Tito Cabano

Real name: Cabano Bello, Tito
Lyricist, composer, singer, stage designer and actor
(4 December 1918 - 22 April 1988)
Place of birth:
Montevideo Uruguay
Ricardo García Blaya

o talk about Tito Cabano is like trespassing an existential border, the one which places apart the common life of mortals —those who live in the cities, walk along their streets and work in their trades or in offices— from the life of those who inhabit the singular Parnassus of the bohemians, of the artists that spring up with the night elves by the side of tin counters at cheap cafes, among pickpockets, whores, drunkards and singers.

He was one of those characters and, indeed, he was surrounded by elves and muses! According to Federico Silva he was the prototype of a bohemian «Even his look betrayed him!».

People who knew him coincided with the description they made of him. Skinny, tall and a little bit lanky, wearing a peaked cap, he had an amusing way of connecting with people. He used to participate in chats, especially those associated with tango, or sit at the back of a barroom to write poems on paper napkins. Some time he admitted that he wrote his oeuvre mostly at the different cafes he used to frequent.

He was born in Montevideo, República Oriental del Uruguay, in the picturesque Guruyú neighborhood of the Ciudad Vieja (Old City). A heavy coffee consumer, he was an incorrigible smoker who did not drink alcoholic beverages despite he was not abstemious.

Even though tango was the reason which greatly inspired his poems he had other passions, among them, carnival and all its creative context. He took part in murgas (carnival bands of street musicians) and was follower of the mythical Coro de La Aduana (a group that was put together for those celebrations and that contended with other groups like the Las Ninfas de las Bóvedas (The Nimphs of the Vaults) (an all-girl murga) or Nos Obligan a Salir, true carnival icons of the La Aduana (The Customs) neighborhood.

Furthermore, he made scenographies and wrote scripts for the street shows of Los Saltimbanquis, Los Crema and Los Chevaliers, other historical carnival groups of Montevideo.

His most frequently aired number and the most important as lyricist is, no doubt: the tango “Un boliche” which has two anthological renditions: the one by Aníbal Troilo with Roberto Goyeneche (1958) and the one by Ángel Vargas with his orchestra led by Luis Stazo (1959). The singer Carlos Acuña, who composed the music, recorded it in 1958, with Oldimar Cáceres orchestra and in 1983, with guitar group accompaniment. About that time also Josefina cut a recording of that tune for CBS Columbia.

Cabano’s lyrics are a portrayal which depicts local customs with incredible realism embellished by beautiful metaphores that begin as follows:

Un boliche como tantos,
una mesa como hay muchas,
un borracho que serrucha
su sueño de copetín.

The subject offers a touching description of a cafe but the end of the second section has a moving tenderness told nearly as a movie script:

Y así,
entre naipes, curda y canto
de esta escena cotidiana,
se oye la voz de una nena:
¡Papá, vamos que mamá te llama!...

The journalist and great communicator of the La República newspaper and of several radio stations in Montevideo, Luis Grene —who died in January 2011 at age 93—, made a rich narration of the personality of the poet in which, at the same time, he is carrying and placing him, like through an invisible tunnel, in each one of the customary places of his night itinerary:

«A sensitiveness to depict, in a few lines, the soul of the neighborhoods and their neighbors, sprang up spontaneously in him. All of a sudden, he stood apart and, after adjusting his peaked cap, we saw him seated alone at a table at the back of the bar. He was a frequent presence at the bar and grocery store El Hacha, also at the Libertad near Plaza Cagancha.

«He kept on writing on small pieces of paper and napkins. He used to be at the old Caballero, the one of the never ending dawns with people of the milieu or, quite near, at the old Vaccaro, always with people linked to the tango beat. If the thing began early in the evening there Tito Cabano was with his close friend Miguel Ángel Manzi at the canteen run by don Roque Santucci on José L. Terra and Blandengues».

In another of his chronicles, Grene continued with the story with details of the poet’s profile.

«His steps drove him to have a full knowledge of the Customs area (La Aduana) and in the surroundings of El Bajo he was greatly respected. Near the Mercado del Puerto we used to see him at the Carlitos’ small barroom where he was the only one who had a little coffee while the others drank barrel beer and ate the traditional sausages seasoned with white wine.

«When he entered El Globo de Yacaré near the riverside avenue, loaders and stevedores used to say: “Hi, Tito!” and then he sat alone at a table at the back of the local to write his poems.

«He worked as a waiter at the ancient cheap café on Ibicuy and Durazno. The legend says that it was at this venue where he was inspired to write the words of his most famous tango entitled “Un boliche”.

«The few times he was seen by daylight it was on the corner of Sierra and Miguelete, mainly on Sundays after the Tristán Narvaja fair.

«He also had a gang of friends at a barroom on Sierra and Paysandú where he used to meet the carnival man Chiquito Roselló who lived at the most famous tenement house of the El Cordón.

«When he grew older he became very quiet and went on with his night bohemian life but as an introverted person. What he never changed was his warmth for comradeship at tin counters and tables where he made a cult for friendship.

«Like a romantic, melancholic being he started to quite often frequent the Goes neighborhood. There El Gordo Alonso in his picturesque grocery store and bar on General Flores and Vilardebó was waiting for him. Seated at a little table and surrounded by bags full of birdseed and corn, Tito was having a cortado coffee while he wrote beautiful poems.

«In the wee small hours of the morning the taxi drivers around the bar El Faro knew that that skinny guy with a peaked little cap was the renowned Tito Cabano. It was not a surprise for them that the artists that used to appear at the nearby barbecue shop named Sud América said hello to him affectionately».

After this excellent account which shows us Tito Cabano’s personality in full, what else can we add? Just a short enumeration of his best known numbers.

As wordsmith, besides “Un boliche”: “Cada día canta más” with music by Alberto Castillo (under the pen name Riobal), committed to disc by its composer with his own orchestra led by Ángel Condercuri (1960). As author and composer: “De recalada”, recorded by the Trío Oldimar Cáceres with Ramón Rivadavia on vocals; “Mi Peñarol”, recorded by Eduardo Falcón accompanied by the Edelmiro D'Amario orchestra and “Cuarto cualquiera” of which I do not know any recording. As composer: the beautiful piece “En la madrugada”, with lyrics by Federico Silva, which has several renditions, among them the one most widely spread is that which Julio Sosa recorded with the orchestra led by Leopoldo Federico (1961). Also the rendition by Juan D'Arienzo with Horacio Palma on vocals (1961) and the one by Inés Miguens —Galleta— with orchestra. “Los rascas”, with words by Luis Caruso, was recorded by Alberto Castillo with his orchestra conducted by Condercuri (1960).

Furthermore, as author and composer, the following are filed in the record of AGADU (Asociación General de Autores de Uruguay): “Pincelada del puerto”, “Por qué tendré este corazón”, “Quién sino su amor”, “Ven a bailar”, “Después del amor”, “Concierto de tamboriles”, “Despertar”, “Misiadura”; “Despertar” has the music co-written with Oldimar Cáceres; “Dónde está tu ayer” with Ever Escobar; “Gotán” with Carlos Benvenuto; “Pensamiento” is a collaboration in words and music with Carlos Morín; “Engranado” with Adamar Ottonello; “Esta vuelta me paro” with Roberto García; only as lyricist: “Esta noche es para tangos” with music by Edgardo Pedroza; “Acalla tu voz”, with music by Edelmiro D'Amario, among others.

A thoroughly authentic poet, Tito Cabano has not been given the recognition he deserves and today, recalling my strolls down the Ciudad Vieja —back in the early 70s— looking for a place where to listen to tangos —because in Argentina the genre was then almost absent— has come to my mind the memory of this humble and talented creator.