Enrique Saborido

Real name: Saborido, Enrique
Violinist, pianist and composer
(27 August 1878 - 19 September 1941)
Place of birth:
Montevideo Uruguay
Juan Silbido

lthough he was born in the city of Montevideo (capital of the República Oriental del Uruguay), he was based during nearly all his life in our country, whose citizenship he adopted, stating that he regarded himself as porteño as those who were born here.

We have noticed that as for the exact date of his birth numerous authors have different opinions; that has produced similar confusions, such as the cases of Rosendo Mendizábal and Ángel Villoldo, among others. We failed to determine either the day or the month of it, but after a careful reading of a copy of his death certificate, he died in 1941 when he was 64, we infer that he was born in 1876 or 1877.

When he was quite young, he was only four years old, he moved to Buenos Aires with his parents. Héctor Bates and Luis Bates added: «Here he went to grammar school and attended the first year of high school. He gave up his studies to work, he worked at a bookstore for three years, until 1892, and later at the Secretary of the San Martín Theater for fifteen years».

His parents, Estanislao Saborido and Rosario Morcillo, were Spaniards. They noticed that the little Enrique had musical conditions and they tried to encourage them. So, under the guidance of maestro Gutiérrez, he started violin studies that he completed with frequent piano playing. According to our friend Ricardo Llanes, he was probably Juan Gutiérrez, at a time director of the Musical Institute of La Prensa.

He achieved a certain facility and was often invited to join small groups devoted to a popular repertory; violin was displaced by piano and he also began to compose some short music pieces.

His improvisations were much appreciated and that made him play at privates houses, such as those owned by Arredondo, Gowland, Hilcret and Molina.

In statements made to the weekly paper Caras y Caretas (# 1561, 9/1/1928, page 126) he narrated how the tango “La morocha” was created, which he considered his gold key. With it he gave us a Christmas present which had widespread recognition after it was composed on December 25, 1905, but let the author tell us about it:

«At that time I used to go to the Ronchetti barroom (Reconquista and Lavalle), as well frequented by a beautiful female singer and dancer, Lola Candales, she was Uruguayan. One evening an interesting group composed by the young Victoria, Mr. Argerich, and the deputy Félix Rivas were reunited; at the same table Saborido talked enthusiastically with Lola, what they could not ignore. They agreed in spurring his pride by pretending to ignore his abilities as composer. Insinuations went to and fro, until one of them, addressing to Enrique, said that he was doubtful that the latter was capable of writing a tango that Lola would successfully sing. They stayed until five in the morning and finally one by one they left. When Saborido was about to go to bed he felt a certain uneasiness by recalling what had happened. He sat at the piano and at 6:30 AM he finished the sheet music of “La morocha”, but... what about lyrics? Around 7 he went to see his friend Ángel Villoldo, who at 10 in the morning accomplished his mission. Both went to present it to Lola Candales, who after hearing the music, began to sing it.

«That very evening she premiered it at the Ronchetti barroom. We have to highlight that those who applauded most warmly were his challenging friends who were joined by the audience. This pleased everybody so much that it had to be reprised up to eight times».

In the early 1906, the publisher Luis Rivarola released the first edition. Héctor and Luis J. Bates state that a later published release amounted to 280.000 copies at $ 0,70 each, adding: «However, “La morocha” for Saborido meant not a single cent. Absurd, inconceivable, but exact!» A pseudo-manager of Saborido unduly got all the rights. «For the author only the glory was left...»

Its bars were heard at every courtyard in Buenos Aires and everybody sung their catchy lyrics. The Sarmiento frigate delivered a great number of copies at the ports visited, contributing to spread it throughout the world.

Was “La morocha” the first tango known abroad? We have to admit that we cannot solve the mystery and it would be desirable that someone could manage to do it by bringing, of course, the necessary evidence.

The diffusion that “El choclo” had achieved, as it had appeared before, would favor the chances for the former; we have read some kind of conjecture about it, but in fact we, and many others, still have doubts on the issue.

Everybody knows that Saborido was an outstanding tango dancer and he used to teach at a dance room (academia) located in the heart of Barrio Norte, according to Héctor and Luis J. Bates, on 1070 Cerrito Street.

His popularity as pianist and composer was enhanced by his fame as dance instructor; the above-mentioned interview by the publication Caras y Caretas informs us of his latter activities in Paris and due to its importance we quote:

«The marquise Reské, widow of the famous tenor Jean Reské, was willing to popularize Argentine tango among the French. It was around 1911 and I accepted such formal invitation; when in Paris, at the beginning I devoted to teaching tango playing, so that it would be correctly performed. As I had spare time and I had noticed that the high society people were really interested in it, I taught them how to dance it.

«One night at the marquise palace where a reception was held I organized, with the approval of the attendance, a pericón (traditional Argentine dance) whose steps proved to be very attractive for everybody and were warmly applauded.

«On another occasion I was appointed referee to demonstrate that the forlana was not more decent than tango; the dissent was even reflected in the chronicles at the papers and the Catholic paper Le Gaulois finally regarded tango as a beautiful graceful dance. Thereafter the outbreak of war forced me to come back to Buenos Aires».

Since then a different order of activities begins in his life, the pianist, the composer and the dance instructor belong to the past, Saborido becomes one more of the many employees in the public administration.

He would recall in a melancholic succession his days as violinist with the guitar player “negro” Lorenzo and the flutist Benito Masset; a trio that used to play at the Tarana in Palermo. “La morocha” blown by the four winds and beyond the sea; later “Felicia”, which he regarded as the one with the deepest tango feel among his tangos.

After the steps of those ambassadors, Ángel Villoldo and the Gobbis, that made our popular music be known in Europe, this River Plate man with a threefold degree (pianist, composer and dancer) sailed.

That work as clerk carried out in boring offices did not mean that his inspiration had declined, it was just hidden and at any time it would manifest itself again. So it does when he returns in 1932 together with Ernesto Ponzio, Juan Carlos Bazán and José Luis Padula, among others, at the teatro Nacional.

Subsequently he evidenced his eagerness for a tango revival, appearing as leader of a group that lined up veterans of our music on the broadcasting LS6 Radio del Pueblo.

In November 1939 a sharp journalist describes him this way:

«Saborido is 62, but he looks gallant and agile. Somewhat fat, brawny and with a strong complexion, of medium stature. He is rather bald and his hair has turned to gray, when he frowns his brow he seems more severe, but a spark of happiness blows out in his eyes and the gay line of his sensuous lip present us an unencumbered and good-humored man. His figure suggests a human being that has enjoyed pleasure but not to excess.

«His piano performances had a beat and swing, the typical grumbling evasive taste of tango. Tango sounds spring up from the strings vibrating due to the expert hands that touch the keyboard, tangos whose legitimate character cannot be surpassed, because the environment that inspired it ... No longer exists!»

He lived in Villa Devoto, 4541 San Nicolás Street, his wife Urbana Nicasia Ruiz had already died; his daughter Rosario meant his only family affection and to her he dedicated his last tango titled “Rosario”. His last published composition is the waltz “Dora”.

Saborido went on working as clerk at the quartermaster office of the War Department, located on 147 Piedras Street, exactly there at 8:35 on September 19, 1941, he died of a heart attack. Carlos de la Púa, as columnist of Crítica expressed in his porteño way a recognition as can be read below:

«... the famous composer of tangos of the old stream, Enrique Saborido, passed away, author of a great number of successful works, whose now far distant bars shone with their own light in the golden age of our popular music. Because of that, we can be sure that as long as we can find in the courtyards of the Buenos Aires neighborhoods any humble flowerpot with geraniums or carnations lovingly looked after by any of those girls of our outskirts of town, the simple and affectionate memory of that Morocha argentina (Argentine brunette) that many years ago Enrique Saborido carried with his talent on a proud parade around the world will live generously and renewed as well».

Perhaps the success achieved throughout the world by “La morocha” and the no less unforgettable “Felicia”, prevented his work from reaching a greater popularity. We might say that the following are condemned to oblivion: “El Pochocho”, “Berlina de novios”, “Don Paco”, “El señor Leiva”, “Mosca brava”, “Coraceros del 9º”, “Pegué la vuelta”, “Ingratitud”, “La hija de la morocha”, “Caras y caretas (El canillita)”, “Papas fritas a ¡Federación!”, “Ortensia”, “Q'acés de noche”, “Boteshare”, “Prendé la vela”, “Martín”, “Reclutamiento”, “El cantor del callejón” (lyrics included), “Al otro lado del arroyo”, “Queja gaucha”, “Náufragos”, “Angustia”, “Metele Catriel que es polka” (polka), “Baquiano pa' elegir”, “Caña quemada”, “Fierro viejo”, “Que sea feliz”, “Rezongos postreros”, “Caridad” (waltz), “Reliquia santa” (vals), and “Mi soberana” (zamba).

Published in the book: Evocación del tango, by Juan Silbido, Buenos Aires, 1964.