Gaspar Astarita

don’t know why every time I meet him immediately the lyrics of that tango by Eduardo Bonessi and Enrique Dizeo comes to my mind: «Bate el justo en la parada/ tan lindaza y tan bacana...», “Echaste buena”. Maybe it’s because when I see him with that porteño look, so elegant and with that way of talking that has a certain Gardelian touch without a declamation but naturally, I can’t avoid remembering those tango lines.

Skinny, tall, good looking, always well-dressed, he is the image of the experienced smart porteño. Singer, guitar strummer, actor and historian of our tango. I highlight the last item because he is a scholar with a passion for all the cultural and popular phenomena in the Río de la Plata, where, of course, tango and Gardel are the main subjects.

In 1964 he sang a folk songbook as the Blotta-Acosta duo. In 1966, as soloist, he appeared as lead actor-singer in Cuentos de Fray Mocho, adaptation by Luis Ordaz and direction by Héctor Propato, at the summer theater erected on Avenida Centenera and Avenida Roca, in the neighborhood of Pompeya.

By that time he used to appear on Mondays for a short time on the then LS4 Radio Porteña (today Continental) in the program El mundo de la música popular (The World of Popular Music), emceed by Líber Loccacio.

Between 1968 and 1973 he appeared on several occasions at the small theater Florencio Sánchez on Sánchez de Loria Street, neighborhood of Almagro, under the direction of Rubén Pesce. He was accompanied by the Cuarteto Centenario.

Later he teamed up with Eduardo Valle as a duo. Thereafter he joined casts, always as secondary role, at different venues with consecrated tango figures, all backed up by the trio of Aníbal Arias, Juan Carlos Bera and Miguel Nijensohn.

In 1971 the Teatro de la Ribera was opened at La Boca with the show Allá en la Boca de entonces, in which he sang teaming up with Héctor Palacios. The cast included María Esther Podestá as featured actress.

At the same venue but in 1976 A la Boca con cariño was staged in which he was the lead actor-singer along with the actress and singer Nelly Panizza, Julio López, Hilda Viñas and others. The musical direction was in charge of Víctor Buchino. He also sang in chats given by members of the Academia Porteña del Lunfardo like José Gobello, José Barcia, Luis Alposta, Enrique Puccia.

In 1979 he teamed up with Eduardo Fratta to form a duo and they were awarded a Gardel de Oro given by the Círculo Cultural Argentino de Tango. The duo succeeded in recording twice. Between 1980 and 1985 they appeared in the radio program La Noche con Amigos, emceed by Lionel Godoy. Time later he would continue without his partner. The radio space was entitled Tres minutos y un recuerdo.

His name appeared in many parades of singers. One of them was in 1981 for the re-opening of the Café de los Angelitos, with Carlos Acuña and his admired Raúl Berón. Later, in a summer season in Mar del Plata he was producer of some appearances of Raúl and Adolfo Berón at the Confitería París.

In 1983 he appeared at the old Café Nacional alongside Hugo Del Carril, Gloria Díaz and a group led by Armando Pontier, and the guitarists Carlos Peralta and Ernesto Villavicencio. As well he was invited to appear at some programs on LS11 Radio Provincia, Radio Nacional, at the venue La Cachila, among others.

He was invited to sing in Costa Rica along with the bandoneonist Arturo Penón and the guitarist Ciro Pérez and after that he went to Colombia where he was art director of the Casa Gardeliana in Medellín that closed in 1997. He returned and came back to his country. He repeated this traveling experience four times. When he was in Colombia he sang at the Café de las Historias and on radio and television. He also had the chance of recording a long-playing record accompanied by guitars. A curiosity was the inclusion of the tango “Viejos tiempos”, written by Gardel and Le Pera, which was in the don Carlos’ songbook but which he did not commit to disc. There is a rendition by the Rafael Canaro orchestra with Aldo Campoamor on vocals.

In 1989 he traveled to Miami to appear at the restaurant Punta del Este for three months and later at the Añoranzas in New York.

Among his recordings which were not many we managed to get his LP cut in Medellín for the Preludio label in 1986, the numbers are: “Soñando” (milonga by Antonio Moreno and Francisco Sciscente), “Cambalache”, “Dicha pasada”, “Ladrillo”, “Alma mía”, “Traicionera”, “Viejos tiempos”, “Soy un porteño”, “Patadura”, “Cobardía”, “Señor comisario” (by Francisco Canaro and Juan Andrés Caruso) and “Llora corazón” (by Horacio Pettorossi).

We have the feeling that despite he did his best he did not reach an outstanding place because it was not his time and, why should we not say it, at that difficult time for tango his style did not attract the public’s attention. He tried hard and like many other boys he got little. But his case was much worse because with a family, wife and a son, he tried to make a living only with tango and that was not the time any more. I guess he realized what he was doing was a failure, that his career had not even scratched his dreams and, it is possible, that his life was overwhelmed by other problems.

He fell into a deep depression that nobody was able to heal and so one day he decided to put an end to his life. It was in the neighborhood of Flores. Maybe he walked some blocks along the Rivadavia Avenue up to Nazca Avenue and there he went towards the north side or, the other way around, he was coming from the north and headed towards south when he began to cross the railroad tracks and saw an oncoming train, he stopped right in front of it and waited. Despair is unaware of less aggressive deaths. He wanted to be torn to pieces.