Ricardo García Blaya

e was born in Zárate, province of Buenos Aires, cradle of a large number of great creators of our tango. His parents, Sara Insúa and Julián Arrambide, both of Basque ancestry, were working people that accompanied and supported their son in his search for art.

His strong and expressive voice with a baritone range with tenor-like nuances and an impeccable intonation were the features that made his singing stand out.

He was still a child when his liking for music woke up. Until his late teen years he devoted himself to singing folk songs. In the early 40s when he was already a boy wearing long trousers he definitively switched to tango.

His debut as vocalist took place in the tango orchestra fronted by Juan Carlos Aiello and he shared the bill with the singers Tito Cárdenas and Guido Rota. Soon thereafter he joined the aggregation led by Gabriel Fortunato. They were all artists of that region.

In 1944, but we don’t know under what circumstances, he was invited by the bandoneonist and bandleader Gabriel Clausi (aka El Chula), to make some appearances in Viña del Mar, Chile. He traveled together with the violinist Antonio Rodio and his peer Ricardo Ruiz, former singer of Osvaldo Fresedo.

The following year Horacio Salgán, who was playing in Zárate, heard him sing and was so impressed by his abilities that he decided to include him in his orchestra as exclusive vocalist.

By that time, Astor Piazzolla, that had split with Aníbal Troilo, was summoned by Francisco Fiorentino to conduct his accompanying aggregation. After some time this group was disbanded and it was then that Astor decided to put together his own orchestra and summoned Insúa.

They recorded four numbers. Among them there is a standout: “Pigmalión”, a difficult tango composed by Astor with lyrics by Homero Expósito which was premiered by Insúa to full satisfaction of its wordsmith. The latter would later say that he had written those lyrics having in mind that vocalist.

Furthermore they cut “Ojos tristes” with music by Rafael Iriarte and words by Alfredo Navarrine, and two more tangos teaming up as a duo with Aldo Campoamor —the other vocalist of the aggregation—, “Adiós marinero” and “En la huella del adiós”, written by Héctor Stamponi and Homero Expósito.

After his tenure with the orchestra led by Piazzolla, he was summoned by Carlos Marcucci and, later, by Juan Canaro. With the latter bandleader he began the most important stage in his career.

With the composer of “La brisa” he embarked on a mythical tour of Japan. Their debut was in Tokyo on November 13, 1954. And he became the first tango singer that appeared in those faraway lands.

The orchestra was lined up by the female singer María de la Fuente; Ramón Torreira, Alfredo Marcucci and Arturo Penón (bandoneons); Osvaldo Tarantino (piano); Hugo Baralis, Enri Balestro and Emilio González (violins); Rufino Arriola (string bass) and the dancers Julia and Lalo Bello.

They also appeared in other cities: Hiroshima, Osaka, Sasebo, Kyoto, Nagoya, Shughamo and Senday to great acclaim and becoming the attraction of an enthusiastic audience. The team Canaro-Insúa succeeded in recording three numbers: “Adiós pampa mía”, “Una lágrima tuya” and “Yira yira”.

In the 60s he appeared as soloist in Central America and performed in different countries and at different kinds of venues. He finally settled in Mexico where he was based for a long time until the early 70s.

In 1971, he returned to Argentina and settled in his hometown. There he opened a tango local which included Julián Centeya and Héctor Gagliardi as masters of ceremonies and Homero Expósito, his fellow countryman, was his sponsor.

In my collection of recordings there is an interesting radio airplay by Insúa, accompanied by the Joaquín Do Reyes orchestra, in an interpretation of “El corazón me engañó” with words and music by Miguel Bucino. Unfortunately, I ignore the circumstances that surrounded it.

Unexpectedly, one evening after one of his performances he died in his own establishment. So the final curtain fell for the career of an excellent interpreter —today scarcely remembered—, a true ambassador of our tango in Japan and Mexico.

This short portrayal is the sincere homage paid by Todo Tango to this beloved singer of the Buenos Aires music.