Jorge Palacio (Faruk)

knew about María Graña’s existence in 1971 when my friend Ben Molar handed me his long-playing record Los de siempre which contained fourteen previously unpublished tangos composed by noteworthy creators of the genre and sung by unknown vocalists, save for a few exceptions. Among these novel singers a girl called María Carmen Graña attracted my attention with the number “Y nunca más tu amor”, written by Francisco Pracánico and Leopoldo Díaz Vélez.

María Graña was born in Buenos Aires and since her early childhood she had a passion for singing. At age twelve she started to study with the teacher Elvira Aquilano, with whom she studied for seventeen years.

In 1970, she appeared at a contest on the television program Canta el pueblo on Channel 7. Then she sang “La canción de Buenos Aires” and the board awarded her the first prize.

Her name was heard by maestro Pugliese who already knew her, so he invited her to join his orchestra alongside his other vocalist, Abel Córdoba. She made her debut at the nightclub Michelangelo, in 1973. Her warmth, her charming communicative personality, and a sober and strong way of interpreting tango made the public be identified with her in a few minutes. They also appeared on Channel 11.

It’s a pity that don Osvaldo and María did not make recordings to give evidence of that teaming. The numbers that María performed with Pugliese were: “Nostalgias”, “Volver”, “Amar amando” and “La canción de Buenos Aires”.

In 1975, the singer traveled to Colombia joining a tango embassy which included Mario Bustos, Argentino Ledesma and others. They appeared at the most elegant halls of Bogotá, Medellín and at the Plaza de Toros (bullring) of Manizales. So overwhelming was the success achieved by María that the recording company Codisco signed her to record her first LP as soloist. It was titled La gran tanguista and the musical accompaniment was comprised of a group of Argentine and Colombian musicians. On that release the standouts are the tangos “Canción desesperada” and “Garras” and the waltz “Flor de lino”.

That same year she went to Brazil and to other South American countries and when she was asked about the reason of her success, she answered: «I can’t explain that. The only one who can do it is the audience. I only know that I am a singer that cultivates a melodic style with some Gardelian touches. I think I have contributed a strongly feminine finesse to tango».

Television was always the most suitable of communications media for the popularity of the singer. She was an ever-present figure at the programs: El tango del millón, Buenas noches Buenos Aires and Tango Club on Channel 11 and at Grandes valores del tango on Channel 9.

In 1977, I was called by Channel 7 to write and coordinate a program titled Amistangos, emceed by Héctor Larrea. Musicians and singers would have to be renewed periodically, except María Graña who had to appear more frequently. The same happened with two big shows that I made for the same channel. One was titled Los poetas del tango and the other, Siete décadas de tango. On both I was lucky enough so as to count on her. As well the night of Buenos Aires provided venues for the showcasing of her voice at the best tango locals: Michelangelo, Caño 14, El viejo Almacén and others.

That year 1977, she recorded a long-playing disc for the label M&M, accompanied by an orchestra led by the bandoneonist Juan Carlos Bera. The numbers “Y te parece todavía”, “Nostalgias”, “El último escalón” and “Cien guitarras” were among the twelve that comprised the record. The liner notes were signed by Pugliese who, among other things, said: «...her interpretations evidence sensitivity at the different touching moments that lyrics and music demand; the quality, the warmth and the assurance of her voice at the different pitches is due to the perseverance in studying, the inevitable way that must be emulated by all those who are or are about to follow the road of popular song».

Between 1978 and 1981 her labor on television was intense. I want to highlight her appearance at a program that was truly a milestone among the tango productions because of its good taste, its scenography, its costumes and the choice of artists: La botica del Ángel, created and conducted by Eduardo Bergara Leumann.

In December 1981 she was invited by Pugliese to appear at a record alongside ten young tango vocalists for the Emi-Odeon label. The piece chosen was: “Y no puedo olvidarte” by Armando Cupo and Abel Aznar.

In 1982 she recorded for CBS-Columbia a disc with ten numbers which included as special guests Jorge Falcón and Guillermo Fernández to sing two tunes in duo: “El día que me quieras” with the former and “La flor de la canela” with the latter. On that release “Caserón de tejas” was included, a number that up to now accompanies María on all her appearances. The musical direction was in charge of maestro Martín Darré.

That year climaxed when she was awarded the Premio Prensario as the best female tango singer.

The following year in September she was at the debut in Paris of the show Tango Argentino directed by the choreographers Claudio Segovia and Héctor Orezzoli. That first staff was comprised by the Sexteto Mayor, the Horacio Salgán-Umberto De Lío duet, the singers Roberto Goyeneche, Raúl Lavié, María Graña, Jovita Luna, Elba Berón and Alba Solís. The choreography was devised by Juan Carlos Copes. The show continued in different cities of Italy and returned to Paris in 1984.

Again as soloist she traveled to Canada in 1985, where she performed in several cities and subsequently she went to New York to sing for fifteen days at the City Center. The New York Times called her the «Judy Garland of Tango».

Later a new record with CBS-Columbia would come, this time under the musical direction of Raúl Plate. On it “La noche que te fuiste” and “Cornetín” are standouts among others.

By this time she was no longer a member of the cast of Tango Argentino because of her obligations as soloist. However, she rejoined them in 1991 when the show was presented at the The Aldwych Theatre of London.

From now on to go on describing the important career of María Graña would make us write tens of pages. For that reason and briefly we highlight her release with Horacio Ferrer titled Graña con Ferrer, staged at a theater of La Plaza complex of Sarmiento and Montevideo; Her appearance in 1993 at the Teatro Cervantes as special guest of the Orquesta Nacional de Música Argentina «Juan de Dios Filiberto»; Her new record in 1995, produced by her husband, the late Mochín Marafioti. In it important figures of music and song are featured: Juanjo Domínguez, Mercedes Sosa, Oscar Cardozo Ocampo, Sexteto Mayor, Valeria Lynch, among others.

In the late 1996 she joined a delegation to France alongside the singer Jairo, the bandoneon player and leader Raúl Garello and other artists. On January 1, 1997 they paid homage to Gardel in his own land, in the city of Toulouse.

Luckily for all of us who love the best tango, today we still enjoy the artistry of this stupendous female singer. As a sort of farewell I want to remind you of the phrase that Libertad Lamarque wrote on the back cover of one of her records: «María... tango needs you this way... Perfect!»