Néstor Pinsón

ne of the so many ideas that arose from Francisco Canaro and that allowed his name to be forever in the history of the tango was when the orchestras —all with only instrumental charts— included a new member: the singer that until then always appeared as soloist. Then, timidly, the orchestra singers, the estribillistas (the refrain singers) appeared. The tango pieces already included their lyrics but on stage only a few lines of them were sung.

Roberto Díaz was the first vocalist, according to what Canaro himself said in his book of memoirs. He insisted that with it the orchestra would sound fuller, and would provide a different mood in the recording sessions.

This young pioneer singer had already recorded as a soloist with other lineups, such as Carlos Vicente Geroni Flores's group or the one led by Eduardo Pereyra. But these outfits played an accompaniment, the vocalist was neither a piece nor another member of them.

With Canaro in February 1926 he recorded the early titles: Mario Canaro's “Así es el mundo”, and Osmán Pérez Freire's "Ay ay ay".

With the passing of time, tango researchers recognized three styles of singers that, also, the popular opinion located in the highest level: Gardel, Corsini and Magaldi.

Most of them derive from Gardel, some by chance or by copying stem from Corsini and the other ones are the «Magaldians». In the latter trend, but surely without the intention of copying it, is Roberto Díaz, but scantier than Magaldi. We ignore if they met, but they surely listened to each other, the certain thing is that they followed a similar interpretive style. Furthermore, they began their recordings about the same time: Magaldi in 1924 and Díaz a little before.

Little about the circumstances of his life has been known. Even there are doubts concerning his name. In the listings of SADAIC he appears as Roberto F. Díaz Carvalho, but according to what Oscar Zucchi said in an interview published in the Antena magazine, in March 1935, he was introduced as Roberto Pablo Carvalho.

In his teen years he learned to accompany himself with the guitar and he toured, offering his songs, throughout several Chilean cities with a friend of his. Later, he teamed up with Julio Vega to form the Vega-Díaz duo, with the accompaniment of the guitarist Manuel Parada. After joining the Victor label, they made their debut on record in 1922 with the estilo “Amargura” and the zamba “Ojos chilenos.”

As a duo they cut over thirty recordings and, with Díaz as solo singer with Vega and Parada on guitar, a similar number of recordings. Later on, his accompanists were also: José María Aguilar, Vicente Spina and Reynaldo Baudino. Of this stage some titles stood out, for their social meaning at any time: the songs “Morfinómano" (Morphinomaniac) and “El alcohol”. Because of their beauty: José María Rizzuti's and Emilio Fresedo's tango: “Cenizas”; Francisco De Caro's “Flores negras”; Julio De Caro's: “Boedo” and “El monito”, and “Los dopados”, written by Cobián, Doblas and Weisbach, that later with lyrics by Cadícamo became "Los mareados".

As soloist, he was accompanied by the Julio De Caro's six aces in March 1925, singing the tangos “Por qué” and “Piedad”.

In 1929 he performed a beautiful duet with Libertad Lamarque, singing the gato “Gaucho lindo”. We have also to mention other duets with Alberto Vila, Carlos Lafuente and Juan Carlos Delson, always in the Victor house, except for a couple of months when he was vocalist for Roberto Firpo in the Odeon label (from May to July 1932). From that period the tango “Mosqueteros de arrabal” stands out.

He also recorded with the Orquesta Típica Victor and in other groups put together by the record company which were lined up by the same musicians: Orquesta Victor Popular, Orquesta Típica Porteña, Orquesta Típica Los Provincianos, Orquesta Típica Ciriaquito. He also joined the orchestras led by Luis Petrucelli, Cayetano Puglisi, Carlos Marcucci and Adolfo Carabelli. Among so many recordings, these stand out: “Pestañas negras”, “Romántico bulincito”, “La cumparsita”, with Gerardo Matos Rodríguez's lyrics. “Cómo se pianta la vida”, “Recuerdo”, “Mi noche triste (Lita)”, “Qué sapa señor”, “Mi dolor”, “Tinieblas”, and on March 22, 1935, a little before leaving the country he cut, accompanied by Osvaldo Fresedo, the tangos “Retazo” and “Casate conmigo”.

He spent a couple of years in Europe and in 1936 he settled in Chile. He continued as singer and he joined, among others, the most important orchestra, the one led by Porfirio Díaz. He apeared on stage alongside the two most popular Chilean voices, Pepe Aguirre and Jorge Abril. When the latter died, in 1946, he was the one who sang a tango as homage, “Adiós a Jorge Abril”. He as well recorded with Porfirio Díaz the tango “Marchant solo”, a title in allusion to a racehorse, and the waltz “La culpa fue mía” (The blame was mine).

He composed a great number of pieces. The following are worth mentioning: the tango “Agüelita qué hora son” (Granny, what time it is?), his best known number, the estilo “Aurora del peregrino” (The Pilgrim's Dawn), the zamba “La canción del boyero” (the herdsman's song) and the milonga “Mi poncho tucumano”.

He died in Chile, still young, at age 61.

Those that are beginning to dive in the history of tango will find his pleasant tenor register and his varied nuances in a correctly chosen and interpreted repertoire.