Ricardo Nani

he was born in the city of Avellaneda, close to the capital. Her real family name was Nino. It’s worthwhile to clear it out because in many texts is written Nani. Curiously, the surname of her married niece is Teresa Nino de Nani, my mother. I have also read that the dates of her birth and death are wrongly mentioned. I have before me the corresponding documents and they match with the ones mentioned here.

At age two, because of her father’s death, she had to face life sharing shortages with her mother and elder brother. At a very young age, only five years old, she was able to memorize melodies, lyrics of tangos and milongas. It was the music that amazed her, it was the music of her world.

She recalls when tango and milonga were danced by men alone on the street corners of the poor neighborhoods. Her mother used to make her sit on her lap and asked her: «Come on baby, sing for the lady», and it seems that she did it well because she was the main attraction for the neighbors of the Isla Maciel and the Dock Sud. On the bank of the Riachuelo, which long ago was a place for fun for adults and children, there was a magnificent riverside resort where pic-nics were organized and people used to take strolls and spend a good time.

These activities were by daylight but in the evening the area had a different kind of life. In the houses with red lanterns on their doors, the whorehouses or quecos, you were able to hear tango trios and quartets. The best known in the area were the Barrio Chino (Chinatown) and El Farol Colorado (The Red Lantern). There were many skirting the Riachuelo on Avellaneda’s side which were the cradle of la guardia vieja (the old school). There you breathed only tango and passion.

Virginia was raised in that environment. She began her career by studying with the teacher Amelia Sordelli. Her oficial debut was in 1927 at the Select cinema theater of Dock Sud. Later she sang at the Nacional and simultaneously she appeared at the Circo de La Boca (circus) where the guitarists Rodríguez and Pancho Cafferatta were her accompanists. The latter named her Doris. People say that by that time a ship had tied up at the port and was named Virginia Doris.

Today the venues located in the Isla Maciel or near the Docke are not highly regarded but by that time if you did not play or sing tangos there you were unable to play anywhere else. Not in vain Eduardo Arolas debutted at the cheap café La Buseca of Avellaneda in 1909. That city was an important place for the musicians to achieve experience. Arolas, Graciano De Leone, Genaro Espósito, José Luis Padula, Ernesto Ponzio and Leopoldo Thompson passed by the old Southern Barracas. «We used to manufacture tango in Avellaneda!» –Virginia said-, that was real, so real that if the performance went out right, later we would take a chance downtown, in places with more refined customers.

She was a member of a trio with two guitarists: the Gramuglia brothers. She continued singing at the Avellaneda clubs, she began to reach notoriety and, soon later, she became the female vocalist of the La Guardia Vieja Orchestra led by Adolfo Pérez (Pocholo). In fact, it was a sextet comprised by two bandoneons, two violins and two guitars. Even though she was not a regular presence in the show business milieu, she hobnobbed with figures of the level of Azucena Maizani, Sofía Bozán, Ignacio Corsini, Ángel Greco, also Jorge Negrete and maestro Juan Carlos Pugliese. She was acquainted with the greatest ones: Juan de Dios Filiberto, Roberto Firpo, Julio De Caro, Pedro Laurenz, Osvaldo Fresedo, Francisco Canaro, Juan Maglio (Pacho), Agustín Magaldi and even Carlos Gardel himself.

She was hired by many radio stations: Rivadavia, Del Pueblo, Callao, Porteña; by most them except Radio El Mundo. Her songbook was a large one, with hits like “Loca de amor (La loca de amor)”, her first record (1934), “A orillas del Plata”, “Desde el alma”, “El aeroplano”, “Un lamento”, “Violetas” and “Quemá esas cartas”.

In 1935, she split with Adolfo Pérez on the same day when Carlos Gardel died. By that time she achieved such popular acclaim that the following year she was appointed for the starting kick in the classic match of our soccer: River-Boca.

In the unforgettable forties, with the tango revival, a large number of orchestras and interpreters appeared. And this was very important for the genre to be widely known, but Virginia belonged to the old trend –sort of dated-, however, not only she went on singing professionally but also she worked selflessly helping as many people as she was able. There was no social club or institution for public welfare in the Greater Buenos Aires which had not received her contribution. She used to sing for free in order to raise funds. Sometimes, she even paid the musicians that accompanied her with her own funds.

She brought tango to those who were unable to go to tango venues: old people’s homes, hospitals, homes for the blind, orphanages. In the mid –50s she again joined the Adolfo Pérez’s orchestra and, in 1956 she recorded a couple of numbers more: “Un lamento” and “Violetas”. That same year there was a chance to travel to Japan but Pocholo got ill and it did not come true.

Virginia continued on her own. She appeared in the early programs of TV Channel 7 and, in the late 60s she decided to officially withdraw from singing. But she never quit singing not even when cancer attempted to bend her. After she underwent an operation because of a tumor, she sang a capella seated on her bed at the sanitarium for the pleasure of other patients and encouraging and giving them hope with her tangos and milongas.

When she was back on her feet on May 14, 1988 she was awarded the Luces de Tango mention at the Café Tortoni of Buenos Aires. There she sang over six numbers backed by an orchestra. A couple of months later her health worsened and she died in her beloved Dock Sud. The news were published in the Clarín daily paper in a small mention at the tango section.

But Virginia Doris remained alive in the memory of her people. In August 2005, the Honorable Concejo Deliberante de la Ciudad de Avellaneda, through the Secretary of Culture of the Municipality, appointed her Outstanding Neighbor, Post-Mortem and, on June 7, 2007 my biographical novel: El Perfume de Virginia Doris was declared of Municipal Interest.

Virginia Doris goes on singing.