Carlos Posadas

Real name: Posadas, Carlos
Violinist, guitarist, pianist, composer and leader
(2 December 1874 - 12 November 1918)
Place of birth:
Buenos Aires Argentina
Néstor Pinsón
| Bruno Cespi

hat’s the way to learn!... Of course that with a will for studying and a natural inclination for the subject of your choice… The fact is that our character had a good temper and was very pleasant. His music teacher was his own elder brother, Manuel (1860 - 1916) who had studied in Belgium with maestro Eugene Ysaye. And, as the story says, Manuel was severe and had a bad temper, so much so that once when his brother was unable to understand his indications he smashed a violin on his head.

Carlos was violinist, guitarist, pianist, composer and orchestra leader. We can only ponder him in his role of composer through his written music which is the legacy that we have been able to own.

Both brothers were dark skinned like their parents. Their father was a music lover, he devoted to journalism and politics and also fought in the war with Paraguay, where he reached the rank of sergeant. As well he was in the revolutions in 1880 and 1890. Politically he was loyal to General Bartolomé Mitre.

Carlos, years later, became a good player and a musician with a solid academic training. He easily mastered the technique of composition and trained many students. Among the latter we have to highlight the worldwide known guitarist María Luisa Anido.

For many years he was concert master in the orchestra of the Teatro Avenida conducted by maestro Penella. This aggregation was especially devoted to operetta and zarzuela. In his role as leader he was in charge of orchestras that, although in carnival balls played tangos, generally performed another kind of music. His inclination for tango was best evidenced by means of his compositions.

He married Mercedes Sumiza and had six children, four girls and two boys. The youngest devoted himself to jazz and on one occasion in the late fifties he talked to León Benarós and gave some details about his father’s life. His name was also Carlos like his father’s.

He remembered the big house where they had lived on 280 Talcahuano Street. His godfather was a friend of the family’s. His father came to know him at the Asociación Guitarrística Argentina (Argentine Guitar Association). He was named Juan Bergamino (1875-1959). The latter was one of the tango pioneers who, as singer and guitarist, made several recordings and was composer of the famous tango “Joaquina” dedicated to Joaquina Marán, the owner of a dancehall. «My father used to notate in the music staff many of his compositions and furthermore he used to give him technical advice to improve his playing.»

Among his acquaintances in the music milieu there are two names that stand for quite different types of music. One is Rengo Ernesto Zambonini (composer of “La clavada”), on one side, and Juan José Castro, on the other. The latter had been student with his brother Manuel and, because they were about the same age, he became Carlos’s friend and they put together a trio with José María Castro to perform during religious services.

Posadas appeared as guitarist at the Teatro Ópera when Madame Rasini’s theater company performed in our country.

«He was a man of a grave aspect —commented Benarós once— and we don’t know if he was melancholic in his inner self, but externally, he was extremely fond of merry-making and pleasant. He liked the typical Argentine food, he used to play with his kids as if he were another child and, in his idle time, he enjoyed playing solitaire with cards».

Those who knew him agreed in saying that he frequented Hansen’s (barroom and restaurant in Palermo) and that he used to organize merry reunions at Laura’s (a brothel downtown). Very often for the sake of pleasure or as well for money many of the serious musicians of the epoch, like him, performed in the evenings at the best whorehouses.

Juan José Castro dedicated to him a tango, “Qué titeo”, on whose sheet-music is read: «To my beloved friend Carlos Posadas.»

His early death was due to problems in his brain vascular system. He then was living on 215 Esmeralda Street.

His son Carlos finally told Benarós that the unpublished works of his father were given to Aníbal Troilo.

All his musical knowledge, well grounded in the late nineteenth century, shows us the splendid treasure with which he entered tango. And Benarós further added: «To the melodic richness —in the purest criollo essence— he adds a perfect writing. Spicing them with some little funny caper in the older compositions or with a robust seriousness in others.»

Rubén Pesce as well expressed his opinion about his oeuvre: «His tangos have a polished musical construction, difficult at times, and a notable inspiration. His melodic themes and his rhythmic combinations offer originality and personality. Among the musicians of the Guardia Vieja he stands out as one of the most advanced composers because of his harmonic richness and his wider musicality.»

All of his compositions were tangos with the exception of a mazurka titled “Mi comadre”. Undoubtedly four numbers stand out: “Retirao”, (first recording by Carlos Di Sarli with his orchestra on December 11, 1939 and also recorded by Troilo on July 10, 1957); “El jagüel”, (Troilo recorded it in 1941; again Di Sarli, but this time in three renditions, the first one in 1943, the second in 1952 and the last in 1956; and Juan D'Arienzo in 1967); “Cordón de oro”, (Troilo in 1941, D'Arienzo in 1967) and “El tamango” (Troilo in 1941 and D'Arienzo in 1967).

In his early tangos he had the idea of numbering them just like Alberico Spátola did, without omitting its title. Number 1: “El Toto” (dedicated to his nephew A. Valdéz Jr.); Number 2: “El taita [b]”; Number 3: “El calote”; Number 4: “La llorona [b]” (dedicated to Miss Aída Campos); Number 5: “Igualá y largá”; Number 6: “Si me querés, decime”; Number 7: “El gringo [c]” (dedicated to Juan Bergamino); Number 8: “El talero”.

Juan Maglio, for whom Posadas notated in written music some of his pieces, recorded two versions of his tangos “El gringo [c]”, “El Toto”, “Igualá y largá” and one of “Si me querés, decime”.

Other titles he composed are: “Tímido”, “La tacuarita [b]”, “Cordón de oro”, “El chacarero”, “Guanaco”, “Don Héctor”, “El ventilador”, “Enriquito”, “Fatal herida”, “Indio muerto”, “Pituca [b]”, “Retirao”, “Teodorito”, “Un reculié”, “Marta”, “El flaco”, “Mi doctor”, “Mi Porota”, “Mi ricurita [b]”, “Qué parada”, “Tené paciencia”, “El simpático”, “Catita [b]”, “El calote”, “El talento [b]” and “El biguá”.

For foreign visitors it is necessary to explain that some titles will not be easily understood because of its local connotations. Toto, like Poroto, are nicknames that still today are used either for men or for women (Tota, Porota). Biguá is an ordinary duck with black feathers and curved beck which dwells in lakes or lagoons. In Spain is known as zaramagullón. Taita is a lunfardo word that means a bully, but a tough guy. Tacuarita is the diminutive of tacuara, a reed that grows in the Argentine northwestern area and can reach up to 25 meters tall. Pituca, an elegant woman, aristocratic, or that pretends to be such. With this last meaning it appears in several tango lyrics. Catita, diminutive of Catalina. Calote, a small debt in which both lender and debtor know that it will not be paid. In lunfardo it is applied to a successful fraud or theft. Jagüel, a shallow well or ditch, in both cases full of water, formed naturally or because of leakage of the soil. Animals that roam in plain areas drink in it. Talero, a whip with a rather short wide piece of hide and a bulky handle.