Francisco Brancatti

Real name: Brancatti, Francisco
Lyricist, singer, guitarist and composer
(2 July 1890 - 4 June 1980)
Place of birth:
Montevideo Uruguay
Horacio Loriente

his great figure of popular music was born in Montevideo. At an early age he moved to Buenos Aires. There he would perform with the itinerant singers Gabino Ezeiza and José Betinotti, aided by his facility in improvising. In Montevideo he met Juan Pedro López (famous Uruguayan payador), to whom he suggested a trip to Argentina after hearing him singing, appearing together on successful evenings.

Brancatti associated with León Lara —an Uruguayan, from Florida—, whom he considered with admirable gifts in the guitar mastery, which allowed him to play classical music concertos, alternating his presentations with singing folk music in a duet.

Brancatti-Lara toured all the Argentine countryside and in 1916 they were hired in Tucumán (a city in the north of Argentina, where the Independence was declared in 1816) to play at the Centennial celebrations. Later they appeared in Salto and Artigas (Uruguay), entering Brazil through Santa Ana, later Paraná, Santa Catalina, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Santos and a big part of Mato Grosso. They achieved a resounding artistic and financial success. On that long tour of Brazil, Brancatti translated the lyrics into Portuguese, to that everybody would understand them. Always triumphantly, they traveled to Europe, performing in Spain and Portugal.

On their comeback to Buenos Aires they joined the folk outfit Los de la Leyenda. Subsequently the Brancatti-Lara duo returned to their homeland for a short time, hired by Glucksmann for his cinema network and later by the Oliver Company. On July 2, 1918, he performed in La Comedia with the Cotorrita Ramos' comic theatre company. It is also known that he was at the brilliant season at the Royal Theater on Bartolomé Mitre Street.

After over eight years of hard traveling on tours, soon before fulfilling a performance in La Bolsa in Rosario (province of Santa Fe), Brancatti suggested Lara splitting up the duo, that the latter accepted with grief. León Lara formed another, in Rosario with Néstor Feria. Brancatti, in the meantime, discharged his uneasiness into verses, where he was already insinuating an unmistakable style, although he sporadically created music as well.

In 1924, he wrote a lyric to “Tacuarembó” on music by the bandoneonist Alberto Rodríguez, also Uruguayan and member of the then excellent Osvaldo Fresedo's group and with the collaboration of Juan M. Velich they have their triumphant appearance in tango with “Amigazo”, an anthological number, with music by Juan de Dios Filiberto which was made known by the Roberto Firpo orchestra at the first Nacional record contest held at the Grand Splendid cinema.

He also shared with Velich the verses of “Mandria”, in 1926, whose music belongs to the Argentine pianist Juan Carlos Rodríguez and also became a long lasting number since the unparalleled rendition by Rosita Quiroga.

By then the Compañía de Comedias Victor is created, with the sole purpose of making recordings. There Brancatti wrote scripts and played with Herminia and Juan Velich, Rosita Quiroga and many others. Some times Gerardo Matos Rodríguez was included.

We are in 1928, when on Francisco Brancatti's insistence, and after much insistence, Libertad Lamarque recorded the ranchera “Mate amargo”, with music by Carlos Bravo (who was an official in the recording company). The number turned out a real boom, resulting in a fabulous record sale and that the genre was in fashion for nearly a decade. “Mate amargo” was also sung by children with a lyric adapted for schools. Brancatti's voice is the one which is highlighted in the embellishments of the famous interpretation by Libertad Lamarque.

Brancatti's lyrics for tango were mostly country style, with great dramatism and suggestion, such as “Justicia criolla”, “En la vieja pulpería”, “Contramarca”, “Echando mala”, as well adopting verses with delicate nature and city environment: “Alas caídas”, “Aquel Don Juan”, “Sangre bohemia”, “Canción del olvido”.

In 1930, then for the Odeon label, he joined Juan Velich's theater company, performing in comedies of different character, a cycle which ended in 1934.

He led a musical folk outfit under the name Los Chacareros in 1944 where he besides had dialogues with his wife. Later, his artistic labor will be less continuous, but keeping instead his desire of creating verses.

We exchanged fraternal correspondence with don Francisco Brancatti at our time of public official. A good partner, a relative of Brancatti's introduced me to him and on November 10, 1973, we visited him at his place, at the locality of Estanislao Zeballos in the Province of Buenos Aires, a pleasant and touching encounter for us.

We found a wonderful person, humble in his greatness and interested in the destiny of his fatherland. Five years before he had read the work Con divisa blanca by Javier de Viana. This book inspired him in such a way that he put it into verse. An old admirer of the Partido Nacional (National Party), his permanent poetic interest was inclined in that direction.

A patriarchal figure in the creole circles, respected and loved by all, his death took place on June 4, 1980. A great figure passed away, almost in silence, without the homage popular music still owes him.

Francisco Brancatti's tango verses for the music composed by the bandoneonist Pascual Clausi.

Son sus ojos dos machazos lamparones
que encandilan al más maula p'al amor
viera Tate se me caen los lagrimones
y ando al ñudo gambetiándole al dolor
Ella mesmo que el peludo jue escarbando
hasta abrirme un hoyo dentro'el corazón
y dispués que pa su bien la iba adorando
derepente me chuzió con su traición.
Desde entonces mi tatita
vivo enfermo'e la cabeza
yo la quise con fiereza
pa mi solo y naides más
Y es por eso que ando ansina
como juído de la gente
con el chambergo en la frente
sin poderlo echar pa'tras

I bis
Alguien dice que con ella juí salvaje
y que jué eso lo que la desorientó
son pavadas que hoy inventa el paisanaje
p'a gozarse de mi suerte, o qué sé yo...
No le cuente a mi viejita viá sobar
esta pena que en mi pecho se ha enterrao
y que sólo Dios la sabe avalorar.

II bis
Si algún día por si acaso
se tropieza con la ingrata
dígale querido Tata
que del mundo me perdí
Seguiré donde me lleven
mis desventuras malditas
mientras tanto a mi viejita
dele un beso usted, por mí.

Originally published in Ochenta notas de tango. Perfiles biográficos, Ediciones de La Plaza, Montevideo 1998. Sponsored by the Academia de Tango del Uruguay.