Salvador Arancio

e arrived in our country from his Italian hometown in 1909 and settled with his family in Buenos Aires, in the neighborhood of Balvanera, near the famous Mercado Spinetto. With other kids he looked after the well-known Cairolo’s herd which was noted for its piebald and percheron horses that pulled carts and flat wagons, while the drivers ate at the cheap restaurants in the vicinity of the market.

Roberto Maida began his artistic career at a very early age in the backyard of the restaurant Damato on Matheu and Victoria. There he used to meet with the owner’s sons and the kids of his gang and they organized tango sessions in which he was the singer. One day a singing instructor named Ralbis came to have lunch and wanted to know who that singer was. He suggested him to sing at a cinema theater in the intermission shows, accompanied by piano, violin and drums. The beginner was doubtful but his friends encouraged him. He put on brand-new long trousers and made his debut at the 2º Coliseo cinema theater on Bernardo de Irigoyen and Venezuela. The owners of the theater, José and Antonio Galvano were very enthusiastic and placed a big photo of Maida the kid at the hall.

The man working as secretary for Clemente Lococo —an important entrepreneur of a cinema theater chain—, persuaded the owners and hired him for the Astral where he made his debut with a group that included Armando Baliotti, Miguel Caló and Raúl Kaplún. They played alongside the fifteen year-old young pianist: René Cóspito.

In 1925 he made his debut as professional singer in the Miguel Caló Orchestra. Thereafter he went to Spain with Cátulo Castillo’s group that included Miguel Caló, Alberto Cima, Ricardo, Carlos and Alfredo Malerba. It was a long tenure and they performed in many cities. They also cut several recordings for the Odeon label. The tour ended in 1930 and, back in Buenos Aires, Bayón Herrera and Manuel Romero invited the singer to join them and appear at a scene of the play to be staged at the Teatro Sarmiento and they asked him a tango to be premiered at that production.

He chose the tango piece “Te odio” written by Celedonio Flores and Francisco Pracánico and recorded it with the guitarists Iglesias, Besada and Arrieta. In 1930 he had already recorded some numbers with guitar accompaniment and others, with Alberto Castellanos for Columbia.

When the season of the play at the Sarmiento was over he was told that the company had to travel to Spain. The musical director was Cátulo and his father, José González Castillo, was the announcer. Maida was reluctant to go but finally he accepted. The venture was not fortunate and they dismembered.

As Maida was already known in Spain he was hired to work with the female singer Celia Gámez. Simultaneously he received a letter from the Malerba brothers in which they told him that they were traveling to Portugal for a gig with Bachicha Deambroggio and that they counted with him.

Based in Lisbon they appeared to great acclaim for a month and a half at the Maxim's. They also performed at the carnival seasons of 1931.

Unfortunately, Carlos Malerba got seriously ill so his brothers and Maida took him to Bilbao where he died. At the burial a curious event took place the Malerba brothers asked Maida, as a prayer for the dead, to sing his tango “Aquellas locuras”, the one the deceased liked most. After that episode he went to Paris to play with the Manuel Pizarro’s orchestra.

There Roberto Maida met again with Carlos Gardel whom he had come to know during his tenure with Cátulo Castillo in Barcelona. Gardel was already planning to travel to the United States for his films and recordings. El Zorzal was living at an apartment near Maida’s on the Rue Levi 27.

Gardel in his rendezvous used to meet with other friends at the Pigalle, one of the houses run by Manuel Pizarro, and one day heard Maida sing his tango piece “Aquellas cartas” —with music by Juan Ghirlanda—. El Zorzal praised the number and asked who the author was and then he asked him his authorization to premiere and record it in Barcelona. It so happened, he recorded it with piano and violin and later he cut a rendition with guitars in Buenos Aires.

While Maida was working with Pizarro in Paris, a city where he lived for several years, Eduardo Bianco arrived on his way to Germany and asked Pizarro if he could have Maida and some of the latter's musicians for his gigs in Hamburg. Once Pizarro had said yes the bandoneonists Héctor Artola and Juan Pecci, the French violinist Simón and the bassist Mario Melfi traveled with Bianco.

In Hamburg they opened the UFO Palace and as well they appeared at the Bocaccio café-concert. Among the patrons and dancers that frequented the latter venue an Argentine army captain assigned to our embassy to Berlin stood out. Years later that captain was three times president of the Argentine Republic, he was General Juan Perón.

At that city too, Maida met Francisco Fiorentino who had arrived from Sweden on his way to Argentina. Fiore was with Maida around twenty days. From Hamburg they went to Köln, Munich and Berlin, always with great acclaim. Finally Maida returned to Paris with Pizarro.

By that time they signed a contract for seven months to appear at the Savoy Hotel in London. There Maida met again the Prince of Wales, whom he had met in Biarritz and who was a tango fan. Maida tells us that the Englishman sometimes caught a bandoneon from the bandstand and played a few chords of “Buen amigo”, a tango tune he liked very much.

The Prince of Wales used to go every Thursday to dance tango and everybody there used to follow him to the dance track but the other days of the week they were hardly allowed to play a tango piece and nobody danced it. Maida and Pizarro could not stand it any longer and soon they came back to Paris. The remainder of the musicians stayed in London because the pay was very good. Maida and Pizarro's orchestra toured throughout Belgium, Holland and Spain.

Maida's European tour finished in the mid-1933. On his comeback he was hired by Samuel Yankelevich to perform on Radio Belgrano for a year accompanied by the guitar players Iglesias, Besada and Arrieta.

When the contract was over Yankelevich suggested Maida to join Canaro with whom he had already cut a sample recording in 1930, the tango piece “Titiriteros” and the waltz “A lo lejos”, which was later released and became a hit.

The association with Canaro began in November 1934 but only on March 20, 1935 they recorded again: “Alma de bandoneón”, “No hay que hacerse mala sangre”, “Cambalache” and the ranchera “Viva el casorio”.

The agreement was made verbally and was to last six years, but they only worked together for five years because the singer split with Canaro when the latter hired Ernesto Famá and Francisco Amor. It was a true problem of professional jealousy. Roberto Maida recorded with Canaro around 200 tracks.

In 1940 he put together his own orchestra lined-up by: Héctor Artola, Máximo Mori and Tití Rossi on bandoneons; Antonio Rodio, Cervo and the «pibe» Mario Núñez on violins; Cimarro on piano and Francisco De Lorenzo on double bass. The arranger and conductor was Argentino Galván. Their debut was on Radio Belgrano and they also played on Radio Sarmiento and at the Ocean night club. Maida told us that many musicians of that time went to hear them.

In 1942 he joined the orchestra led by Antonio Sureda to appear on Radio Belgrano.

Maida made tours of several countries in Latin America to great acclaim. Besides “Aquellas cartas” he was author of some more numbers.

Excerpted from Cuadernos de difusión del Tango, Nº 9, directed an published by Salvador Arancio.