Ángel Díaz

Real name: Díaz, José Lisandro
Nicknames: El Paya
Singer and composer
(25 April 1928 - 11 December 1998)
Place of birth:
Buenos Aires Argentina
Néstor Pinsón

ccording to Adolfo Rodríguez, his lunfardo nickname comes from the Quechuan language and it is applied to those with red or blonde hair. It may also be the short for payador (itinerant singer). This excellent singer who did not achieve the acclaim he deserved, passed away recently leaving us deprived of his exquisite phrasing and the velvet quality of his voice. He was a baritone with sweetness, intimate and deeply rooted in Buenos Aires who, unfortunately, did not succeed in having a large record output.

As a child he was known as Payita because El Paya was then his father Luis, who used to be in his youth a payador in the neighborhood of Parque Patricios and its vicinity.

He soon learnt to play guitar and in his adolescence when he wanted to sing he had no need of an accompanist.

When he was about 19 years old, his name drew the attention of the tango public when he joined the Florindo Sassone Orchestra. He is the first partner of Jorge Casal, who due to his quality as interpreter was the main attraction and had helped to place the orchestra at the highest levels of popularity. Unfortunately only one recording evidences his passing through the ranks of this aggregation.

The following year, 1949, he joined the Alfredo Gobbi Orchestra, in which he teamed-up with Jorge Maciel with whom, in duo, he recorded the Laureano Martinez Smart’s waltz “Tu amargura”. And only two recordings more, the tangos “No la traigas” by Gentile and Yiso and “Porque soy reo” by Velich, Meaños and Rossano.

In the early 50s he was invited by Ángel D'Agostino to join his unit for a stint during the carnival season at the Boca Juniors club and soon afterwards he joined the Horacio Salgán Orchestra.

The first Salgán outfit was put together in 1944, and Edmundo Rivero was its vocalist but no one in the radio or recording business milieu wanted to hire them. The musician was rejected for his style, far from being popular, and the singer because of his low pitch.

In 1949 the pianist put together a new orchestra which was lined-up, among others, by the bandoneonists Leopoldo Federico, Toto Rodríguez, Abelardo Alfonsín, and Antonio Scelza; Carmelo Cavallaro and Víctor Felice on violines; Adriano Fanelli on cello and on double bass, Ángel Allegri. The vocalists were Oscar Serpa and since 1950, Ángel Díaz, who stayed until 1956.

The debut was on Radio Belgrano where Salgán had his own radio show: Así les brindo el tango.

In 1952 they played for the carnival balls at the Atlanta club. The vocalists were El Paya and Horacio Deval, a singer that imitated Gardel, something that on several occasions caused them some trouble. At that same place the novel singer Roberto Goyeneche, accompanied by three guitars, was also performing. Both the leader and Díaz were impressed by the fair-haired singer, so at the end of the evening they talked him into joining the orchestra. The following week Goyeneche appeared on the dancing sessions aired by radio replacing Deval who was then starting his career as soloist. It is said that El Paya was who named Goyeneche with the nickname El Polaco. What it is true is that a friendly relationship then began and it lasted until he died. Goyeneche, in his successful times and on different interviews, acknowledged how much he owed his colleague, as far as singing is concerned, for all he had taught him.

After he split with the orchestra, he started up his career as soloist in the usual manner: cafés, dancehalls and tours throughout the country. On several occasions, accompanied by Goyeneche. Later he gigged on television and he withdrew from the performing career for some time, but from time to time he returned to nightlife and tango.

One evening, back in the early 90s, by chance he met El Polaco at the Café Homero, today run by the singer Rubén Juárez, and Goyeneche persuaded the owner to hire him. At that venue he performed for a long season.

In 1992 he was part of the delegation that appeared at the Festival de Tango de Granada (Spain) where he sang backed by his own guitar and the pianist Héctor Stamponi. He as well recorded three numbers for a compact disc with the Osvaldo Berlingieri Trio.

Somebody said that Ángel Díaz did not reach the highest rank in terms of massive impact on public taste, but he was one of the best singers in the history of our music and so was regarded by the most attentive followers during his whole career. He very well contributed with his own features to the art of singing to deserve by far an outstanding place in the history of tango.

The day after his death, the journalist Julio Nudler, himself an admirer of Díaz's, wrote for the Página 12 daily paper, the following article:

«The tango singer Ángel Díaz died yesterday of a heart attack that seized him in his dressing room at the Teatro General San Martín, when he was getting ready for his appearance at the Festival Internacional Buenos Aires Tango. Díaz had a show scheduled at the Casacuberta hall, from where, after the sound check-up he went to his dressing room to await the time of appearing on stage. It was during that waiting time that death surprised him, at age 69. After 1950 Díaz greatly contributed to Salgán's success on record, and was considered by the connoisseurs as the archetype of the Buenos Aires singer, absolutely genuine and sensitive, with an exact emotional balance. Many considered him, in a way, the teacher of Goyeneche and other vocalists.

«His brief discography includes some renditions which are real classics. That is the case of “Porque soy reo” with Gobbi. This tango portrays, as very few do, the Buenos Aires man, a kind of skeptical existentialist. With Salgán the standouts are “Como abrazado a un rencor”, one of the anthological lyrics of the genre. It was so heretical that a spoken introduction was added attributing to the rancor of a dying man what is to be heard later. “Doble castigo” and “N.P. (No Placé)” possess witty metaphors of the fans of horse racing about love. In his repertoire with Gobbi and Salgán there were tangos he did not manage to commit to wax because, in both cases, they were not cashbox hit makers. Such is the case of “Trenzas”, “Una tarde”, “De puro guapo” and “Una lágrima [b]”. Genuine gems were lost because these pieces were not recorded. Because of his demise the organizers of the festival decided that a minute of silence had to be made on all the remaining performances».