Agustín Magaldi

Real name: Magaldi, Agustín
Nicknames: La voz sentimental de Buenos Aires
Singer and composer
(1 December 1898 - 8 September 1938)
Place of birth:
Casilda (Santa Fe) Argentina
Pablo Taboada
| Ricardo García Blaya

e is, no doubt, one of the paradigms of popular song. Together with Ignacio Corsini, they constitute the principal saga which is placed behind the consular figure of Carlos Gardel.

Trying to outline his character is one of the most difficult tasks because, unintentionally, aspects of a much varied nature are mixed.

Neither traditional tangueros of his time liked him, for he was not within the strict standards of Gardelian phrasing, nor the avant-gardists, because his style did not correspond with the renewal they intended. But both admitted the beauty of his voice and the quality of his interpretation.

However, the city and the provinces poorest sectors worshipped him, to such an extent that his popularity and fame grew wildly and still today his fans consider him at the same level with the Zorzal Criollo.

Which is the explanation for this phenomenon? If we take into consideration his voice and his technique we draw the conclusion that the former was brilliant and big, and the latter was perfect, in tune, representative of the Italian school of bel canto.

His repertory can show us some other evidence since it was composed of pieces of very different genres and with an uneven quality. As he was an archetype of «cantor nacional», his book was formed by many numbers in folk style, also tangos and some rare songs from other lands.

The themes of his tangos elevate the woman's role —until then guilty of all man's dramas—, as an example we can mention “Levanta la frente”, where the unmarried woman is recovered from humiliation, “No quiero verte llorar”, where man pities her by putting himself on the same level, or in “Libertad” where the protagonists acknowledge their shared guilt at the time of breaking up.

I do not think that this scarcely macho attitude could be the reason of so much acclaim or so much despise.

The social interest, the deep description of suffering, and at times the melodramatism of his stories are the cause of a division of waters.

For some, he said things which witnessed the social and cultural reality of his time and for that, they were identified with him, for others, he was the true example of popular bad taste, an artistic display of low level.

Finally, and with this, not considering the question as answered, I think that Magaldi impersonated the two visions of this contradiction, prevailing his singer quality and his sweet voice upon some bad choice of his repertory, without analyzing his interpretative taste and even less the virtue of his appearance in the popular field.

Agustín Magaldi was born in the city of Casilda, province of Santa Fe. His childhood was spent partly there and partly in Rosario, hence the confusion about his birthplace.

Attracted by the magic of Enrico Caruso and other tenors in vogue in the 10s, since early age he was inclined to sing opera melodies and he joined the companies of the Rosario and Santa Fe conservatories, where he sometimes sang, between 1918 and 1919.

But bel canto, which was a passion for the singer, would not be his way of making a living because his main working tool would be popular song.

Then in the early 20s Agustín formed duos with friends from Santa Fe, such as Héctor Palacios —later a famous soloist—, Nicolás Rossi and Espinosa (whose first name is not known), singing pieces of the criollo repertoire.

In 1923 he decided to settle in Buenos Aires and started to sing canciones criollas (folk songs) and tangos in cafetines, until 1924, when tutored by the famous female singer Rosita Quiroga he entered the Victor company.

The Quiroga-Magaldi duo recorded a few discs because in 1925 thanks to Enrique Maciel the Magaldi-Noda duo is created.

Pedro Noda, singer from Mataderos (neighborhood in the outskirts of Buenos Aires) was the ideal second voice for Agustín's pitch, and from then on the story of one of the best duets of all times would start to be forged.

Agustín, besides singing in duo he sang as soloist, including great tangos in his repertoire.

At the beginning the guitarists of the duo were Enrique Maciel and José María Aguilar. In 1926 Genaro Veiga and Rosendo Pesoa. In 1927 Pesoa and Rafael Iriarte and in 1928 Diego Centeno and Ángel Domingo Riverol.

Along that time the duo recorded for the Victor company and performed at the principal cinemas and theaters in Buenos Aires, at the countryside and in Uruguay.
In 1929 they began to record discs for the catalogue of the Brunswick company and launched one of their resounding hits “El penado catorce”.

Their guitarists were Diego Centeno and Juan Epumer and sang on radio, and at the Cine Real for several consecutive seasons.

For Brunswick, Agustín worked as «estribillista» for special records with Donato-Zerrillo, Típica Brunswick, Ricardo Brignolo and Osvaldo Fresedo orchestras.

In 1933 the duo with the guitars of Centeno, Epumer and Colia, returned to the Victor label and made a tour of Chile. Two years later, they are starred in the movie Monte criollo interpreting “Mi sanjuanina”.

On 31 December 1935, after ten years of big success, the duet split and in 1936 Magaldi started his career as soloist exclusively, accompanied by the guitars of Centeno, Ortiz, Francini, Carré and the harp of Félix Pérez Cardozo, while Noda joined Carlos Dante to form a duo.

Magaldi aroused a rage on Radio Belgrano and “Nieve”, his Russian ballad became his signature tune that the audiences always requested same as his tango “Libertad”.

His renditions of “La muchacha del circo”, “Dios te salve m'hijo”, “Acquaforte”, “Berretín” and “Consejo de oro”, turn out outstanding versions, in spite of the unavoidable comparison with Gardel.

He was different, he equally awoke a ruthless criticism and the most fervent popular adhesion, paradoxically, everybody see him as an idol and today his figure is placed in the gallery of the great interpreters of popular music.