Armando Tagini

Real name: Tagini, Armando José María
Nicknames: José Oyarzábal
Lyricist, composer and singer
(9 June 1906 - 12 July 1962)
Place of birth:
Buenos Aires Argentina
Gaspar Astarita

t would be an irreverence of mine towards Armando Tagini´s memory if with this note I would like to hold the position of discoverer of his work for tango literature, and of having rescued him from oblivion.

From what oblivion? His verses have been for years and they will remain in the popular emotion and the people's ears. Then they do not have any need of my unnecessary pretension of rescuer, because his production is there, recreated daily, speaking for him and defending by itself of lack of recognition and postponements.

Nearly always Gardel´s repertoire is which updates us with his scarcely frequented name in the history of tango, since El Morocho was the one who launched his most striking hits as author as from the mid- 20s. His early compositions were “La gayola” and “Gloria”, whose lines, with marked slang (lunfardo) expressions, bore the musical coupling by Rafael Tuegols and Humberto Canaro respectively.

But after those two numbers he was delivering to our songbook other works conceived in a language more refined, of romantic expression and polished construction, quite far from the terms and locutions used in the tango literature of then and in which he dared to with “La gayola” and “Gloria”.

Marioneta” and “Misa de once”, and especially “Perfume de mujer” —the three in collaboration with Juan José Guichandut— are an outstanding example of the change that the subject matter of the work of Armando Tagini acquired.

He added his name, with this new proposal, to the brand-new innovative front joined by José González Castillo, Enrique Cadícamo, Francisco García Jiménez and an early Manzi, which —in formulations and style— was giving a new aesthetic and spiritual dimension to tango lyrics.

Although he did not reached the density and the importance of the production of the other authors just mentioned, Armando Tagini´s reveals a language that is in the level of that trend that they led, because he managed —with harmonious handling— to conciliate poetry and craftsmanship in his works. In a word, he wisely blended craftsmanship and art.

He was often successful in a group of compositions that started at the time above mentioned —around 1926— and that will extend to the famous 40s, whose promotion of lyricists he was foretelling and to which he also belonged by age and continuity of his work.

Armando José María Tagini was born in Buenos Aires, in the neighborhood of El Abasto, on June 9, 1906, and his parents were Mr.Francisco Tagini (Italian) and Josefa Oyarzábal (Basque Spanish). Without high studies, his sensitivity and readings tuned him until poetry sprang out naturally.

In his early youth he began to work at an administration office of the railway company, where he was working partner of several authors and composers, among them Juan José Guichandut, Francisco García Jiménez and Rafael Tuegols were, who connected him with the artistic environments and especially with circles of the urban music, where he got acquainted with artists of the most varied kind —singers, authors, composers, directors—, starting as a popular singer.

He made his debut with the Anselmo Aieta typical orchestra, and premiered the tangos “Tus besos fueron míos”, “Siga el corso”, “La violetera” and “Bajo Belgrano”, all lyrics by the poet Francisco García Jiménez. He later performed on Radio Cultura with the pianist Ricardo Tanturi.

Radio stations and theaters were the places where he carried out all his career as singer, while he was making his production as author be known.

In 1927, soon after his 21st birthday, he made known three tangos that turned out three popular hits. “La gayola” (music by Rafael Tuegols) and “Gloria” (music by Humberto Canaro) were recorded by Carlos Gardel on the same day, August 27, 1927. In “La gayola” Gardel made certain changes on some locutions, that although Tagini approved of at its time, he kept the original ones in a definitive version of the lyrics published in 1938 (Gardel replaced «contemplarme» by «campanearme»; «largo a largo» by «atorrando» and «voy a trabajar muy lejos» by «voy al campo a laburarla»).
These two early compositions evidence a thorough knowledge of popular language and of slang terminology, that did not suggest that his next work, “Perfume de mujer” (music by Juan José Guichandut), would abruptly break this pattern, that, in theme and words, was constantly dug by most lyricists of the period. With carefully polished language and romantic contents, this tango turned out second at the contest held in August 1927 by the Max Glücksmann house, in the category: tangos with lyrics.

Two months later after it was premiered by Agustín Irusta with the Francisco Canaro orchestra, “Perfume de mujer” was recorded by Carlos Gardel on October 22, 1927.
In 1928 he made known two unforgettable tangos: “Mano cruel”, recorded by Gardel on September 6, 1928, and “Marioneta”, immediately recorded by Don Carlos on October 22. “Mano cruel” has music written by the double bass player Carmelo Mutarelli and “Marioneta”, by his main collaborator, Juan José Guichandut.
Around that time —in the late twenties— he launched several pieces that, even though they were widely spread at that time, they did not remain. These are the tangos “Percantina” and “El último acorde” and the waltz “Manos blancas”, all them with Juan José Guichandut; “De rodillas”, with Luis Ortigosa; “Pobre huerfanita”, with Oscar Arona, and “Bajo fondo” with Ciriaco Ortiz.

On September 14, 1929, through a great interpretation by Carlos Gardel, another composition never to be forgotten was known: “Misa de once”, in collaboration with Guichandut as well.

About 1928, when he launched two hits foreign to tango —the foxtrots “A orillas del Nilo” and “Esfinge”, both in collaboration with the pianist Mauricio Mignot— he made a stop in his performances, to take them back in the early 1931.

In spite of being absent in the stages and for the microphones of that time, he went on composing, but his new titles did not have the impact of previous numbers. However, nearing the end of 1930, he reached a new hit: “Buey manso”, another tango with music by Carmelo Mutarelli, that Carlos Gardel would record on December 1, 1930. But the work was premiered by Tagini himself some months before.

On December 30, 1933 Armando Tagini married Juana Emma Bosco, of this marriage were born two children. After the birth of the latter, his artistic life had practically ended. Except for some sporadic appearance on some Buenos Aires broadcasting, he never again performed professionally.

Most times he composed lyrics after the music. Although many of his verses were added music afterwards.

He had the need and the habit of composing. He himself says: «I take the themes of my songs from life itself, from what I see passing before my eyes, from every impression I pick up when passing by, adding to it my own emotion, when committing it to paper. Every place is suitable to take notes, that later become verses... I prefer the sentimental genre and especially in tango, that is per se nostalgic, it is more attuned with the temper of our people. I would dare to say that we, the Argentines are a little romantic...» (Femenil magazine, 8/7/1932, page 51)

Other works worth mentioning of his vast work are “Abrojos” (Alfonso Lacueva), “El embrujo de tu violín” (Mario Maurano), “La marcha nupcial” (Juan Venancio Clauso), “El cornetín del tranvía” and “Menta y cedrón” with music by Oscar Arona.

On July 12, 1962, when he was just 56 years old, he died because of a heart illness.
Finally, the poet José María Contursi comments: «Another lyricist, that deserves being remembered and not always has been justly recognized, is Armando Tagini. He drove tango lyrics into a new style».

Originally published in Tango y Lunfardo, Nº 62, Chivilcoy, 23 December 1990. Director: Gaspar J. Astarita.