Néstor Pinsón

eading specialized magazines of the fifties and sixties we found the following adjectives that qualified Elsita Rivas: «The temperamental female singer», «The strong figure of...», «The dramatic interpreter of our tango», and many others. And they were not wrong, because that was her style until her lasts days.

I recall her precisely between the years 1954 and 1957. Firstly when she made her debut on El Mundo radio station accompanied by the staff orchestra of the broadcasting. And later, an event somewhat unusual in tango orchestras: she was «one» of the regular (usually male) singers of one of the most important aggregations in the previous decade, Ricardo Tanturi’s.

Edgardo Donato was the first who bet on a female singer as a permanent vocalist when he hired Lita Morales alongside the boys Horacio Lagos, Lita’s boyfriend, and the Uruguayan Romeo Gavioli. Soon later a lot of trouble the composer of “A media luz” had to stand because of the love triangle that burst out.

In 1956 Ricardo Tanturi, after several years of inactivity, came back to show business including Elsa in his staff of vocalists. Her partners were Juan Carlos Godoy, to whom soon was added Horacio Roca. The musicians of the new lineup were Ermando Posadas (piano), Héctor Gondre, Raúl Iglesias, Juan Acetone, Horacio Perri and Ezequiel Esteban (bandoneons); Vicente Salerno, Alberto Taibo, Milo Dojman and Eduardo Salgado (violins); Natalio Berardi (double bass). She only recorded six numbers between October 1956 and September of the following year: “Besos brujos”, “Muriéndome de amor”, “Provinciana linda”, a waltz by Tanturi and Reinaldo Yiso ih a vocal trio with her partners and again as soloist in “Pa’ que sientas lo que siento”, “Que Dios me castigue” and “Todo por un amor”.

Her beginnings were like those of many girls. She started singing in her early childhood, hence she was called Elsita for many years. As soon as she entered grammar school she was requested to appear at school festivals. A few years later, but still at school age, she appeared on radio and at age fifteen she already performed professionally at different downtown venues, such as the well-remembered La Querencia, accompanied by a small group led by Alejandro Scarpino. She followed the habitual path by appearing at numerous locals and clubs in Buenos Aires and at suburban cities until reaching Radio El Mundo and joining the Tanturi Orchestra.

Tango music was living its last years of glory in the late fifties, when for the carnival seasons, the big clubs were overflowed by the public: River, San Lorenzo, Comunicaciones and many others. It is the time of splendor for Héctor Varela with Argentino Ledesma and Rodolfo Lesica, and their hits “Fumando espero” and “Historia de un amor” airplayed till boredom. It is the time when still new outfits are put together. Such is the case of Fulvio Salamanca who finally recorded in 1957 and even he dared to be successful with an «innovation», if such a thing can be described with that label, of introducing the violins playing in unison on certain pieces. It is the end of a period.

A producer offered her a better cachet and wider diffusion. She teamed up with Roberto Rufino, who reappeared once more, and the Leopoldo Federico Orchestra. The new proposal did not last long but she recorded with Leopoldo in 1959. The numbers recorded were six: “Dame mi libertad”, “Y lo mismo te perdí”, “A tu memoria madrecita” (waltz), “Más fuerte que yo”, “Como nadie te ha querido” and again “Besos brujos”.

She also gigged and recorded with an orchestra put together especially by Juan José Paz. She made five recordings: “Hasta siempre amor”, “En esta tarde gris”, “Juana Tango”, “Ventanita florida” and a great hit “Quién tiene tu amor”. Its author, Leopoldo Díaz Vélez told me the following: «First the lyric was born, after an unrequited love. Later, when the music was already composed, at the Richmond of Suipacha I offered it to Elsa Rivas who was gigging there. She premiered it soon, it was quickly included in the songbooks of other orchestras and later recorded to great acclaim in Latin American countries adapted to other beats.»

An anecdote: One day two people sent by a Bolivian recording company visited her. They wanted an authorization to get the Argentino Ledesma's rendition of “Quién tiene tu amor” but he had not recorded it. Their intention was to release it on the other side of the record with that strange but attractive tango titled “Illimani” inspired in the Bolivian mountain, a piece written by Néstor Porto Carrero. There were discussions, other tangos were offered instead, the agents talked to people in their country to find a way out, but there wasn't. The tango piece had to be “Quién tiene tu amor” or nothing at all. As their purpose was to release 10.000 records they did not want to stay out of the business, so hurriedly Negro Ledesma recorded it with the Jorge Dragone Orchestra and everybody was satisfied.

Elsita's career continued along normal channels: public appearances, radios, television programs and tours of Uruguay, Chile and in 1973 of Colombia, as member of an artistic embassy which included Armando Pontier, Hugo Del Carril, the almost local Armando Moreno —El Niño— and others. But the most important one, possibly was the voyage that in 1967 she made to Japan with Los Señores del Tango. With the latter she later recorded for a recording company of that country: “Adiós pampa mía”, “Caminito”, a Discépolo's tango medley and a Japanese song with tango beat and sung in Japanese.

She was shortly associated with the Troilo-Grela quartet. Always as soloist she recorded accompanied by groups led by Daniel Lomuto, Jorge Dragone, the Trío Yumba, Alberto Di Paulo and Víctor D'Amario. She made over 60 recordings.