Aníbal Oberlín

Real name: Oberlín, Valentín
Nicknames: El Pibe de la Voz de Oro
(14 February 1922 - 10 June 2013)
Place of birth:
Montevideo Uruguay
Miguel Gadea Sandler

e was born right in the neighborhood of El Cordón, on 1782 Tacuarembó Street. At a very young age he made his debut on the radios: CX22 Fada Radio, CX20 Montecarlo and on CX44. In 1933 he had the luck of seeing no less than Carlos Gardel when he sang at the Teatro 18 de Julio. One year later, in 1934, he made his debut in front of an audience at the Teatro Albéniz on Ibicuy Street.

In 1935, the air crash in Medellín deprived us of the greatest tango singer: Carlos Gardel. Radio Águila, which at that time was sponsored by Dr. Juan Carlos Patrón and Edmundo Bianchi, immediately organized a contest for singers at the old Café Vaccaro to look for a figure that would follow Carlos Gardel’s path. The chosen voice belonged to a kid, who was just thirteen years old, named Valentín Oberlín. They called him «El pibe de la voz de oro». He was hired by CX32 Radio Águila and sang at the theaters: Albéniz, Artigas, 18 de Julio and SODRE, and in nearly all the movie theaters of Montevideo at the intermissions between every motion picture.

Between 1943 and 1945, he joined the orchestras fronted by Enrique Pollet, Carlos Warren, Juan Baüer (Firpito) and Rogelio Coll (Garabito). In 1946, for Sondor records, he recorded the tangos: “Penas [b]” and “Tu silencio [b]”, with the Rogelio Coll orchestra. He sang at the cabarets Capitol, Royal Pigall, Colmado de Sevilla and La Mezquita. He as well sang at the cafés of the period, such as: Tupí Namba, Ateneo, Montevideo and Vaccaro.

From Buenos Aires he was summoned for the orchestras led by Aníbal Troilo and Osmar Maderna. The latter personally suggested it at the Café Ateneo, but Aníbal was appointed general manager of the Center of Owners of Taxi Cabs of Uruguay, which he joined as official from 1939 to 1970, what forced him to quit singing and decline offers received by renowned leaders, and so he withdrew from the professional activity for a long period.

In the period 1975-1976, after 30 years and due to reiterated invitations by the authorities of Channel 5 SODRE, he came back to sing professionally in the program Café Concert.

He appeared at the main tango venues of the milieu and in 1980 he recorded, for the Orfeo label, his first and long awaited long-playing record with the group led by the pianist César Zagnoli, accompanied by the bandoneonist Hugo Díaz [b], Pedro Terrón and Vicente Martínez on bass and lute, and the guitar players Julio Cobelli and Eduardo Méndez. It is the album Orfeo SULP 90630, entitled Tangos del 40 al 80.

In 1984 he recorded, opening the Joventango series for the label La Batuta, the cassette named Montevideo, vos y yo. The following year he went to Buenos Aires with a tango embassy which the Joventango institution would present at the famous El Viejo Almacén, by that time owned by Edmundo Rivero. A little before his death, Edmundo Rivero recalled, with great respect, the appearance of Aníbal Oberlín in his venue and he was amazed wondering why the latter in his youth did not come to this river bank, where he, undoubtedly, would have been a boom in the main tango market of the world.

From 1991 he appeared in special recitals and at all the festivals Viva el Tango organized by Joventango. It is worthwhile mentioning the show at the Sala Verdi alongside the actors of the Comedia Nacional: Alberto Candeau, Maruja Santullo and Jaime Yavits, which was recorded on video by the SODRE. This was the last public performance by Candeau, who soon later passed away.

In 1992 he recorded his third album, also published by the label La Batuta. It includes live recordings at the Teatro Solís, the AGADU salon, the El Viejo Almacén and in the studio of the above label. It was released as Tangos. Aníbal Oberlin 1991-92. His recordings are aired in Buenos Aires on Radio Continental, FM Cultura, FM Clásica, etc.

He appeared in various events organized by the Fundación Tango and was main figure at their shows at the Café Sorocabana, on Yi Street.

He continued singing at the main tango activities of the country and at night venues. He was invited by the Sexteto Tango to join the group and appear on June 3 and 4, 1994 at the Teatro Odeón–Carlos Brusa. This appearance did not come true because of the sudden death of the renowned bandoneon player Osvaldo Ruggiero, who had spoken well after listening to recordings by our artist, saying that, undoubtedly, he was the best singer of the latter times.

He appeared at the Tango festivals of Montevideo, being yearly one of the main attractions; recently two CD’s were released by Charrúa Producciones which includes in the first volume, Aníbal Oberlin del 1935 al 1999, outstanding pieces carefully chosen from his refined repertoire. The second of these volumes, Aníbal Oberlín, Tangos de dos siglos has 21 songs of which nine are recordings made by Aníbal Oberlín on February 8, 2000, accompanied on keyboard by the pianist Julio Travella, with a long tenure in the Rogelio Coll orchestra. We can perceive freshness, firmness, perfect intonation and, above all, a superb interpretive quality he displays at age 78, with some tracks which would be hard to equal.

We mention some stories, taken from his extensive resume. In 1935, while still in grade school at the Escuela Nº 88 on Estero Bellaco and Monte Caseros Streets, at the celebration of the end of the year, after singing the stanzas of our National Anthem, the pupils of the school made a huge choir so that Aníbal Oberlín would sing a tango for the government authorities who were present there. The teachers, surprised by that unexpected petition, were forced to accept what was asked by the students. When the party was over, the authorities there asked permission to take him to the government house to sing tangos for the President of the Republic, Dr. Gabriel Terra, his relatives, ministers and friends who were there.

In 1941 he entered the first division of the Club Nacional de Fútbol. In 1950 and 1951 he was world champion of Pelota de Frontón (Pelota court), and was chosen twice to take part of the world championship of that specialty, to which he did not go because he had to travel by plane.

Nearing the end of the millennium, Aníbal Oberlin continued being one of the best interpreters of our beloved urban music, owner of a polished technique in singing, exact phrasing, unequaled mezza voce and excellent diction.

Excerpted from the Comunicación Académica Nº 6, of the Academia del Tango de la República Oriental del Uruguay, published in