Roberto Achával

Real name: Crudeli, Oscar Aníbal
Nicknames: Carlos Millán, Alberto Randal, Cacho
Singer, violinist, bandoneon player and composer
(11 November 1930 - 27 June 1996)
Place of birth:
Ingeniero White (Buenos Aires) Argentina
Tino Diez

aredón, tinta roja en el gris del ayer..., he was softly singing, happily, the sheet music copies of a folder on his way to a singing class. The bus he was waiting for arrived soon and he devoted himself to enjoy that sunny afternoon that God was offering him as a gift while he rubbed his arm because he was feeling some discomfort. A few blocks later he realized he was suddenly sick on the bus. Some time later he entered the emergency room of a sanitarium with scarce chances of survival and, obviously, the worst happened. The authorities did not find any document to identify him. The hours passed by and La Negra, his wife, that was waiting for him to have mate with the sweet buns that Cacho used to bring, began to be worried by his delay. She made a phone call and knew that Cacho had not attended to his weekly class. There were new phone calls, all in vain, until the most feared, the one you would never expect came. He was dead.

Son of Alejandro and Josefa Scalesi, he was born in Ingeniero White, county of Bahía Blanca, province of Buenos Aires. He was married to Juana Dodero (La Negra), with whom he had two children, Mirta and Leonel.

His liking for singing dates back to his childhood when he was member of the church choir. At age five, encouraged by his father, he began to study violin with his uncle Alibeo Crudeli. With that instrument he debutted in the Aníbal Troncoso’s orchestra with which he appeared at the balls held either at La Siempre Verde or la Sociedad Italiana, the renowned dancehalls of Ingeniero White.

He learnt to play bandoneon with Luis Bonnat, Aníbal Vitali and Antonio Ríos. But he simultaneously and permanently put his liking for singing into practice.

He joined, as violinist, the orchestra led by Luis Bonnat (Palito), until 1956 when one of the vocalists did not turn up and he dared to replace him. From that happy occasion on he continued as vocalist and quit bow and violin for good. In 1967 he appeared at the Festival de La Falda. His performance which was awarded the second prize caused Roberto Goyeneche’s anger. The latter said: «Cacho was a thousand times better than the one who won!».

With his real name he enroled, under his agent Roberto Piraneo’s suggestion, at the talent contest Grandes valores del tango aired by the TV channel 9. According to his capabilities he got a three-year contract and was renamed Roberto Achával (maybe remembering the character played by Pedro Laxat in the movie Fuera de la Ley premiered in 1937). He joined the cast of the program Tropicana Club emceed by Chico Novarro and Marty Cosens. There he appeared to a total acclaim by critics and audience due either to his looks and strong voice, with a deep feeling in his interpretations, or to his sensitivity to capture the people’s taste and reach them with a loving message. He always smiled at Fate which used to favor him.

He joined the aggregations led by Osvaldo Piro, Omar Valente, Baffa & Berlingieri, Osvaldo Tarantino, Roberto Pansera and Panchito Nolé with whom he recorded. He was also accompanied by Lucio Demare on piano and holds the special honor of having been the last vocalist of Aníbal Troilo with whom, regrettably, he never recorded. He himself tells us: «Everything was ready for the recording, even the numbers, “El pescante”, that Troilo had never recorded, and “Nobleza de arrabal”. One month after having premiered the play “Simplemente Pichuco” at the Teatro Odeón Troilo made the mistake of dying. So I enjoyed El Gordo (Fats) for a very short time». The play which the singer is talking about had a cast of important figures: Juan Carlos Palma, Alba Solís, Juan Carlos Copes, Horacio Ferrer and Edmundo Rivero.

Leonel, his son, remembers how his relationship with Pichuco began. It was quite usual that his father was invited to appear as guest singer in the orchestra when El Gordo noticed he was present at some of the many venues where he was playing. The first invitation was at a local, El Bulín, located on Ayacucho Street. That venue was open for a short time but many tango artists appeared there. Leonel keeps on reminiscing that his father used to think it over: «I think that El Gordo was auditioning me but it never entered my mind that I would be his singer. It was like a revival of the story of “El sueño del pibe” (The kid’s dream). The singer who says that he does not want to sing with Troilo is surely lying».

Customers who also admired Edmundo Rivero met at the Viejo Almacén to enjoy good tango in long nights shared with friends, musicians, singers and poets that used to go there. Many years later, Leonel smiles when he recalls the day that Troilo called his Dad and his Mom told him that he was taking a nap. «What a mess!, when Cacho knew about it he was furious. Fortunately El Gordo, with that enormous wisdom achieved in the street and at night, called him again. When they started to practice, —continues Leonel— no one knew about it, sotto voce, Troilo was giving him hints to improve his interpretation. Then my old man felt, a mixture of fear and amazement, that he had reached the threshold of knowledge as tango singer».

He made tours of many countries: the United States, where he settled for over two years, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Chile and Uruguay. He appeared in 74 cities, even reaching Manaus, in the middle of the Amazonic jungle with the show Uma Noite em Buenos Aires, alongside the Sexteto Mayor and Raúl Lavié.

Furthermore, he was featured in the television series Malevo with the tango “Te llaman malevo” as the title theme. It was a soup opera that was aired for over five years on Channel 9 and that starred Rodolfo Bebán and Gabriela Gilli. He appeared in Chile along with Roberto Pansera and also in Uruguay, invited by the singer Enrique Dumas who emceed a program on Channel 5 of Montevideo.

At the time of his death his career was at its peak. He was appearing as guest singer in the Orquesta Nacional de Música Argentina Juan de Dios Filiberto, conducted by Osvaldo Piro at the Teatro Nacional Cervantes. This show was aired on TV Channel 7.

He always was a kind boy, with pleasant manners, an everlasting smile, his hand ready for some help and his generous heart. Onstage, on a bus, on the street, sharing a drink or a coffee, a soccer match, a rendezvous with friends or a social meeting, he always was the good kid we all knew.

During an interview made by Leonel, on LU2 Radio Bahía Blanca, the incomparable Nelly Omar said: «So you are Roberto Achával’s son? Sincerely, he was a great gentleman; not only onstage, but also in everyday life where it’s harder». His close friend Marcelo Guaita, when he came to know about his death, concluded: «His heart was a crystal glass that finally was broken».