time, the Anibal Troilo Orquestra, and eventually became their arranger.

Piazzolla formed his own orchestra in 1946, the Astor Piazzolla Y Su Orchestra Tipica or commonly referred to as ‘The 1946 Band’. During this time, he composed his first “formal” tango, El Desbande as well as scores for films. In 1949, Piazzolla started in earnest his musical experiments, one of which, titled ‘Buenos Aires,’ was submitted to the Fabien Sevitzky Competition, where it won first prize. When the piece was performed by Sevitzky, however, it was met with negative reaction, with many complaining a bandoneon had no place in an orchestra.

Piazzolla travelled to France for his Paris Conservatory scholarship. Here, he played one of his tango-classical experiments, ‘Trifunal,’ for the great music educator Nadia Boulanger and she encouraged him to press on. And so, in 1955, tango nuevo was born with the formation of the group Octeto Buenos Aires. Even with growing criticism, Piazzolla carried on, touring the world with his unique blend of tango, jazz, and classical music. His favourite expression for tango nuevo was the bandoneon, violin, bass, piano, and electric guitar.

After a period of great productivity, Piazzolla had a heart attack in 1973. Shortly after, he moved to Milan, Italy and a year later he composed the infamous hit, ‘Libertango.’ This symbolised his break from classical tango to something new.

In 1985, he was named an exceptional citizen of Buenos Aires and in 1986, received the Cesar Prize for his score of the film ‘El Exilio de Gardel.’ One of his most well-known performances was in 1987 in Central Park in New York to a crowd of over 4,000. In 1990, Piazzolla suffered a massive stroke and two years later, the genius Tanguero died in Buenos Aires on July 4. He leaves behind more than 1,000 works and the legacy of having revolutionized tango forever.

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Tango Composer, Francisco Canaro, A True Star of Tango

Argentine Tango Composer, Francisco Canaro,

Uruguayan composer Francisco Canaro is considered one of the tango world’s most popular artists. His recordings, both traditional tango and milongas, are noted as beautiful and melodic.

Canaro was born on November 26, 1888 into extreme poverty, with seven other siblings. His parents were Italian immigrants. Canaro was given the nickname “Pirincho” when the midwife noticed that his hair has a fuzz and curl like the head feathers of the South American bird of the same name.

The Canaro family moved from River Plate when Francisco was less than 10 years old and settled in the densely populated “conventillos,” an urban tenement in Buenos Aires. Unable to attend school, Canaro instead started working as a newspaper boy, a shoe shiner, a painter, and then as an apprentice at a can factory.

Despite his bitter upbringing, the young Canaro was enthusiastic about music at an early age. His neighbor, a cobbler, was his first teacher, showing him how to play the guitar and mandolin. While working at the factory, he built a violin out of a wooden fingerboard and the remains of an oil can. He taught himself to play this creation. According to Canaro himself, the first tango he played from heart was ‘El Llorón.’

At 18, Canaro made his professional debut as part of a trio in a town called Ranchos, a hundred kilometres outside of Buenos Aires. He started devoting himself to tango when he was introduced to bandoneonist and tango orchestra director Vicente Greco in 1908. Canaro went on to join Greco on several successful tours and produced records.

By 1915, at the age of 26, Canaro began conducting orchestras. His first headline was the first Baile del Internado, which was a comedy ball organized by the hospital interns to make fun of their doctors. The gala was held at the Palais de Glace and here, Canaro premiered ‘El Alacran’ and ‘Matasano.’ In 1916, he was the headliner once again, but for Bailes de Carnival, where he was met with such adoration that he was invited again and again. In 1921, for the Bailes de Carnival, he reunited a 32-piece orchestra, an orchestral mass unknown in tango until then.

Canaro’s music is considered to have reshaped the way society perceived tango at the time. Back then, high society did not entertain tango, at least not until Canaro’s orchestra.

Tango Lessons BrisbaneCanaro pioneered the incorporation of a singer in the tango orchestra in 1924, but only for the main part of the tango or the ‘estribillo.’ The first estribillo used by Canaro was Roberto Díaz. This ushered in the ‘estribillistas era’ from the mid-1920s to the late 1930s.

By 1925, Canaro toured the world, beginning in Paris, where tango was now in fashion. He also traveled to the United States. By 1926, his contracts expired and he was free from commitments. Canaro visited Italy to meet his grandmother.

After his absence, Canaro returned to Argentina. He also dabbled in musical theatre and film. He founded Rio de la Plata productions, although none of his projects proved to be commercial hits.

In 1956, he published his memoirs, ‘Mis 50 Años Con El Tango” (My 50 Years with Tango).’ Canaro was forced into retirement after being diagnosed with Paget’s Disease. He eventually passed in 1964 at the age of 76.

Argentine Tango Composers eBook

Tango Composer, Carlos Di Sarli, The Lord of Tango

Argentine Tango Composer, Carlos Di Sarli,

Carlos Di Sarli earned the nickname ‘The Lord of Tango’ (‘El Señor del Tango’) when his career rose along with the ‘Golden Age of Tango.’ Known for his signature pair of glasses, Di Sarli was a prolific orchestra leader, composer and pianist during his time and well after.

Born on January 7, 1903 in Bahia Blanca in Southern Argentina as Cayetano Di Sarli, he was the eighth child of Italian immigrant Miguel Di Sarli and Serafina Russomano, who was the daughter of the tenor singer Tito Russomano. Di Sarli was exposed to music at an early age. Aside from having a singer grandfather, his brothers were musically involved as well. Domingo was a music teacher, Nicolas became a baritone, and younger brother Roque would become a pianist. Carlos himself took piano lessons.

Their father, Miguel, was the owner of a gun shop and while working here, Di Sarli suffered an accident at the age of 13, costing him an eye. Since then, he could always be seen wearing dark glasses concealing his eyes. Much to the horror of his father and his piano teacher, soon after he recovered from the injury, the young Di Sarli went on tour with a zarzuela company.

Carlos Di SarliIn between running away and making his debut, Di Sarli ended up in the province of La Pampa, where he played the piano to silent films for two years. He eventually went back to his hometown and in 1919, Di Sarli made his debut as orchestra leader at a tea room called the Cafe Express. His orchestra toured for some time, but in 1923, Di Sarli and his younger brother Roque made the move to Buenos Aires.

For the next few years, Di Sarli joined a couple of orchestras. First, Anselmo Aieta, a bandoneonist group. Then, a group led by the violinist Juan Pedro Castillo. In 1926, he joined Osvaldo Fresedo’s orchestra. Fresedo had such an influence over Di Sarli that his tango ‘Viejo Milonguero’ is dedicated to Fresedo.

In 1927, Di Sarli formed his own group, a sextet with José Pécora and David Abramsky on violin, César Ginzo and Tito Landó on bandoneón and Adolfo Kraus on bass. By 1934, Di Sarli left his group and moved to Rosario in Santa Fe province, where he joined a small band with the bandoneonist Juan Cambareri. However, in 1938, Di Sarli returned to Buenos Aires, reformed his band, and made their first recording in 1939. The recording included ‘Corazon,’ which is considered a classic. For the next decade, Di Sarli and his music flourished, recording 155 sides and being popular amongst tango dancers.

However, Di Sarli was not the easiest person to get along with. He has been described as eccentric, reserved and was very much a perfectionist. Due to his eccentricity, there was superstition surrounding his music with some believing that saying his name out loud will bring bad luck. In 1949, his orchestra members walked out on him. But Di Sarli continued recording until illness forced him to retire in 1953. This did not stop him, however, continuing to record until his final side in 1958.

Di Sarli’s musical style has been widely lauded, often described as simple, but elegant and full of nuances. He led his last concert on March 8, 1959 at the Podesa de Lanus club in Buenos Aires. He died of a terminal disease on January 12, 1960.

Argentine Tango Composers eBook

Sources: http://www.todotango.com/english/creadores/cdisarli.html

http://www.milonga.co.uk/tango/disarli.shtml

http://www.verytangostore.com/legends/carlos-di-sarli.html

https://endretango.com/en/who-was-carlos-di-sarli-and-why-did-he-wear-dark-glasses-all-the-time/

Tango Composer, Osvaldo Pugliese, The Beginning of Concert-Style Tango

Argentine Tango Composer, Osvaldo Pugliese,

Osvaldo Pedro Pugliese is regarded as one of the “big four” composers of the Golden Age of tango, together with Juan D’Arienzo, Aníbal Troilo, and Carlo di Sarli. While D’Arienzo was considered “The King of Beat,” Pugliese was hailed as “San Pugliese” or “Saint Pugliese” for his dramatic and passionate melodies. He is also considered to have developed the concert-style tango music.

“Dramatic,” “passionate,” and “lyrical” are some of the words associated with Pugliese’s music. Female dancers would find his violin melodies excellent for decorative footwork. On the other hand, male dancers might have more difficulty as the beat is not as apparent.

Osvaldo PuglieseAt an early age, Pugliese had already been exposed to tango. He was born on December 2, 1905 to Aurelia Terragno and Adolfo Pugliese, the latter an amateur tango flautist. Meanwhile, Osvaldo’s two brothers, Vicente and Alberto, were violinists. The young Pugliese was taught to play the violin by his father and this early training allowed him to join the Odeon Conservatory. Here, he was tutored by maestros like Antonio D’Agostino, Rubione Scaramuzza and Pedro Vicente. Pugliese started playing professionally at the age of 15 as a pianist at Cafe de La Chancha.

In 1921, at the age of 16, Pugliese moved to Buenos Aires, where he met the first professional female bandoneonist in Argentina, Francisca Bernardo Cruz also know by her stage name, Paquita Bernardo. He joined her band, the Paquita Orchestra, as their pianist. They made their debut at a bar, Dominguez, and went around performing at other bars and cafes.

Pugliese eventually left the group and in 1924, joined the Enrique Pollet quartet. Around this time, he wrote one of his most famous compositions, ‘Recuerdo,’ which is considered to be the origin of stylised instrumental tango. The title, which translates to “memory,” is dedicated to Pugliese’s fond memories of his cousins, who would go to La Chancha to hear him play.

He went on to the renowned Pedro Maffia and his Orchestra, which marked the beginning of Osvaldo’s rise to maestro status. The group followed the De Caro school of music characterised by slow and languid phrasing. This would influence Pugliese’s style for the rest of his career.

As the late 1920s and early 1930s rolled on, tango was reaching its peak. During these years, Pugliese was playing at cafes and silent movie houses. He collaborated with musicians like violinist Alfredo Gobbi, bandoneonist Anibal Troilo, Pedro Laurenz, Miguel Calo, and Elvino Vardaro. In 1936, at 31, he fulfilled his dream of directing his own orchestra. He formed a sextet with Alfredo Calabró, Juan Abelardo Fernandez, bandoneonist Marcos Madrigal, Pedro Juan Rolando Curzel, violinist Potenza and Aniceto Rossi on the bass.

In 1939, he put together what’s regarded as one of the best tango orchestras in the world, Orquesta Típica Pugliese. While the lineup of musicians would vary over the years, Pugliese would work with this orchestra for the remainder of his life. The orchestra had a specific style, still following De Caro, with no drums, highly syncopated, bandoneón solos, holding notes slightly longer than expected for dramatic effect (rubato), alternating slow and fast tempos (slargando or slentando). Pugliese coined the term “yumba,” which denotes that the first and third beats should be stressed and the second and fourth beats should be played softly with a bass piano note.

Pugliese made his first recordings in 1943 while traveling the world. Some of his most raved about tangos aside from ‘Recuerdo,’ are La Yumba (1945), Negracha (1948), and Malandraca (1949).

Pugliese was a renowned and committed activist as well. In 1936, he joined the Communist Party of Argentina. This earned him the hostility of those in power and even spent time in jail. While away in prison, he kept on writing arrangements for his tango band. Pugliese was so loved by his musicians that a red carnation would be placed on the piano during his absence.

Pugliese holds multiple distinctions. He is a distinguished citizen of Buenos Aires, a Commandeur de L’Ordre des Arts et Lettres of France, and, was an Honorary Academician of the Academia Nacional del Tango. And, when tension between Pugliese and President Juan Perón’s government was eventually resolved, the great tango musician was awarded The Order of May, Argentina’s highest civilian award.

In July 25, 1995, at the age of 89, Pugliese passed away from a short illness. ‘La Yumba’ was played at his funeral. His legacy continues through his daughter Beba, and granddaughter Carla, both of whom are pianists.

Argentine Tango Composers eBook

Sources: http://www.interlude.hk/front/tango-beyond-piazzolla-ii-osvaldo-pugliese/

http://www.verytangostore.com/legends/osvaldo-pugliese.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osvaldo_Pugliese

 

Charity Dances

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The Charity Dance…What a horrible term!

How about referring to dancing with beginners or less-experienced dancers as ‘Assisting the development of dance’ or encouraging others in their enjoyment of the dance’.

I’m so thankful for those more advanced dancers who were willing to dance with me especially when I first started dancing tango. I certainly (thankfully) didn’t think of those dances as charity dances. It was the main reason that encouraged me to keep dancing and improve. There was the occasional person who would not dance with me, but fortunately, these people were far outweighed by the helpful people willing to foster my enthusiasm.

And still now, the opportunity to dance with someone more experienced or advanced than myself can help my dance immeasurably. It is important that you take onboard the feedback you receive throughout the dance to gain the best opportunities to improve. When I say feedback, that is not verbal feedback but rather the kinaesthetic feedback you receive during every step you take as you dance.

A horrible story. I had a student (and this is not an isolated example) who had a dance with a woman who gave him a ‘score’ at the end of the tanda. The score was two out of ten! Fortunately for him (but not for Tango), the partners in Salsa were more encouraging to him so he no longer dances Tango.

It’s certainly not only men who are discouraged from dancing Tango. There are many women also who are discouraged by men, sometimes inadvertently. It may simply be poorly-timed coaching (e.g. at a Milonga) or making comments that are unfair, especially considering the length at time that person has been dancing.

When dancing with a less-experienced follower, dance within their capability. It should not be about impressing them with how many steps you can do and making them feel inadequate, or verbally telling the follower what to do in order to satisfy your own ego. If you do not have the ability to lead a particular movement and/ or the follower does not yet have the technical ability or experience to perform the movement, don’t do it. If you are unsure about the experience of the follower, keep it simple to begin with. You will soon feel (if you’re listening) what is possible.

Thoughts from a follower…

Generally, when I accept dances from leaders who are in their early learning years, I try to focus on my own technique, posture, balance and use that time to pay more careful attention to the music, to slow down, and to become more conscious of our body movements together. 

I prefer to ask a beginner leader than to be asked and I often try to do this once each time I’m at a milonga. Sometimes though, I do not feel like accepting a dance from anyone who doesn’t have the desire to keep improving their skills or musicality. Each time I dance with someone I always look forward to our connection being a little better than the last time, whether it’s because of the tanda selection or the creativity or the technique. 

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As with any dance that you have, be present in the dance. It is commonplace for people to be distracted within the dance when the dance does not meet expectations or their looking forward to their next partner. There is always something to be gained from and improved upon with every person you dance with.

Make it happen. Create a connected and positive experience for every partner that you dance with and be totally present within the dance.

What prevented you from not giving up in the early days of dancing Tango? One should remember more often those times when we were first starting out.

What else could you do to encourage others (or not discourage them)?

Argentine Tango Composer, Ricardo Tanturi

Ricardo Tanturi, Argentine Tango Composer

Another figure from the “Golden Age of Tango” during the 1940s is pianist, composer and orchestra leader Ricardo Tanturi. He was born on 27 January 1905 to Italian parents in the Buenos Aires neighbourhood of Barracas, considered one of the poorest areas by the Riachuelo (small river). He first studied the violin under Francisco Alessio, uncle of the famous bandoneonist and director Enrique Alessio. However, Ricardo was convinced to give up the violin and take up the piano instead by his brother, Antonio, pianist and co-director of the Orquesta Típica Tanturi-Petrone.

In 1924, Tanturi launched his professional career at clubs and charity festivals, playing the piano. He also went on to study medicine and graduated with very good marks. While in university, he organised student bands. It was here where he met actor Juan Carlos Thorry, who would become Tanturi’s first orchestra singer.

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Tanturi founded a tango sextet in 1933 to perform at cinemas and theatres. The group was named “Los Indios” after a polo team. He would go onto call all his tango groups by the same name. Each performance always opened with a tango also called “Los Indios.” The tango, however, was composed by Francisco Canaro, but he never recorded it.

Tanturi started making records in 1937, beginning with a record that featured an instrumental version of “Tierrita” by Agustín Bardi, and “A la luz del candil“, with music written by Carlos Vicente Geroni Flores, lyrics by Julio Navarrine, and sung by Carlos Ortega. Tanturi’s greatest star would be Alberto Castillo. The singer seduced crowds with his perfect tune, mastery of pitch and mezza voce. He was a favourite performer thanks to his exaggerated gestures, masculine elegance and neat hairstyle, and intimate but lively mood. Together, Tanturi and Castillo made 37 records before Castillo left the group in 1943.

The new lead singer became Uruguayan Enrique Campo whose style has been described as ‘concerned in communicating with the public’. With Tanturi, Campo recorded 51 songs. The 1943 orchestra was comprised of Armando Posada (piano), Francisco Ferraro, Héctor Gondre, Jose Raúl Iglesias, Emilio Aguirre and Juan Saettone (bandoneons), Armando Husso, Norberto Guzman, Alberto Taido and Vicente Salerno (violins) and Enzo Raschelli, later Ramon Outeda (bass). These line-ups are considered the peak of splendor for Tanturi’s orchestra and, until its dissolution 1951, its main members.

In 1946, Tanturi achieved similar greatness with Osvaldo Ribo. Later on, artists like Roberto Videla, Juan Carlos Godoy and Elsa Rivas were able to revive Tanturi’s popularity. In 1956, Tanturi assembled his final orchestra, which included Armando Posada (piano), Natalio Berardi (double bass), Santos Maggi, Horacio Perri, Ricardo Varela, José Raúl Iglesias and Ezequiel Esteban (bandoneons), Antonio D’Alessandro, Emilio González, Fidel De Luca and Orlando Perri (violins).

Among his most popular tango compositions are “Amigos presente“, “A otra cosa, ché, pebeta” and “Pocas palabras” with lyrics written by Enrique Cadícamo; “Sollozo de bandoneón“, with Enrique Dizeo, and “Ese sos vos“, with Francisco García Jiménez.

Sources: http://www.todotango.com/english/creadores/tanturi.html

http://www.todotango.com/english/history/chronicle/489/Orquesta-Tipica-Ricardo-Tanturi/

Elitism in Argentine Tango Dance

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Dance should not be about competition or elitism, i.e. only dancing with people in your ‘class’ or at your ‘level’. Oftentimes, people will prefer only dancing with other people at their level and going to great lengths to avoid making contact with others they deem unsuitable. This is such a shame, not only for the development of the dance but for their own potential enjoyment possibilities.

From my experience, sometimes, you will dance with an experienced dancer and it will not be enjoyable, whether that be due to lack of physical connection, an energetic disconnection, you don’t connect to the music or maybe one or both of you are simply having a bad day! On a different day, that dance with the same person to the same music may be fabulous.

On the other hand, oftentimes, you can dance with someone who is relatively inexperienced or just beginning as a Tango dancer and yet have a wonderful experience.

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It’s about and allowing yourself to be totally ‘in the dance’ and coming together with another for a moment in time that may last just a few minutes. Your attitude together with your willingness to fully give yourself to the dance will largely dictate the quality of the dance.

Men, Listen with your body! Be aware of the lady’s axis, the position of her weight, her response to your movement and accompany her.

Women, be open to possibilities and allow your body to feel what is invited by the man without any preconceived ideas or expectations and without concern of making a ‘mistake’.

Interview with MARIANO ‘CHICHO’ FRUMBOLI

Mariano 'Chicho' Frumboli, Argentine Tango Dancer
Interview done in Buenos Aires, March 2008 

ATDRC: What were the influences in your life, artistic or personal, that helped you in the development of your style of dancing?

CHICHO FRUMBOLI:  My father had an artistic side that was significant.  He was a fine arts professor, he studied the guitar, and I believe that this had a lot to do with my own artistic development, and creativity.  I also remember that when I was a child my father often listened to Piazzolla, and that was my first contact with the tango; with the music more than anything.  That’s why before I became a dancer, I was a musician.  At the age of 13 I had my first drum set.  Ten years later I began to study theatre with the great teacher and actress, Cristina Banegas. 

I began my study of tango dancing like most people do by learning the basics and the structures of the dance. But all of this was so technical that it started to feel quite limited to me. I was a milonguero, I came from studying with Tete and Maria, which was a style that took into great consideration the physical connection with the person you found yourself dancing with in the moment. I needed to express with my body something more and it was at this time that I found my first tango teacher, Victoria Vieira, before Tete, and she took me to meet Gustavo Naveira who had developed a structure to the dance that I had never seen before. Gustavo and Fabian Salas had a practice group where they researched these new forms and they invited me to participate. This was all completely new for me, I had to re-learn the dance within that new form by listening and watching. In one month-and-a-half I learned what I hadn’t learned in two years. That’s why for me Gustavo Naveira has been the greatest influence in my dancing, and in my early development. Gustavo and Fabian often traveled abroad to teach, while I stayed behind with all of this information, practicing, and waiting for them to return in order to know where to go with all of this new information that was changing my dance. For me, my work with the dance became a very solitary practice. This coincided with my first trip to Europe, where I went to Paris, and I gave workshops in several other cities. I went with the idea of staying one month but ended up staying for 5. During those 5 months, I began to dance occasionally with Lucia Mazer, though I was still dancing with Victoria. When I returned to Buenos Aires, I stayed for 3 months and then returned to Europe because in that moment it was difficult for me to be accepted with this new style of tango that I was dancing, which was not very well received in the world of the traditional tango. When I arrived in Paris, they welcomed me with open arms. They wanted to learn that freedom within the dance, and not fall into the same basic structure that everyone was already familiar with in the tango. It was in that moment where I began working more seriously with Lucia Mazer, and we worked for 4 years together in Paris. Those were the most creative years of my career. I began working with Eugenia Parilla after this period, and we worked together both in Buenos Aires and Paris. She arrived right at the moment where I had processed a huge amount of information that I had not been able to give form to yet, and it was together with Eugenia that I had the most artistic moments of my career. In that moment there appeared a different dynamic of the tango that has to do with using the partner in order to facilitate movements. Up until that point, historically there was always a scenario where there was a lead and the woman followed, but today the connection is works differently. There is much more working with the body of the partner and the woman appears much more as a protagonist in the couple than before. We found a new way of showing ourselves, standing out both singularly and together as a couple in this new dynamic, creating new movements, because even the sacada didn’t exist 7 years ago. 

ATDRC.: What is the order of priority when you think about the woman’s role?

CHICHO:  I don’t think that woman is going to occupy more or less space, if not that the couple takes on more strength and power when it is a couple, with an equality between the two, and today that is really a division of 50/50.  This has to do with the way the man is marking in the moment, if she cannot feel comfortable dancing, then I cannot dance.  If I am only thinking in my own figure, in my step, in my elegance, and I forget completely in my partner and then surely there will be an accident, or a kick or some kind of total disconnection.  If I want to take the movement to create a sacada, I have to communicate to my partner in the gentlest way that we are going to do that particular movement.  To do it gently I have to be subtle in my marking, I can’t mark only with my hands, I have to do a completely corporal marking, or I propose something and she responds but she does it with another proposal and I then follow her.  The strongest thing I achieved with Lucia was this kind of connection and balance.

ATDRC:  Do you think your way of dancing has changed the tango? And if it did, in what way?

CHICHO:  I think that yes in some way my form of dancing has changed the tango, I know this mostly from comments that people make to mean also because of the process I have lived over these past 13 years I have been dancing.  I know that there are people who follow the method which I teach because I see them in the milongas, I see movements that were created by me.

ATDRC:  Do you believe that Tango Nuevo really exists?

CHICHO:  Tango Nuevo does exist, but it has so for a very long time, it’s not from 5 or 10 years back, Copes was dancing a new tango, Miguel Angel Zotto had a new tango, so we can say that there have been periods.  Every once and a while there is someone who appears and proposes something new and that is the new tango of the moment.  To think that ‘Tango Nuevo’ is something that occurred only 10 years ago is a commercial exploitation that we owe to the festival organizers, I don’t think I am doing ‘Tango Nuevo’, I feel that I am dancing tango.  Because today there is a new generation that learned to dance 2,3 or 5 years ago, who only know how to do the new styles, the ganchos, the colgadas, but who are not in contact with everything that came before, and I go to the milongas and I see people that know how to move but that don’t know how to dance, people don’t breathe tango like they did before.

ATDRC: How does the woman influence in this contemporary style of the tango?

CHICHO:  Like I said before, today the woman has a lot more participation. Before the man gave orders with the hand in the back of the woman, or it was all choreographed and the woman had an idea that she had to do everything on her own.  Today it is another playing field, on another level, she has a much greater freedom within what happens inside of the embrace.

ATDRC:  When you dance with a woman does she dance with her own style or is it something that you develop together?

CHICHO: I don’t care with what style she dances, what interests me is that in the moment when we are dancing together, that we are having fun together in the moment, I need to feel good next to that person.

ATDRC:  But the individual style of the woman, does it change when they dance with you?

CHICHO:  Actually, her style changes and mine as well, more than anything because of a need to adapt to one another.  For example, when I danced with Lucia I did things in one way, and when I began to dance with Eugenia she proposed a different way of dancing, and so my body had to adapt itself.  Because it can also be said that the professional dancers dance in one particular way and that the woman who comes to dance with them has to change her style and completely adapt herself to the way he dances, because he is incapable of changing, and that for me is a great error.  Because if they were capable of adapting their dance to a new partner, the tango would go through a much faster evolution.  For me the style is something you search for with your partner, and not something that you find separately. 

ATDRC:  What differences do you find in between the more traditional tango and the tango that is being danced today?

CHICHO:  I believe the greatest difference is exactly that, the space that each one occupies, and to be really dancing as a couple and not as separate entities.  And so, the difference is between dancing a violently marked tango or to be able to dance without barely touching one another.  Because in regards to style they can’t be compared, they are time periods completely different.

ATDRC:  In regards to the music, has it changed or does it have new influences?

CHICHO:  I haven’t heard anything new yet which reflects what a real tango can make you feel.  The dance of today has adapted itself to that kind of music referred to as electronic tango, and it doesn’t fall into the same category as a Pugliese or a Troilo.  The tango was hidden for almost 30 years and that is the emptiness which is present today in the tango.  There are people who are 60 or 70 years of age, and now there are those who are 30 years old, which is saying that there is a 20-year gap within the tango, because there aren’t really that many people in their 40’s and 50’s in the milongas.  I believe that same thing occurred in the music, there was Piazzola and then there was a jump to Gotan Project, directly to Narcotango, and there hasn’t been a musical process that has accompanied the dance through its evolution.  The music hasn’t evolved, it jumped and skipped a very important part of the creativity that is happening in the dance, which continues to grow and evolve creatively.  

ATDRC:  If you had to do a self-critique of your form of dancing, what would you say are your strengths and weaknesses

CHICHO:  I believe that my best qualities have to do with my musicality, and obviously my creativity within that realm.  I began as a musician and I continue to be one.  The music is what moves me on all levels, I need to feel it in order to be able to dance, and I believe that is visible in my dancing.  And I believe my weakness has to do with my inhibition, I still don’t feel that I have exploited and showed everything I have to show, almost as if I haven’t been able to give myself completely as I would like to.

ATDRC:  There are people who belong to a more traditional style of tango, who think that what you do isn’t tango.  What do you think in regards to those kinds of comments?

CHICHO:  I can’t talk to someone who thinks that way, because I believe that they haven’t understood anything, and they haven’t understood what the tango is.  I am more interested in what it is that really touches people, and the recognition that I have received, I am not interested in sharing that with other professionals

ATDRC:  How do you see your career unfolding in the future?

CHICHO:  I think that everything I do from now on until my last days on this earth will have to do with something artistic, today that is the tango, tomorrow that can be something else that allows me to express myself artistically.

ATDRC:  To start wrapping this up, what do you think about the direction the tango is beginning to take, socially and artistically?

CHICHO:  I think it is a very critical moment, there are many new young people who are beginning to dance today and if we as teachers can’t transmit what was taught to us as the essence of tango when we began, the tango will be lost, because the essence will be lost, and therefore losing its foundations.  The most important element is to keep the tanguero essence alive, the style doesn’t matter, but that the people are really dancing the tango.  Today the road is confusing, it’s in this space where or it either takes a turn towards modern dance or it continues being tango.  Today people are dancing tango, but they are not living the tanguero essence, they don’t love the tango.

ATDRC:  Do you think the large and increasing interest that foreigners have in the tango is affecting the dance?

CHICHO:  My idea, and that of Gustavo Naveira and Fabian Salas as well, was always that the tango needed to be popular in the world.  Obviously, it is born from one country and has its origins, but it needs to be universal.  It cannot belong only to Buenos Aires. There is no way to prevent this expansion from happening, as every day more and more people are dancing tango in every part of the world.

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The Magic Hands of Rodolfo Biagi (Argentine Tango Composer)

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Tango composer, pianist and orchestra leader Rodolfo Biagi was given the nickname “Manos Brujas (Spellbinding or Magic Hands)” for his energetic and easily recognizable rhythmic style.

Biagi was born on 14 March 1906 in Buenos Aires and gave up his studies after finishing grammar school. The young Biagi wished to devote himself entirely to music. Naturally, his parents disagreed, but they struck a deal. Biagi’s parents would buy the violin he wanted, but he had to enter the Escuela Normal de Profesores Mariano Acosta. Biagi, however, was drawn to the piano when he was enrolled at the conservatory of the newspaper “La Prensa.”

At thirteen years old, without his parents’ knowledge, Biagi made his debut as a pianist, playing the musical background for silent films at a local cinema. One evening, the maestro Juan Maglio had been to that very cinema and was impressed upon hearing the pianist. Maglio invited Biagi, then only fifteen, to play with him. Biagi later on would join the orchestra of bandoneonist Miguel Orlando at the cabaret Maipú Pigall.

By 1930, at the age of 24, Biagi was approached by José Razzano to accompany the famous tango singer, Carlos Gardel on some recordings. On the first of April of that year, Biagi recorded the tangos, “Viejo smoking”, “Buenos Aires” and “Aquellas farras”, the foxtrot “Yo seré para ti, tu serás para mí” and the waltz “Aromas de El Cairo” with the violinist Antonio Rodio and the guitarists Aguilar, Barbieri and Riverol. Gardel invited Biagi to join him on a tour of Spain, but Biagi declined.

He then joined several other orchestras, the Juan Bautista Guido orchestra and the orchestra of Juan Canaro. He met Juan Carlos Thorry during his time with the latter and composed with him the tango “Indiferencia.” Working with Canaro brought Biagi to Brazil and upon his comeback, Biagi left Canaro’s orchestra. Biagi remained inactive for a time, during which he was a frequent patron of the cabaret Chantecler, where his friend Juan D’Arienzo played. D’Arienzo’s pianist, Lidio Fasoli, was notoriously late for everything and one evening, D’Arienzo asked Biagi to replace him.

Biagi and D’Arienzo worked together for three years and during this time, Biagi established his defining style of playing. The D’Arienzo orchestra was a popular and successful group, appearing on the radio, at balls and clubs, going on tours and performing for Enrique Santos Discépolo’s movie “Melodías porteñas.”

When Biagi split with D’Arienzo, he put together his own orchestra, which made their debut on 16 September 1938 at the cabaret Marabu. His and D’Arienzo’s orchestras were crucial in the traditional positions of tango interpretation. Biagi had a show on Radio Belgrano which launched his nickname of “Manos Brujas” when he played a foxtrot by Jose Maria Aguilar at the beginning of each show. Biagi’s orchestra was the first to appear on Argentine television in the early fifties. His tango group saw many talents, including singers Jorge Ortiz, Alberto Lago, Alberto Amor and Carlos Acuña. Musicians such as Alfredo Attadía, Miguel Bonano, Ricardo Pedevilla, Marcos Larrosa, Claudio González and Oscar de la Fuente were also involved. Biagi performed for the last time in public on 2 August 1969 at the Hurlingham Club. Forty-one days later, on 24 September, he passed away from an extreme drop in blood pressure.

Argentine Tango Singer – Roberto Goyeneche, ‘El Polaco’

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While the Argentine tango singer Roberto Emilio Goyeneche was nicknamed ‘El Polaco’ (‘the Pole’) for his blond hair and thinness like Polish immigrants of the time, he was actually of Basque descent. He is considered to have epitomised the bohemian life of 1950s Buenos Aires.

Goyeneche was born on 29 January 1926 in the neighbourhood of Saavedra in Buenos Aires. His career in music began in 1944, when he was 18 years old. After winning a local contest, Goyeneche joined the orchestra of Raul Kaplun. His debut performance was broadcast on Radio Belgrano. He then went on to sing with Angel Diaz for Horacio Salgan’s orchestra. It was Diaz who gave Goyeneche the nickname ‘El Polaco.’

In 1956, Anibal Troilo, a dear friend and a bandleader with an eye for talent, hired Goyeneche to join his orchestra. Together, they recorded 26 songs. In 1963 he started his solo career, which had the highlight of Goyeneche being the first singer to record Astor Piazzolla’s ‘Balada Para un Loco’ (‘Ballad for the Crazy One’). He continued to sing under other great maestros of the time, such as Armando Pontier, Raúl Garello, Atilio Stampone, Baffa-Berlingieri and many others. Goyeneche later reunited with Troilo to record two LPs, ‘El Polaco y yo’ (‘The Pole and I’) and ‘¿Te acordás Polaco?’ (‘Do You Remember Polish?’)

Goyeneche had the reputation of being a singer like no other. His diction was deemed perfect, even in the later years of his life. He was expressive in his phrasing and added particular details to his recordings and performances which made him a unique vocalist. He had his way of handling accents and silence, he delayed some words of the lyrics, he would intimately whisper a line–all of which made him exceptional and easily recognisable.

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Goyeneche was also considered a singer who was a respectful interpreter of the tango rhythm during a period when soloists mixed with ballads or other sophisticated songs with a tango influence. He recorded hits like ‘El Motivo’ (‘The Motive’), ‘La última curda’ (‘The Final Curse’), ‘Naranjo en Flor’ (‘Orange Blossom’), ‘Qué Solo Estoy’ (‘How Lonely I Am’), ‘Lejana Tierra Mía’ (‘Far Away From My Land’), ‘Volvió una Noche’ (‘He Returned One Night’), ‘Pompas de Jabón’ (‘Soap Bubbles’), ‘Afiches’ (‘Posters’), ‘Maquillaje’ (‘Makeup’), ‘Malena,’ ‘Soy un arlequín’ (‘I’m A Harlequin’), ‘Maria,’ ‘Garua’ (‘Drizzle’), ‘Cuando Tallan los Recuerdos’ (‘When They Carve Memories’), and ‘Ya Vuelvo’ (‘I’ll Be Right Back’).

He toured internationally, with notable performances like singing in the ‘Tango Argentino’ at City Centre in 1985 and in Paris in 1987.

Even in the 1980s, Goyeneche was still an active performer, appearing as a special guest in movies like ‘El Exilio de Gardel’ (‘The Exile of Gardel’) and ‘Sur’ (‘South’) directed by Fernando Solanas.

Goyeneche died of kidney and heart failure on 27 August 1994 in Buenos Aires. He is considered one of the greatest tango singers of all time. He made more than 100 records over his 40-year career. An avenue of his childhood neighbourhood of Saavedra is named after him.