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.


The Magic Hands of Rodolfo Biagi (Argentine Tango Composer)

Oblivion, Argentine Tango Song

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.

Tango Composer – Osvaldo Fresedo, ‘The Kid from La Paternal’

Miguel Calo, Argentine Tango Composer

As his nickname suggests, tango songwriter and orchestra director Osvaldo Nicolas Fresedo grew up in La Paternal, Buenos Aires, Argentina. He happens to have the longest recording career in tango, spanning from 1925 to 1980. In the course of 55 years, he made 1,250 recordings.

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Fresedo was born on 5 May 1897 into a middle-class family and coming from a wealthy background influenced his artistry. His music was a favourite of the upper-class and aristocratic folks. Fresedo was not born in La Paternal, but his family moved to the somewhat humble neighbourhood when he was ten years old. There, he learned to play the bandoneon.

In 1913, Fresedo started out with public performances with a trio of other youngsters, including his brother, Emilio, who played the violin. They served as entertainment at local parties and played at neighbourhood cafes. This was around the time he was regarded as “El Pibe de la Paternal” or “the kid from La Paternal.”

Two major tango stars became Fresedo’s friends and invited him to play. First was Eduardo Arolas at Montmartre cabaret and Roberto Firpo at the Royal Pigall. In 1916, Fresedo formed a bandoneon duet with Vicente Loduca and recorded the tango “Amoniaco.” A later collaboration with pianist Juan Carlos Cobian would prove to be pivotal for the tango orchestra evolution of the 1920s. He was considered one of the great tango innovators of the 1920s, along with Cobian and Julio de Caro. Their style was characterised refined taste, legatos, nuances and pianos solos aimed for the upper-class. This would become known as the tango of the “New Guard” or “Guardia Nueva.”

Fresedo then went to assemble his own group, first with pianist José María Rizzutti and the violinist Julio De Caro, but they would later become a sextet. In 1921, Fresedo travelled to Camden, New Jersey in the United States for the Victor company. Other musicians on this trip included the pianist Enrique Delfino and the violinist Tito Roccatagliata. During this time, they recorded a few albums with a quartet. Upon his return to Buenos Aires, Fresedo reassembled his sextet. He joined Carlos Gardel on two recordings: the tangos “Perdón, viejita” (composed by Fresedo himself) and “Fea.”

By 1927, Fresedo was so successful that he managed to keep five different orchestras running at the same time. Fresedo worked tirelessly. From 1925 to 1928, he recorded about 600 pieces for the label Odeon. Fresedo’s second era began when he left Odeon and started a larger orchestra with a new style. Roberto Ray, perhaps the most well-known vocalist for Fresedo, joined him during this time. Their recordings are among the most memorable in tango, such as “Vida Mia“, “Como Aquella Princesa” and “Isla de Capri.”

When the 1940s began, a new generation of musicians with new styles rose up. Fresedo tried to adapt, but his style was critiqued for losing the strength of his initial style. His orchestrations became slower, but Fresedo continued to record through the 1930s and 1940s. Fresedo continued to lead orchestras until his retirement in 1980.

Argentine Tango Composer, Miguel Calo

Miguel Calo, Argentine Tango Composer

Miguel Calo was one of those Argentine bandoneon player, composer and orchestra leaders who lived through the so-called “Golden Age of Tango” and is one of the genre’s most popular musicians. Calo was born on 28 October 1907 in Balvanera in Buenos Aires. The young Calo studied how to play the violin and bandoneon.

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In 1929, at the age of 22, Calo formed his first orchestra, which he later dissolved to join the orchestra of Catulo Castillo. Calo and the pianist and poet toured Spain together. They were also joined by musicians Ricardo and Alfredo Malerba and the singer Roberto Maida. When Calo returned home to Buenos Aires, he formed a second orchestra of his own, this time with the bandoneonist Domingo Cuestas, the violinists Domingo Varela Conte, Hugo Gutiérrez, and Enrique Valtri, the contrabassist Enzo Ricci, and the pianist Luis Brighenti. Once more, Calo left the group to join another, Osvaldo Fresedo’s, and go on tour abroad to the United States.

The first stage of his musical evolution is considered to have been around 1934, when Calo yet again formed another orchestra. His style at the time has been compared to Fresedo’s and the sound reminiscent of Carlos Di Sarli. The group’s pianist was Miguel Nijensohn and Carlos Dante lent his vocals on occasion, doing 18 recordings with them. Other singers included Alberto Morel and Robert Calo.

It was in the 1940s that Calo showed his maturity as a great director. He assembled talented and professional young musicians, all of whom would later organise their own groups. His style during this era was highlighted by violins, a rhythmic bandoneon section and the piano. The latter was played in the first year by Osmar Maderna, who was then replaced with the return of Nijensohn.

Other notable musicians who became part of the line-up included Domingo Federico, Armando Pontier, Carlos Lazzari, Eduardo Rovira, Julián Plaza, José Cambareri (bandoneons), Enrique Francini, Antonio Rodio, Nito Farace (violins), Ariel Pedernera and Juan Fassio (double bass). He helped debut great singers like Raúl Berón, Alberto Podestá and Raúl Iriarte.

Although he’s a great orchestra leader, his compositions are considered as not entirely remarkable. However, some beautiful works of his are “Jamás retornarás” and “Qué te importa que te llore,” both sung by Raul Beron. Other popular songs of his are “Dos fracasos”, with lyrics by Homero Expósito and the milonga “Cobrate y dame el vuelto” whose lyrics were by Enrique Dizeo.

In 1961, Calo reunited with some members of his old line-up from the 1940s. These included the bandoneonists Armando Pontier and Domingo Federico, the violinists Enrique Francini and Hugo Baralis, on piano Orlando Trípodi, and the singers Raúl Berón and Alberto Podestá. The group was called Miguel Caló y su Orquesta de las Estrellas (Miguel Calo and his All-Stars Orchestra). They played on one of the most powerful radios in Argentina, Radio El Mundo.

Calo passed away on 24 may 1972. Still, his influence lingers. In 2016, nearly 45 years later, the record “Siguen Los Exitos de La Orquesta de Miguel Calo” placed in the Top Ten in the Latin Pop Albums, number 48 at Top Latin Albums, and 25 on the Jazz Albums charts.

Argentine Tango Composer, Lucio Demare

Argentine Tango Song, Poema,

Composer, orchestra director and musician Lucio Demare was born on 9 August 1906 in Buenos Aires to a family of entertainers. His father, Domingo Demare, was a violinist and brother Lucas, would become a prolific film director. Young Lucio first devoted himself to the bandoneon and then to the piano. He studied the latter with Italian pianist and music teacher Vicente Scaramuzza.

As early as eight years old, Demare was playing the piano in movie theaters, accompanying silent films. By eleven years old, he was hired to play for the singer María Magdalena Nile del Río or better known was “Imperio Argentina.” He joined an orchestra fronted by bandoneonist Nicolas Verona and together, they debuted his pasados “Flores de mi tierra” and “Banderillas al cabre” and foxtrots “Potencia” and “Mister Bohr.”

In 1926, Demare joined the jazz orchestra of Eleuterio Iribarren and it was around this time that he began to study the aspects of tango, composing the songs, “La comadrona” and “Rio de oro.” He categorised these as “tango romanza.” That same year, Francisco Canaro summoned Demare to join his group in Paris. There, Demare premiered the tangos “Dandy” and “Mañanitas de Montmartre” with lyrics by Agustín Irusta and Roberto Fugazot in the cabaret Les Ambassadeurs.

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Demare split from Canaro in 1927 to form his own group with singers Agustin Irusta and Roberto Fugazo. The trio made their debut at Teatro Maravillas in Madrid. The three of them went to star in some Spanish films. In the 1933 film “Boliche,” Demare played a blind musician. According to Demare himself, the three of them “never saw a dime” for their work as the movie distributor took it all. They had two long and successful tours across Central and South America, then had a second European season. In 1936, Demare finally returned to Buenos Aires.

He continued to do musical work in the movies, though, and was repeatedly awarded by Argentina’s Academia de Artes y Ciencias Cinematográficas (Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) Municipalidad de Buenos Aires. His brother Lucas directed the 1942 film “El viejo Hucha,” which Lucio made musical, premiering the tango “Malena.” The brothers worked together again that same year, when Lucas directed “La guerra gaucha,” which won first prize from the Municipalidad de Buenos Aires and distinction from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences of Argentina.

His trio act with Irusta and Fugazo made a brief reappearance, performing with Canaro in the comedy film “Mal de amores” and playing the piano for Canaro’s orchestra when he had two pianists at the same time.

By 1938, Demare put together his own orchestra, teaming up with Elvino Vardaro. The following year, he and Varadaro parted, but Demare continued his career as bandleader. He recorded 62 numbers with singers Juan Carlos Miranda, Raúl Berón and Horacio Quintana.

Demare’s final years as a professional saw him as a soloist at the nightclub Cambalache with the singer Tania. His final venture was the Angiería Malena al Sur that he founded in the Giuffra passage in the Buenos Aires neighbourhood of San Telmo. On 6 March 1974, Demare passed away in the sanatorium where he had been admitted to two weeks before. He had been ill for months, but in his obituary, he was described as “sick, weak, but not yet beaten.”

Tango Composer, Julio De Caro

Julio De Caro, Argentine Tango Composer

Violinist, orchestra leader and composer Julio De Caro was a prominent figure in tango, so much so that his style is considered the supreme guide to tango interpretation.

Tango Composer, Julio De Caro

De Caro was born on 11 December 1899 in Buenos Aires in the neighbourhood of Balvanera to an Italian family of 12 children. Their father Jose Guiseppe De Caro De Sica was the director of the Conservatory in the Teatro della Scala de Milano and wished for his sons to attend university and receive formal musical instruction. Their father also ran a conservatory in the San Telmo district and it was known as the city’s best source for music, instruments and lessons. Julio would study the piano and his brother Francisco, the violin. However, the boys exchanged instruments and devoted themselves to tango, much to the horror of their family.

In 1915, Julio obtained a spot as second violinist for a performance at the Lorea Theatre. Eduardo Arolas, the “Bandoneon Tiger,” was an artistic godfather to De Caro and included him in his orchestra. De Caro’s 1917 performance at the Palais de Glace elicited a standing ovation that Arolas offered him a permanent position in the orchestra. Under Arolas, he wrote his first tango, “Mon beguin.” The elder De Caro did not care for popular music like tango and eventually forced the 18-year-old De Caro out of the house. Francisco followed, joining Arolas’ group as well.

De Caro would later go on to play with other noted musicians, such as Ricardo Luis Brignolo, the pianist José María Rizzuti, the bandoneon player Osvaldo Fresedo, the pianist Enrique Delfino and the Uruguayan bandoneonist Minotto Di Cicco also known as “Mano brava.”

By 1923, De Caro joined Juan Carlos Cobian’s sextet. Towards the end of that year, when Cobian traveled to the United States, Julio assembled his own sextet and reunited with his brother Francisco. They had a successful New Year’s Eve performance, resulting in lucrative contracts. In 1925, the Julio De Caro Orchestra played for Edward, the Prince of Wales and later that year, American jazz bandleader Paul Whiteman introduced Julio to the Stroh violin. This particular violin had a cornet horn on one end and was invented for radio performances.

The orchestra went on to tour France, performing at Nice’s Palais de la Méditerranée, for Prince Umberto di Savoia, for the Rothschilds’ galas, and for Paramount Studios in the making of “Luces de Buenos Aires” starring Carlos Gardel. In 1936, they presented an “Evolution of Tango” at the Teatro Opera, where Julio and Francisco’s ageing parents made a surprise visit, resulting in a family reconciliation.

De Caro’s tango is considered to have maintained the essence of the tango that originated in the slums and managing to reconcile the folk roots with the pro-European influence. Among his most fundamental compositions are “Boedo,” “Tierra guenda,” “Colombina,” “Copacobana,” “Chiclana,” “El arranque,” “El bajel,” “El monito,” “Guardia vieja,” “La rayuela,” “Loca ilusion,” “Mala junta,” “Mala pinta,” “Mi queja,” “Moulin rouge,” “Orgullo criollo,” “Tierra querida,” “Tiny,” and “Todo corazon.”

The 11th of December is considered the Day of Tango, which happens to be the birthdays of De Caro and Gardel.

Tango Composer, Edgardo Donato

Edgardo Donato, Argentine Tango Composer

Argentine orchestra conductor, composer and violinist Edgardo Donato is most remembered by the tangos “A media luz” and “Julian.” “A media luz” is one of the three tangos with the most recordings in the world.

The musician was born Edgardo Felipe Valerio Donato on 14 April 1897 in San Cristobal, Buenos Aires to Italian parents. The family moved to Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, when he was still a child. The young Donato was born into music. His father, Ernesto Denato, played the mandolin, switched to violoncello and conducted a chamber orchestra in Montevideo. Edgardo had eight other siblings and two of them were also musicians. Ascanio was a cellist and composer and Osvaldo a pianist and composer as well.

Donato first studied music with his father and then at the Franz Liszt conservatory. He began his professional work at 21 in the opera field with his father. The scene was very stiff and serious, but Donato soon broke free and joined the orchestra of bandoneonist Negro Quevedo. In 1922, his first hit, the tango “Julian” was created with lyricist Jose Panizza. The tango was dedicated to the Uruguayan leader Julian Gonzalez. The tango is notably humorous and erotic and Donato initially had trouble editing and selling it, initially at 20 pesos. It was finally launched to great success by actress and singer Iris Marga and the recording of Rosita Quiroga.

His second famous tango, “A media luz” (“At Half Light”) was composed in 1925 and premiered in Montevideo on the musical revue “Su majestad la revista,” with the voice of the Chilean vedette Lucy Clory. Donato said he composed the tango while riding a streetcar. The tango would later be recorded by tango legends Roberto Firpo, Francisco Canaro and Carlos Gardel.

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In 1927, Donato formed his own orchestra, Orquesta Típica criolla Donato-Zerrillo. They debuted in Montevideo on 14 July 1927 and was hired to play for the Select Lavalle cinema theater of Buenos Aires for a season. However, after a brief tour in 1930, the group dissolved. But a new orchestra was soon formed with bandoneonists Juan Turturiello, Vicente Vilardi and Miguel Bonano, violinist Armando Julio Piovani and Pascual Humberto Martínez, string bassist Jose Campesi, and on cello his brother Ascanio.

The 1933 film “Tango!” featured Donato’s orchestra. The film was the first ‘talkie’ complete with soundtrack in the history of Argentine cinema. In 1944, aside from his orchestra, Donato formed a quartet, Los Caballeros del Recuerdo. He returned to cinema in 1948 with “Pelota del trapo” (“Rag Ball”).

Donato was known for being absent-minded. “He lived on the moon,” some people said about him. Even his daughter shared a story that her father, while riding a streetcar, bumped into a friend and became so engrossed in their chat that they got off the car together. After walking for some time, Donato realised he had been traveling with his wife but she had not gotten off the car with him. One other story goes that Donato mentioned he would like Adolfo Rivas to join his orchestra, but the singer was already in the group. Donato passed away on 15 February 1963 from acute myocardial infarction.

Anibal Troilo, The Man Behind ‘The Troilo Sound’

Anibal Troilo, Argentine Tango Composer

“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.”

Tango Composer, Angel D’Agostino

Angel D'Agostino, Argentine Tango Composer

Argentine tango orchestra leader and pianist Angel D’Agostino did not achieve the same recognition as the likes of Anibal Troilo, Carlos Di Sarli, Osvaldo Fresedo or Juan D’Arienzo, but he was still a respected and admired figure in tango. D’Agostino was one half of “Los Dos Angeles” (“The Two Angels”). Jose Angel Lomio or Angel Vargas the singer of the two was also called “El Ruiseñor de las Calles Porteñas” (“The Nightingale of the Buenos Aires Streets”).

Before he became a professional in the tango scene, he was born Angel Domingo Emilio D’Agostino on 25 May 1900 in Buenos Aires. He was born into music, with a father and uncles who were all musicians. There was a piano at home that grew up playing often. Musicians Manuel Aróztegui and Adolfo Bevilacqua were frequent visitors and the latter’s tango, “Independencia,” made its debut at D’Agostino’s home in 1910. The young D’Agostino studied at a conservatory and even played in public. Their group was a trio, which included his neighbour Juan D’Arienzo. They were infantile at the time and when they weren’t paid for their performance at the Zoological Garden, they started a fire, which was soon put out.

D’Agostino quit high school, choosing to focus on music. He played for aristocratic families’ parties and at a night local, where he tried different rhythms, like ragtime. In 1920, he assembled his first orchestra, playing a mix of tango and jazz. One of his musicians was Agesilao Ferrazzano, considered by D’Agostino as the best tango violinist. Others included Juan D’Arienzo, Anselmo Aieta and Ciriaco Ortiz. When silent films were playing, D’Agostino’s group was one of the first orchestras to play at the cinemas.

The cabaret Palais de Glace, among others, hired his orchestra group, but they never went on tour. Supposedly, this was due to D’Agostino’s mysterious behaviour. He was something of a character in Buenos Aires. He was a skilled gambler and stubborn bachelor. Eva Peron once gifted him a clock, one of three of a unique design.

Tango - Angel D'agostino and Angel VargasIn 1932, D’Agostino met Angel Vargas, but they did not team up until 1940. Together, they recorded 93 pieces. In 1934, D’Agostino collaborated with Aníbal Troilo and the singer Alberto Echagüe to form an orchestra strictly dedicated to tango. There was also a time during the 1930s when he performed in an orchestra under the name “Carlo Vargas.”

D’Agostino’s style has been described as “folk-like” and “simple,” but he succeeded because of his clear language and simplicity. Angel Vargas’ voice, considered sweet and charismatic, allowed for an expression that made the audience understand the lyrics. D’Agostino himself described his style: “I shaped my orchestras with two conceptions that I never gave up: respect for the melodic line and rhythmic emphasis to make the dancing easier. When the singer breaks into the scene and displaces the musician from the spotlight, the orchestra was structured in such a way that music and singing did not interrupt the possibility of dancing. For that, the singer had to turn into one more instrument, a privileged instrument, but not apart.”

On 16 January 1991, D’Agostino passed away. He promised his friends he would die alone and he kept it.

Juan D’Arienzo, ‘King of the Beat’

Juan D'Arienzo, Argentine Tango Composer

‘El Rey del Compas’ (‘King of the Beat’ or ‘Rhythm King’) was what they called Juan D’Arienzo back in the Golden Era of tango. According to D’Arienzo himself, it was the famous singer and composer Angel Sanchez Carreño, a.k.a ‘Principe Cubano’ (‘Cuban Prince’)

“The nickname Rey del Compás (Rhythm King) was given to me at the Florida cabaret, the old Dancing Florida. There Osvaldo Fresedo played, while I performed at the Chantecler, which belonged to the same owners. Back around 1928 or 1930 I met the famous Príncipe Cubano (Cuban Prince), who was the show announcer. Julio Jorge Nelson was there, too. That happened when I replaced Fresedo at the Florida. The pianist was Juan Carlos Howard. It was on those days that Príncipe Cubano had the idea of calling me Rey del Compás, because of the style I had.”

But before his rise to tango fame, D’Arienzo was actually interested in jazz as a young boy. He started playing the violin at 12, and later the piano. The eldest of three children, his younger siblings were also musically skilled. Ernani was a drummer and pianist, while Josephine a pianist and a soprano. Despite this, their father, Don Alberto D’Arienzo had many disagreements with young Juan about taking up law. Juan wanted to pursue music, his father wanted him to be the owner of a major agricultural production plant. However, his mother Amalia, encouraged Juan and sent him to the Mascagni Conservatory when Juan was 8 years old.

Tango Lessons near meD’Arienzo started playing tango at 18 and by 1919, he was considered successful enough that the Teatro Nacional (National Theatre) took him in. He premiered with the Arata-Simari-Franco company, performing ‘El Cabaret Montmartre’, a comic play by Alberto Novión. D’Arienzo did not abandon his interest in jazz, though. Through the 1920s, the last few years of silent films, D’Arienzo played at theaters like Select Lavalle and the Real Cine.

In 1926, he returned to tango, playing at the Paramount with Luisito Visca and Angel D’Agostino. D’Arienzo says of the experience, “There I started to polish the style that later was distinctly mine, that one of highlighting the piano and the fourth string of the background played by Alfredo Mazzeo.”

The Golden Age of tango was from 1935 to 1955 and has been closely linked to D’Arienzo. While playing a new tango called ‘La Puñalada,’ the orchestra pianist Rodolfo Biagi recommends they change the 4/8 beat to a milonga of 2/4. D’Arienzo initially disagrees, but that night, he arrived late and found his orchestra playing the tango to this new style.

“July 9, the public danced with such gusto that when the crowd, shouting and clapping, asked D’Arienzo to continue with that new style, the director had no other choice but to play it all night.”

D’Arienzo’s style caught the attention of the youth, which reinvigorated the tango scene.

Young people like me. They like my tangos because they are rhythmic, nervous up-tempos. Youth are after that: happiness, movement. If you play for them a melodic tango and out of beat, they won’t like it,” said D’Arienzo.

D’Arienzo recorded more than 1,000 tangos, milongas and fast valses, and composed 46 tangos. He passed away on January 14, 1976 and is buried at the La Chacarita Cemetery in Buenos Aires.