Ángel Villoldo

Real name: Villoldo Arroyo, Ángel Gregorio
Nicknames: Fray Pimiento,
Composer and lyricist
(16 February 1861 - 14 October 1919)
Place of birth:
Buenos Aires Argentina
Néstor Pinsón

e bears the title of Father of Tango, a somewhat exaggerated qualification because there were many circumstances which originated our music. But his influence was so important in the beginnings and its development which made him deserve this designation.

He is the great transformer of the Spanish tanguillos, the cuplés, the habaneras, turning those musics into a River Plate rhythm.

A natural artist, he avoided no activity which enabled him to earn some money for a living. It is said that he was a typographer, circus clown and any other job he was required for.

He was also a cuarteador (a person taking care of an extra horse or joke of oxen for dragging uphill) in the neighborhoods far from downtown. He was a horserider who used to wait for the arrival of a big coach or a streetcar at the bottom of slopes to help them get out of the mud or to go uphill. This meant to fasten the vehicle with a rope tied to his horse and help it in the effort.

With a facility for writing, he devised stanzas for carnival costumed groups and numerous poems and prose writings for well-known magazines of the time: Caras y caretas, Fray Mocho and P.B.T.

All through his work is present the wit sarcasm, and his dialogues were thought for the common man's tongue and were always referred to real situations in the leasehold houses, the neighborhood and, many times, to love affairs which portrayed the way of speaking and behavior of the lowest social level of our society.

His wit, his facility in speaking, helped him to mix up with payadores and to put forward performances of scarse formality and, sometimes, completely shameless.

Always accompanying himself on guitar, with a harmonica added, he succeeded in telling stories by singing, which encouraged the audiences at the low cafés and joints.

For a living he made private recordings reciting poems of the worst taste.

In 1889, he published a compilation of cantos criollos (creole folk songs), lyrics which belonged to him and which were meant to be sung with guitar.

In 1916, he published other songs of deep national contents titled Argentine Popular Songs commemorating the centennial of the declaration of the Independence.

He wrote a modern method to learn guitar with symbols, called Método América, because it was published by the old Casa América in 1917.

Together with Alfredo Eusebio Gobbi and his wife, the Chilean Flora Rodríguez —parents of the leader and violinist Alfredo Gobbi— he traveled to France to make phonographic recordings hired by Gath & Chaves, one of the big Argentine shops of the period. This gave a great impulse to our music in Europe and many of these records were also distributed in Buenos Aires. But his oustanding place is that of a composer. Examples of his work are the tangos “El Porteñito”, “El esquinazo”, “La budinera”, “Soy tremendo”, “Cantar eterno”, the latter recorded in 1917 by the Gardel-Razzano duo.

All these numbers had the favor of the local orchestras which included them in their books.

But the most important was undoubtedly “El choclo”, because of its melody and its rhythm, which indeed would be the emblematic tango had not existed “La cumparsita”. To such an extent that a story corroborates it precisely. During World War I, the Argentine journalist Tito Livio Foppa was in the German front when at an official party a musician played the piano to honor him and attempted to play the national anthem, but in reality he played “El choclo” which he mistook for our patriotic music.

Another fundamental tango is “La morocha”, with simple lyrics and made in a hurry for the composer Enrique Saborido, who in 1906 had the luck to embark his sheet music on the Fragata Sarmiento, a maiden voyage ship for the Army cadets, and this is considered the first tango made popular in Europe.

This remarkable musician and poet left a huge work, from which these stand out “El torito”, “Cuidado con los 50”, “Una fija”, “Yunta brava”, “El cachorrito”, “Pineral”, “El pimpollo”, “Trigo limpio [b]”, “La bicicleta”.

Another of his compositions, the milonga “Matufias (O el arte de vivir)”, is a contribution to the knowledge of our history by means of an impeccable description, which is a synthesis of the artistic value of this major creator.