Yoshinori Yoneyama

Real name: Yoneyama, Yoshinori
Nicknames: Carlitos
Bandoneonist and leader
(18 February 1955 - 5 June 2006)
Place of birth:
Tokio Japan

e was an artist that learnt to play bandoneon when he was an adult and worked with effort for his great passion, Argentine tango. He began to be interested in tango at age eleven, when was amazed by “La cumparsita” in Juan D’Arienzo’s rendition.

A refined spirit, member of a distinguished Japanese family, he was born in Tokyo where he studied philosophy and literature.

Admirer of Ciriaco Ortiz, Pedro Maffia, Pedro Laurenz and Aníbal Troilo —whom he studied by means of the recordings that arrived in Japan—, he got a bandoneon in 1972 through the Argentine musician Juan Carlos Niesi.

His passion for tango led him to be attentive to the arrivals of musicians of our country and, so, he began to get in touch with all the artists who went to his land. One of them was Julio Ahumada who then was member of the orchestra led by Carlos García, on a tour of Japan. The latter invited him to settle in Argentina for studying bandoneon.

When he arrived in Buenos Aires he had the honor to be supported by Aníbal Troilo who, also, gave him some lessons about playing the instrument.

He would never forget his arrival in Buenos Aires, on July 11, 1974, at age nineteen, thanks to an agreement he made with his father: «If I succeeded in entering the University, in Tokyo, he would allow me a year on leave to travel to Buenos Aires».

Due to his big progress, he joined the Leopoldo Federico orchestra, firstly, as bit player and, later, as staff member. His debut was in Michelangelo on July 1, 1976.

Three years later, in 1977, he joined the Carlos Figari orchestra to appear at El Viejo Almacén. His improvement in bandoneon playing was outstanding and he returned to the Leopoldo Federico orchestra as lead bandoneon player and appeared in Argentina and made several tours of Japan, Finland, Spain and Chile.

In 1992 he was appointed member of the Cuadro Joven de la Academia Nacional del Tango. His performance -not only as bandoneonist of the orchestra fronted by Federico, but also as administrative manager of the same- allowed him to put together his own orchestra in 1994. So he became the first leader of Japanese origin, in the history of tango in Argentina, who led and recorded in our country.
In 1997 he made his debut with his music group in Argentina, but he also appeared in Japan, on a tour that included twenty concerts. Everybody knew him as Carlitos, despite he had nothing to do with Gardel. The sobriquet came after a performance by José Basso in Osaka. Yoneyama himself says in La Nación journal: «When Basso finished playing, instead of going to his dressing room, he sat at the table where I was with my parents. Then he told me: “You look like my son Carlitos”. Many ones in Buenos Aires know me by that name; others call Ponja», he concludes with his contagious laughter. (Translator’s note: Ponja comes from inverting the syllables of Japan in Spanish –Japón)

José Libertella used to say about Carlitos: «He plays very well. It is the proof that you can seed tango anywhere, but it can only grow in Argentina».

Truly an ambassador of art, his unequivocal Japanese culture has perfectly fit to the demands and the style of Argentine art, due to the impeccable behavior, elegance and dignity of the orchestra leader. Musicians of a younger generation were conducted on that occasion by Yoshinori Yoneyama, whose appearance in Argentina and throughout the world was, no doubt, a matter of satisfaction for his Japan and for Argentina, his land of adoption.

Players who joined his orchestra: Yoshinori Yoneyama, Marcelo Nisiman and, as special guests, Federico Scorticati and Julio Pane (bandoneonists); Leonardo Suárez Paz, Pablo Agri, Mauricio Svidosky and Fabián Bertero (violinists); Diego Sánchez (cello); Daniel Buono (bass); Christian Zárate (piano) and, as special guest artist: Osvaldo Berlinghieri; and the female singer María Fanelli.

With his orchestra he recorded the pieces: “Inspiración”, “Sentimiento gaucho”, “Milonga triste”, “Adiós Nonino”, “Pa’ mama”, “Cada día te extraño más”, “Criolla linda” and “La cumparsita”, among others.