Francisco Canaro, A True Star of Tango

Canaro, Francisco

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.

Carlos Di Sarli, The Lord of Tango

Argentine Tango Lessons near me

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.

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/

The Origin of La Cumparsita

Gerardo Matos Rodriguez

Would you believe a 17-year-old composed one of the most recognizable and most recorded tangos of all time? That’s what happened in 1916, when teenager Gerardo Hernan “Becho” Matos Rodríguez had his friend Manuel Barca show Orchestra Roberto Firpo his music.

In his own words, Firpo said of that fateful evening on February 8, “One night at The Giralda, a famous and classic cafe in Montevideo, a young boy–likeable but somewhat timid–approached me and asked if he could talk to me for a few minutes… He left a very modest score with me. It was ‘La Cumparsita.’ I played it on the piano and liked it. After some adjustments to the score I released it with extraordinary success, as much due to the fact that it was a great tango as the fact that its author was a boy of Montevideo. When I returned to Buenos Aires, I released it in the cafes, and Montevideo’s success was repeated.”

Gerardo Matos RodriguezRodriguez was born on April 25,1948 in Montevideo, Uruguay and was the son of the owner of the popular local cabaret Moulin Rouge. He was studying architecture around the time he composed ‘La Cumparsita,” which he wrote on the piano of the Federación de Estudiantes of Uruguay. The tango, whose title translates to “the little parade,” was first played in public in the old Café La Giralda in Montevideo, where the Museum of Montevideo now stands.

Several months after first reading the music, Firpo, in November of 1916, recorded the song for Odeon Records. It was, however, recorded as a B-side and received little success. For many years it was forgotten until on June 6, 1924, at the theatre “A Program of a Night Club.” Each play set their scenes to forgotten tangos and one in particular, involved Juan Ferrari, Enrique Maroni and Pascual Cortusi adding words to ‘La Cumparsita.’ They renamed the song ‘Si Supieras’ (‘If You Know’) without consent from Rodriguez. This version immediately became a hit.

Rodriguez learned of the song’s popularity through orchestra leader Francisco Canaro while they were in Paris. Canaro himself played ‘Si Supieras’ and told Rodriguez, “I told him how it had resurged again and how it was the rage by all orchestras; that Paschal Contursi and Enrique P. Maroni had composed a very pretty scene and adapted to the score and that Carlitos sang it to Gardel with extraordinary success”

What followed was two decades of court battles over royalties. Rodriguez was able to have the song revert its title to ‘La Cumparsita.’ Canaro came up with a binding agreement in 1948, putting an end to the lawsuits. The estates of Contursi and his business partner Enrique Maroni would get 20 percent of all royalties, while the remaining 80 percent would go to the estate of Rodriguez. Future sheet music prints would show lyrics in addition to Rodriguez’ original, lesser known ones.

The original version by Rodriguez:
La cumparsita
de miserias sin fin desfila
en torno de aquel ser enfermo
que pronto ha de morir
de pena.

Por eso
es que en su lecho
solloza acongojado
recordando el pasado
que lo hace padecer.

The little masquerade
of endless miseries parades
around that sickly being
that soon will have died
of shame.

That’s why
on his (death) bed
he sobs, grieving
remembering the past
that causes him this suffering.

Maroni and Contursi’s version:

Si supieras,
que aun dentro de mi alma,
conservo aquel cariño
que tuve para ti…
Quien sabe si supieras
que nunca te he olvidado,
volviendo a tu pasado
te acordaras de mi…

Los amigos ya no vienen
ni siquiera a visitarme,
nadie quiere consolarme
en mi afliccion…
Desde el dia que te fuiste
siento angustias en mi pecho,
deci, percanta, que has hecho
de mi pobre corazon?

Sin embargo,
yo siempre te recuerdo
con el cariño santo
que tuve para ti.
Y estas en todas partes
pedazo de mi vida,
y aquellos ojos que fueron mi alegria
los busco por todas partes
y no los puedo hallar.

Al cotorro abandonado
ya ni el sol de la mañana
asoma por la ventana
como cuando estabas vos,
y aquel perrito compañero
que por tu ausencia no comia,
al verme solo el otro dia tambien me dejo.

If you knew,
that still within my soul,
I keep the love
I had for you…
Who knows, if you knew
that I never forgot you,
returning to your past,
you would remember me…

The friends do not come
not even to visit me,
nobody wants to console me.
in my affliction…
Since the day you left
I feel anguish in my chest,
tell me, woman, what have you done
with my poor heart?

Nevertheless,
I always remember you
with the holy love
that I had for you.
And you are everywhere,
piece of my life,
and those eyes that were my happiness
I search for them everywhere
and I can’t find them.

To the abandoned bedroom
now not even the morning sun
shows through the window
the way as when you were there,
and that little dog [our] partner
that because of your absence would not eat
on seeing me alone the other day also left me.

Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_cumparsita
https://prezi.com/shdgwbtkys5x/history-of-la-cumparsita/
http://www.verytangostore.com/la-cumparsita.html

The Dark Side of Canaro’s ‘Poema’

Tango Lessons near me

Canaro, FranciscoFrancisco Canaro’s 1935 recording of the tango ‘Poema’ is considered to be a favourite at milongas (dance salons). Composed by Mario Malfi and lyrics by Eduardo Bianco, this particular recording is sung by Roberto Maida. It has been described as “gently melancholic” and “softly nostalgic.” But, the tango has a darker side to it.

Tango DJ Hermann Nemolyakin has provided us with a deeper insight into ‘Poema.’ Nemolyakin says, “Poema’s lack of acceptance in Buenos Aires wasn’t helped by the dark political undertones of its story, and the fact that its lyrics are a thinly veiled confession of a banished murderer.” Read the lyrics for yourself and see if you can decipher mystery lying under the romantic words.

Poema

Fué un ensueño de dulce amor,

horas de dicha y de querer,

fué el poema de ayer,

que yo soñé,

de dorado color,

vanas quimeras del corazón,

no logrará descifrar jamás,

nido tan fugaz,

fue un ensueño de amor y adoración.

 

Cuando las flores de tu rosal,

vuelvan mas bellas a florecer,

recordarás mi querer,

y has de saber,

todo mi intenso mal.

 

De aquel poema embriagador,

ya nada queda entre los dos,

doy mi triste adiós,

sentiras la emoción,

de mi dolor…

 

Poem

It was a sweet dream of love,

hours of joy and hope.

Yesterday was a golden poem I dreamed,

a vain construction of my heart

that I can never rebuild.

So quickly lost are

our dreams of love.

 

When the roses in your garden flower again

you may remember my love,

and understand my sadness and my pain.

 

Of our intoxicating poem

nothing remains,

So accept my last goodbye

and for one moment

remember all the passion and the pain…

To further understand ‘Poema,’ one must first understand the life of the composer. Bianco was an Argentine who lived in Europe for nearly 20 years. He succeeded in making the Argentine Tango sound Parisian. As for the origin of ‘Poema,’ the story goes that Bianco and Melfi, along with some band members, composed it on a train during a 1932 tour of Germany.

So, did Bianco commit murder? Apparently, in 1924, Bianco was first violinist for an orchestra, which had played at the Teatro Apolo. He learned that the orchestra’s pianist and Bianco’s wife were secretly having an affair. Desperate and jealous, Bianco shot the man. He was jailed and tried but was eventually acquitted thanks to his political connections. Bianco would later leave for Europe, touring successfully for a number of years, performing for kings and heads of states.

Perhaps even darker than being a murder confession, ‘Poema,’ another Bianco composition, ‘Plegaria,’ has been called the ‘Tango of Death’ and it has to do with Bianco’s Nazi-sympathizing associates and praise from the führer himself.

Bianco became friendly with Eduardo Labougle Carranza, the Argentine ambassador for Third Reich Berlin and a staunch anti-semite. Supposedly, both convinced Reich Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels that tango should replace the “racially tainted” jazz music. When Bianco and his orchestra performed before Adolf Hitler, the führer demanded an encore of ‘Plegaria.’ The Nazi leader would find a morbid use for the tango and, in the Auschwitz concentration camp, the prisoner band would be ordered to play it as prisoners were led to the gas chambers. Hence its name, ‘Tango of Death.’

During World War II, Argentina attempted to remain neutral, a cause pioneered by Bianco’s ambassador friend, Labougle. Argentine leaders, however, wished to emulate the Axis Powers’ nationalism and expansion. They were able to quietly install a pro-fascist government in Bolivia after a 1943 coup. But, by January of 1944, Argentina cut its ties with Nazi Germany, but did not declare war (until a year later). While all of this was going on, Bianco was playing for Nazi troops and on Third Reich radio stations. When he left Nazi Germany on a Spanish visa, Bianco underwent investigation from British intelligence. In 1943, he finally returned home, just as tango’s Golden Age was at its peak. Here, Bianco proved he was merely an export of Argentine tango as he failed to compete against local talent.

Canaro, who grew up in Bueno Aires, also toured Europe and chose Paris as his home base. His 1935 recording of ‘Poema’ continues the journey of tango from Argentina to Europe and vice versa, during a time of great political and cultural upheavals around the world. Europeans were delighted by it, but, by this time, the recording did not impress Argentine listers.

 

Sources: https://tangowords.wordpress.com/2013/09/14/poema/

http://www.tejastango.com/terminology.html#T

http://humilitan.blogspot.com.au/2014/05/so-thats-why-poema-is-hard-to-fit-into.html

https://www.tangotolatvia.lv/german-nemoljakin