Pintín Castellanos

Real name: Castellanos Alves, Horacio Antonio
Nicknames: Pintín
Pianist, composer, lyricist and leader
(10 June 1905 - 2 July 1983)
Place of birth:
Montevideo Uruguay
Néstor Pinsón

his pianist and composer - who was also an orchestra leader - was born in downtown Montevideo where the streets Andes and Canelones meet.

Those who met him in his youth have described him as a good looking guy, who used to dress well, devoted to sports and always engaged in music. And specially —according to his own words— «fond of the atmosphere of the outskirts» even present in his childhood years. «When the candombe negroes made hear their drums beat. And that echo nested in the heels of the boastful dancer. The popular melodies were born with me in spirit and with them I have lived for many years and I have an affective activity as author and player. I was only 14 when my first composition already arose, a tango: “El pirata”».

There are not many references to his activity before 1933. But that year an event that would change his life happened in a night club of Carrasco where he played the piano. One night he offered to the audience a new number of his, a tango that he had entitled “La puñalada”, with a certain milonga air. In that number all his fame would be based, according to his countryman Juan Carlos Legido's opinion.

If you check his oeuvre, around two hundred published pieces, no other one had an outstanding repercussion. In the early summer of'36, Juan D'Arienzo —as it was usual for him— was ready to begin one more season in Montevideo. And it was probably his intuition or that of his pianist Rodolfo Biagi, —for many the responsible for devising the rhythm that made the leader famous— what transformed Castellanos's tango into a milonga. Biagi and the violinist Alfredo Mancuso were who transcribed the piece.

As a curious and anecdotal fact, whether it be true or not, I remember that on some occasions tango people in Uruguay told me that D'Arienzo had some information. It happened that time before he came to know about “La puñalada” Pintín was playing in a local; the audience for some reason began to be impatient, but Pintín continued, and when he was playing «his tango» the impatience reached its peak. The nervous musician was anxious to finish and he speeded up the tempo to shorten his annoyance. Somebody, with good ear, realized that with a milonga beat it would work better and so the news spread.

D'Arienzo used for the first time “La puñalada” at the well-remembered café Tupí Nambá located on 18 de Julio and Río Branco and committed it to record on April 27, 1937. On the other side of the disc was the Roberto Firpo's tango: “Homero”.

Very soon, exactly on June 12 that same year, it was also recorded by the Francisco Canaro's orchestra, but with a tango beat.

Almost immediately, on request or for pleasure, Celedonio Flores was interested in the melody and wrote a lyric. With it, except for a much more recent version, the piece was only recorded by Alberto Gómez on December 2, 1937.

Already definitively as milonga, Canaro recorded it twice again, on October 8, 1946 and on November 29, 1951. An Uruguayan journalist, after the author's death, counted 127 renditions of the hit. Here it's worthwhile saying that D'Arienzo had a remarkable success when he cut the milonga for the second time. It was on November 23, 1943 and he recorded his rendering of “La cumparsita” on the other side of the disc.

He repeated the formula in the other two recordings, that of September 12, 1951 and in the last one of December 10, 1963. According to the well-remembered Héctor Ernié, these records with the two Uruguayan creations resulted in a sale of 18 million copies.

In 1939 Pintín formed his orchestra that had Alfredo Gobbi as lead violinist. The vocalist was Eduardo Ruiz and later on, Enrique Campos. He appeared at El Palacio de la Cerveza on Yatay Street in Montevideo. His vein was the rhythmic stuff, percussion; because of that his creative vein was plenty of milongas and candombes.

In 1943 he recorded in Buenos Aires, but for an Uruguayan label, two numbers with his Quintet Canyengue, a tango “Dejame ser como soy” and the candombe “Canyengue negrero”, both composed by him, with the vocalist Carlos Valle. Later for the Sondor label he cut as piano player 14 numbers more, accompanied by tamboriles (drums) or with the guitarist Uruguay Zabaleta and a bandoneon. All these pieces were written by him: the bolero “Adiós (La tarde que partí)”; the tangos “Francia eterna”, “De galerita y bastón”, “Entre cortes y quebradas”, “Para campeones”, “Fantasía”, “Besos de mujer”, “La estancia” and “Matos Rodríguez”, composed immediately after the death of the Uruguayan composer; the milongas “La puñalada”, “Aprontate”, “Academia”, “Meta fierro”, dedicated to the car driver Héctor Supicci Sedes and the candombe “Bronce”. He also recorded in the fifties.

Other interpreters were attracted by his compositions besides “La puñalada”. Julio De Caro, very early, before the birth of his emblematic creation, committed to record for Brünswick, in 1930, the tango “Anocheciendo”, sung by Luís Díaz. Soon after Carlos Gardel's demise, Pintín paid homage to him with his tango “El pájaro muerto” that Charlo recorded accompanied by guitars on August 15, 1935. Francisco Lomuto recorded “Besos de mujer” with the refrain sung by of Jorge Omar on August 13, 1941. Fresedo, surprisingly but according to his style, as well recorded “La puñalada” on December 19, 1950.

A strange title was the only one that the orchestra leader Enrique Rodríguez included in his repertoire, sung by Armando Moreno, on March 20, 1941: “Nyanzas y Malevos”. In his book Entre cortes y quebradas, published in Montevideo in 1948, in the chapter VII Día de Reyes, he comments about the party of candombes and other jubilees held by the negroes that were divided in groups called "nations", each one in charge of a chief. These differentiated groups were distinguished for their names, they were The Cabindas, The Congo, The Benguelas and among others, also The Nyanzas and The Malevos, hence the title.

Along 95 pages he gives 22 comments about his beloved city and its customs since Colonial times, an interesting contribution that would deserve a reissue.

Juan D'Arienzo regarded him as his milonga supplier and recorded his “A puño limpio”, “Barrio de guapos”, “Candombe oriental”, “Cajita de música”, “El potro”, “El temblor”, “La endiablada”, the above mentioned “Meta fierro”, “Me gusta bailar milonga”, “Peringundín” and “Tirando a matar”. All these were instrumentals, and two more with lyrics: “Chaparrón” with the lines written by Francisco García Jiménez and “Candombe rioplatense”, with lyrics by Carmelo Santiago. And also a tango: “Don Horacio”.

Lyrics were added to some of his milongas; they all have a simple style, imbued of the folk and nationalist thought of their authors, to which Pintín has fervently stuck to throughout his life. As an example here we have this excerpt from “Me gusta bailar milonga”:

Atención la muchachada
y a bailar que se disponga
que aquí llega la criollita,
su majestad ¡la milonga!

A mí me gusta bailar con corte
a mí me gusta ser muy sincero
y que sean mis amigos
mis mejores compañeros.
A mí me gusta todo lo nuestro;
tangos, candombes y el milongón,
y el alma que se agiganta
cuando escucho el bandoneón.

A mí me gusta ser de esta tierra.
A mí me gusta ser buen criollo
y luchar por lo que quiero,
con apoyo o sin apoyo.
A mí me gusta vivir la vida.
Serenamente, sin pretensión.
Con la conciencia tranquila
se duerme que es un primor.