Beba Pugliese

Real name: Pugliese, Lucela Delma
Pianist, bandleader, arranger and composer
(10 November 1936 - )
Place of birth:
Buenos Aires Argentina
José María Otero

er destiny was marked from birth: music, the fight for human dignity, a desire for self-improvement, the family enclave. She grew up in an art environment with sincere emotion and a lot of work: «Day after day I was gradually pervaded with a sort of popular wisdom», she affirms. She was born in Villa Ortúzar, in a rented house on 1111 14 de Julio Street. Her grandfather, Adolfo Pugliese, a flutist of the early days of tango, stood as guarantor for the brand-new couple that his son Osvaldo and María Concepción Florio formed.

The union of the two youngsters would allow the girl that was born late that year to grow in a family of musicians. Her aunt Adela Florio was a piano teacher and was who taught her the first lessons. Her father’s brothers, Adolfo (Fito) and Alberto were violinists, and the latter was also bandleader and composer. Her uncle, Mario Perini (married to her mother’s sister) was a banjoist, violist, arranger and composer. He had a long tenure with the Ángel D'Agostino orchestra and also contributed to Osvaldo Fresedo as arranger. A cousin of Beba’s, Chocho Roberto Florio (son of one of her mother’s sisters) was an excellent and highly rated vocalist that passed through the ranks of orchestras like those of Alfredo De Angelis or Carlos Di Sarli, among others. Cacho, another brother of her Mom’s, was bass player.

The hard times they went through in the early periods forced the two families to share the house and so the music poured out from those walls. Seeing her father practice on that Förster piano —a gift of her grandfather— which also was her instrument («Like a sort of game.», says she); that color that comes from childhood and the coordinates that come through a series of tributaries that flow into a vocation were deciding her musical future. Of course, seeing the rehearsals of the orchestra led by don Osvaldo at the house they were living in after 1940 (Álvarez Thomas 1477) widened the scope of the naughty girl’s eyes that, in the period of inception of the aggregation she watched powerful suggesting images: «I recall Ruggiero and Caldara with their long hair, concentrated, waiting for the starting point of playing music. I still see Camerano getting ready his bow for his triumphant, brilliant appearance. I also see Aniceto Rossi waiting beside the piano. Everybody was waiting for a sign by the leader, like gladiators ready to enter the arena, or like soccer players getting ready to enter the field where a crowd of fans was madly shouting...», and with memories her anxiety was forged.

When she was in 4th grade and was asked to play the National Anthem on the Teacher’s Day she did it with a patriotic fervor and anticipating her future. The political vicissitudes her father had to go through, persecution, jail, ban to play on radios or public venues severely punished her family and as well forged her temper. Like her cousins and childhood friends she spent many hours at the Club Sporting (Heredia and Álvarez Thomas) and there Beba would learn, among other things, to dance tango when she accompanied her older cousins. In Madrid I danced with her and I can attest that she is an excellent milonguera. She studied dancing and piano playing while practicing with the sheet music her paternal grandfather gave her, especially classical music.

Pugliese changed the name of his tango “Amargura [b]” into a new one: “La beba”, when she was born. Lisandro Adrover wrote the arrangement for the first rendition and Daniel Binelli, for the second, when they recorded it again in 1972.

Her studies with Vicente Scaramuzza (for 10 years), Pedro Rubbione, Oreste Castronuovo and Berta Sujovolsky gave her the definitive placet and Beba was ready to carry out her career as classical pianist and had begun playing recitals on Radio Nacional and other radio stations. She summoned Aníbal Arias and Guillermo Ferrer for some appearances throughout the country in 1979 that received wide acclaim and they also recorded a long-playing disc. And when a homage was paid to Sebastián Piana in 1978 her category as pianist was warmly welcomed by the audience. Tango was knocking at her door and her genes made the rest.

Her first quintet appeared at the Hotel Bauen. The Pugliesean worshippers followed her and RCA-Victor requested her for recording. Despite the hardships of life she knows that the fight is tough and she has to go on. Her son Osvaldo passed away in 1993. She married twice and had other two children: Lisandro and María Carla who started at age six with piano and in 2001 made her professional debut. Admirer of Orlando Goñi, the strength and category of Beba on piano stirs up comments of admiration, even in Astor Piazzolla.

With her orchestra she traveled throughout Europe and Japan. She composed a great number of pieces: “Catire”, “Ochentango”, “Para mi abuelo”, “Chicharrita” (her father’s nickname when he was a kid), “Si volviera a verte”, “Sueños y sombras”, “Rosa punzó”, “Tus quince años” (to her daughter), “A nuestro amigo Piraña” (a loyal friend of Don Osvaldo’s and my long-time friend).

She joined the casts of several theater companies and appeared in several sainetes (one-act farces) by the time she was completing her theoretical studies with maestros Fuchs and Sebastián Piana. In 1974 she wrote the arrangements for the theater play Prohibido pisar el tango. In 1978, as soloist, she shared the bill with his father’s orchestra and was featured in radio programs like the Ciclo de Recitales on Radio Rivadavia emceed by Héctor Larrea. And in 1980 she put together her own quintet to appear at the Hotel Bauen as a main attraction and she received an unexpected acclaim.

Due to their involvement with the spirit of tango, they toured throughout the country and were hired for the traditional Caño 14. Her second album was released in 1981 and was the prelude to a successful sequel.

The National Geographic organization filmed in Latin America the program Ritmos revolucionarios and, referring Buenos Aires, they chose her piece “Dinastía Pugliese” as the most outstanding composition. In her prolific career she has received numerous awards of all kinds and she is proud that «Los amigos de la calle Corrientes» have named the corner of Corrientes and Rodríguez Peña as «La esquina de Beba Pugliese» and placed a bronze plaque to express the recognition to her career.

She keeps on studying to find the answer to the secret sound of the lodge she has entered and, following her mother’s example, she faced the sacrifice –in her different jobs- that is necessary to survive. She knew how to choose her path and by developing herself she found her own inspiration.

She is teacher in the Escuela Popular de Avellaneda, in the Instituto Cultural José Hernández of Olivos, and goes on appearing with her orchestra and singers like Mónica Sachi, Gustavo Cané or Oscar Ferrari. That sort of driving courage of sound, that never gives way, comes from her father’s roots. She admits that on a certain occasion a bandleader –former bandoneon player with Pugliese- summoned her for a television show because his pianist was ill. Beba went to Don Osvaldo for advice and the latter, with tears in his eyes, told her: «You should not go. He is the worst of those who betrayed me and furthermore he is playing with the charts of my orchestra. He hurt me very much». She didn’t go. And there goes La Beba convinced of not looking for a particular aesthetics but the one she bears within her. Her granddaughter also started to walk the road of musical art.

In the different places she lived, Beba learned to treasure the nearness and solidarity of her family and to feel the strength of music, her old neighborhood and the house where “La yumba” and “Malandraca” were forged when they were looking for the canyengue on that piano. The family name Pugliese is quite heavy and she knows it. Because of that she honors it. Established in popular preference due to her own capacity and personality, her appearances and recordings stir up retrospective feelings. There must be a trigger that pulls emotion and Beba’s carries the knack and Pugliese’s trademark at the seams. The ancestral mythical germ.