Pedro Colombo

hen he was only nine years old, Juan Carlos Costa (aka Costita) used to blend sounds on the harmonium of the recently opened Parroquia Rosa Mística, a parish very near his house, on 24 Street between 54 and 55, in La Plata. But that boy, born in the year that meant a landmark in the evolution of tango, was greatly attracted by the tango sound which captured radios and dancing tracks.

As soon as he finished grade school, he began to learn theory and music reading at the conservatory run by Fermín Valentín Favero, a violinist, composer an singer who was member of the Victor D’Amario orchestra and when he put together his own group included Costita as bandoneon player. He was also teacher of Jorge Sobral, Jorge Hidalgo, Juan Carlos Cobos and Ruth Durante, among other well-known figures.

After this basic knowledge, “Costita” furthered his learning in bandoneón playing at the Academia Musical run by maestro Pedro Laurenz on Montes de Oca Street: «My introduction to don Pedro was with “Palomita blanca”; after listening to me, he encouraged me with “It’s OK, but when you leave this academy, you’re going to play it this way”. I think I’ll never again be so much shocked before a musician as that time when Laurenz gave me his first, improvised lesson», Costa told us.

By that time I was playing at reunions in small bars and venues of La Plata and Berisso. But in the carnival celebrations of 1955 he made his debut in the Ricardo Pérsico orchestra which had a rhythmic style similar to D’Arienzo’s. The starting stage was important. Between the mid- 50s and 1965 he also joined Los Ases del Tango, fronted by Carlos Aimar and which had Rubén Lagos on vocals; and the Orquesta Los Reales, led by Osvaldo Molino, this one was not only danceable but also had pieces with modern reharmonizations, written by the leader, although under the influence of Alfredo De Angelis, Armando Pontier and Héctor Varela due to the association of the former with them.

When the decline of tango took place, especially in the mid- 60s, the musician felt that heavy blow. Then based in Berisso, he almost exclusively held to his job as public employee in the Post Office of that city (where he began as messenger boy until he retired as chief of the branch). However, his marriage with Blanca Gallardo in 1967, encouraged him not to quit music. Metaphorically, her words were a love letter to the heart of that bandoneon which was huddled up, like the instrument of “Cuando tallan los recuerdos”…

He returned to popular art whenever he was able to: at the beginning at the cabarets which painfully survived in the suburban night (El Argentino of Ensenada or the Premier of La Plata); later the venues in vogue, like Urraco of Berisso and the restaurants like Los Pinos of La Plata. He had his deserved reward when he joined the Orquesta Típica led by Horacio Omar Valente which in 1970 was awarded the Premio Gardel de Oro at the Festival de La Falda. With it he was in the bandoneon section for recording two albums accompanying Jorge Hidalgo and Horacio Barreta.

In the ears of the tango men of La Plata the chords he played with the guitarist Álvaro Tarducci are still alive. It was a duo that made its debut backing up Floreal Ruiz and later it became the Trío La Plata, by the addition of Luis Lombardi (finally replaced by José Amieva), on bass. This trio accompanied most of the great singers who came from Buenos Aires: Roberto Goyeneche, Alberto Marino, Virginia Luque, María Garay, María Graña and others.

His career reached an international level in 1989, when he and his peer “Pucho” Coralli were invited to Japan. Juan Carlos Costa played for eight consecutive seasons as main attraction at the venue La Candelaria, in Tokyo. His phrasing was so much liked that he had to appear in Okinawa, Kyoto, Osaka, Atami and other cities.

As guest he was lead bandoneon player of the Orchestra of the Society of Musicians of Japan and honorary member of it. Among his appearances he accompanied Roberto Goyeneche, Hernán Salinas and Guillermo Fernández at the Café Tortoni.

He was in the cast of Gotán, a play by Julio Tahier, as well as in the sainete (one-act farce) Con tango y yapa, with his own music and words by the author of this note. He also appeared in Hola Tango, emceed by Antonio Carrizo, on TV Channel 2.

To leave his own seed, with the Trío La Plata he backed his son, the then young singer Marcelo Costa, at the show Juventango, presented at the mythical Teatro Coliseo Podestá, in La Plata. Besides Marcelo, already consecrated in Buenos Aires, his grandson Julián Bellomo, 12 years-old, turned out a “parrillero” like his grandfather. Melina, a sixteen year-old girl, stands out as soprano singer in choral groups.

Costita passed away when he was spreading tangos, at age fifty-eight, with much more still to fulfill. Among his compositions we have: “Querida mujer” (waltz); “Milonga del excluido” (milonga), “Estampita inmigrante (Iguales pero distintos)” (tango), “Manolo” (tango); “Soy payador japonés”, with Taro San; and other pieces included in the file that his wife lovingly keeps.