Osvaldo Ruggiero and his confidences
made a question to Osvaldo Ruggiero and he began to reveal their memories.
«My old man was named Sabatino. Thoroughly Italian! He was from the southern region of Italy, the province of Caserta, quite close to Naples. He arrived in our country together with that flood of immigrants in the late nineteenth century and went to live in Villa Pueyrredón. He was a manufacturer of mosaic floor tiles and was very fond of music, romances, canzonets. He transmitted to me his infectious enthusiasm for music when I was a kid. But I was not interested at all, I liked playing soccer.
«My first bandoneon was a present he gave me. It was his favorite instrument and he bought one for me. How mad was he about it that he studied solfegge to examine what I was learning!
«My dad was my only teacher, nobody else. I was self-taught indeed! We don’t even have a radio at home!
«I was not influenced by any other bandoneonist. Sometimes I’m asked if my roots are in Pedro Maffia or in Laurenz, who were the two most famous at that time. I think that I never heard Maffia and I heard Pedro Laurenz, lately, when he played in the Quinteto Real. My thing was catching the “bellows”, and play, play and study hard, but all alone. Furthermore we have to take into account that I reached the Pugliese Orchestra when I was seventeen. Then, yes, Osvaldo shaped me, polished me and marked me forever.
«I had played some stints in groups that were formed and later disbanded. With one of them we played on Radio Sarmiento, which I don’t even remember where it was located. One of the musicians, his name was Álvarez, recommended me when he knew that Pugliese was putting together his own orchestra. First we played at “El Germinal”, but the definitive line-up made its debut at the café “El Nacional” in August 1939.
«Pugliese’s orchestra was always an avant-garde team and in it we were shaping our personality. I had to do it because Osvaldo was very exacting. He used to tell me: “You have to study. Study!”. I took it very seriously because I wanted to stand out. Osvaldo insisted: “You have to be interesting as Troilo is”. He told me about Troilo because he was the great figure of the bandoneon. See what a challenge this man pushed me into!
«Troilo was the great bandoneon player. And nobody can be bothered by that. I know that there were and there are excellent bandoneonists. But I felt Troilo in a different way. I was his fan. He was quite communicative, quite sentimental, with deep roots in Buenos Aires and all that was expressed in the phrasing of his bandoneon. I have a relic: a photo in which I am with him and that he dedicated to me with a phrase that I’ll never forget: “To the bandoneon that Buenos Aires still has”, he wrote.
«My training as tango man begins with Osvaldo. You had to be very passionate because his orchestra demanded guts, strength.
«My tangos were born and died in the Pugliese’s orchestra, for example “Catuzo”, “N.N.”, “A mis compañeros”, “Yunta de oro”. That happened because every orchestra had a repertoire of its own. We felt sort of embarrassed if we played somebody else’s tango. Furthermore, I played twenty-eight years with the maestro.
«I never felt like playing on my own. I have no virtues to be a leader. I prefer to be in the whirlwind, all I have to offer I show it there. I like to share. I don’t know, I never thought that being an orchestra leader was important for me.
«Pugliese always assigned a special importance to the bandoneon section within the orchestra because that is linked to the rhythmical aspect. The bandoneon, along with the double bass and the piano, stress the percussion inside the group.
«Osvaldo was the best follower of Julio De Caro, but he went his own way after “La yumba” and “Negracha”. With those tangos the real Pugliese was born, remaining faithful to the rhythmic preponderance that comes from the beginnings of tango. Carlos Di Sarli stems from Fresedo. Astor from Pugliese. Piazzolla began to be Piazzolla after “Negracha”. The only one whose roots I couldn’t trace was D’Arienzo. When he achieved a popular acclaim for his orchestra, back in 1935, it had nothing to do either with De Caro, or with Canaro, or with Firpo. With no one!
«I always liked him. His orchestra was quite rich in rhythm and temper. It had a strong personality. Denying D’Arienzo I think is atrocious.
«The Sexteto Tango has reminiscences of all that. We are faithful to all that that comes from Pugliese, from Troilo, from Di Sarli, from D’Arienzo. In other words, we try to keep the rhythmical aspects as something very important. The difference is in that they played to make people dance and now nobody dances. Now we have to play for a listening audience.
«When people ask me about the bandoneon I keep on saying that it is the instrument which brought a true personality to tango. In the beginnings when it was played with guitar, flute and violin it was a different thing. Sound, aggressiveness, and color drive me crazy.
«As for my style I don’t think there are any followers. Today new trends are sought after and I think it’s logical to be this way. Furthermore today tango is not played as in the past.
«If I had to choose one of my tango pieces, I would mention “Rezongo tanguero”, because I composed it thinking of my old man and I dedicated to him.
«When people ask me: what was left of those times of splendor in the 40s and the 50s? I answer without hesitation: for me everything, even youth».
Excerpted from the La Maga magazine of 25/11/1992.