Samuel Castriota

Real name: Castriota, Samuel
Pianist, guitarist, leader and composer.
(2 November 1885 - 8 July 1932)
Place of birth:
Buenos Aires Argentina
Gaspar Astarita

ue to the fundamental importance that the lyrics of the tango “Mi noche triste (Lita)” acquired, projected towards the history of tango with strength and condition of a model, the composer of its music —Samuel Castriota—, even though he has never been forgotten, his placement and his mentioning, instead, have been on a secondary level. It is not superfluous, then, that we remember him when on July 8 takes place a new anniversary of his death.

Samuel Castriota´s life has a relationship with Pascual Contursi´s, with whom he shared the authorship of the memorable tango, in some events —coincidences, misleading and curiosities— that, in spite of the fact they did not know it, drew them nearer and put them far apart inadvertently.

Both were born in November, under the sign of Scorpio, and with a difference of a few years —Contursi, on November 18, 1885, and Castriota, on November 2, 1895—. They were to die in the same year as well, 1932, with 49 days of difference: Contursi on May 20 and Castriota on July 8.

And even though they did not know each other, tango drew them near. Without asking permission to the composer, Pascual Contursi fit his literary finding to this three-part work that he listened in Buenos Aires and was named “Lita” and that had been instrumentally premiered at the café El Protegido, placed on San Juan and Pasco streets, by the outfit led by its creator on the piano. Only at the time of the recording by Gardel, Razzano and Gardel's participation drew them near, and even smoothed some harshness and put on the right road the financial pretensions of both. Although they did not become enemies, in the end they did not turn out friends as we might think because of the solid alliance they achieved in the composition. Anyhow they once more collaborated but this time under mutual agreement, trying to repeat the hit they reached at the start, with the tango “Sentate hermano” (subtitled “Bebé conmigo”) which did not even get near the quality, the popularity and the impact of “Mi noche triste (Lito)”.

But we have to insist on something about this tango by Samuel Castriota: it decidedly helped in the success of the literary blending, because it was a music very different to the classic tangos of the old stream to which Contursi had been fitting his early lyrics. Its three parts had a structure of deep melodic substance, of appropriate disposition to accept the literary proposal. And, a funny thing, music and words met each other and became the vigorous and admirable coalition of Mi noche triste without the meeting of its authors. And, I insist, when they met and agreed to collaborate in other compositions, they did even not achieved in coming near the unique success of the «memorable octosyllable», as Gobello called it.

Was born in the city of Buenos Aires, and spent his childhood in San Miguel, a locality near the Capital, where he alternated his apprenticeship as barber with his practice of guitar player by ear, a musical inclination he kept on in Buenos Aires, a city where he returned to when he was 16.

Later, and already involved with small outfits, he switched to piano, always intuitively. All of a sudden he won at the lottery. With that money he put up a barbershop at the Capital and withdrew momentarily from music. He retook it, now as pianist and after some musical instruction, forming a trio with Vicente Loduca on bandoneon and Francisco Canaro on violin, that played for some time at the area of La Boca. He put together his own group, with which he premiered “Lita”, in the mid-10s.

And with that he won the lottery again. Contursi, by adding the verses that would transform that tango into “Mi noche triste”, placed him on the road to fame and of the not at all disdainable source of income by way of copyright.

Went on conducting his orchestra or alternating as pianist in others, and composing as well. But never reaching again the success of that predestinated tango. These numbers also belong to him: “La yerra” (his first work, from 1913), “La cotorrita”, “El gorrión”, “Flor de cardo (A ella le gusta)”, “Como brilla”, “Como quiera”, “La mañanita”, “Campero”, “El gaucho [b]”, “El loco de los inventos”, “Nido de amor”, that with some others are his purely instrumental production of the time of “Mi noche triste”.

Subsequently, he tried a chance with other compositions to be sung that he made known through theater plays but they failed to gain popularity, all them in collaboration with play writers: “Dolor de ausencia”, with Carlos R. De Paoli; “El ciruja de Sorrento”, with Juan Andrés Caruso; “Patio olvidado”, with Carlos Cabral and “Chica moderna”, with Enrique Pedro Maroni, besides the others already mentioned with Pascual Contursi.

He also, run the risk of making versify two tangos of his, “Notas lejanas” and “Mi coronel”, with which «nothing happened». Furthermore, among the works composed, apart from “Mi noche triste”, there is one which had acceptable merits and spreading: it is “El arroyito”, which bore lyrics by Celedonio Flores.

In general, he can be considered a musician of good aptitudes and outstanding importance in the generation of instrumentalists that covered the history of tango in the early decades of this century. And he had the merit, and the honor, of having helped to frame the strong rungs of that ladder which tango climbed from feet to lips.