Alberto Mastra

Real name: Mastracusa, Hilario Alberto
Guitarist, singer and composer
(9 November 1909 - 10 April 1976)
Place of birth:
Montevideo Uruguay
Néstor Pinsón

very close friend of Aníbal Troilo's who used to call him Mastrita, he was very near of placing a friend of his in the Gordo's (Fats) orchestra. The event took place when Pichuco was looking for a fellow vocalist for Alberto Marino after Fiorentino's breaking up.

The guitar player Marsilio Robles, who belonged to Radio El Mundo's staff, commented to him that his friend Mastra had just included in his trio a remarkable singer and guitarist known as Pajarito (Little bird): Orlando Verri. As Troilo was hurried he answered that if for Mastra was all right, it was OK for him either. Through a proxy he sent him to the tailor and to asked him to rehearse the waltz “Palomita blanca”. Some days passed, in the meantime Marino insisted that the singer should be his comrade Floreal Ruiz. He persuaded the orchestra leader and, finally, when Verri turned up, the post was no longer his. Then they apologied and there was no offense.

Troilo recorded five compositions written by Alberto Mastra: “Con permiso”, with Alberto Marino on vocals, in September 1944; “Miriñaque”, with Edmundo Rivero and Aldo Calderón as a duo, in October 1949; “Un tango para Esthercita”, with Raúl Berón (1954); “Aguantate Casimiro”, with Roberto Goyeneche (1958) and “Mi viejo el remendón”, with Tito Reyes (1965).

Mastra was born in the neighborhood of La Aguada of Montevideo and he spent his childhood on humble stages of Parque Rodó, then called Parque Urbano (Urban Park). When he was a kid all occasions were good for him to sing. The public asked him and he answered. They call him Carusito and also El pequeño milagro (The little miracle).

He was an itinerant artist, he traveled throughout the towns of his country and, still a minor, he crossed to Buenos Aires, in 1926, to continue his tour of the interior of Argentina. He showcased himself on guitar, drawing the attention of experts, because he was left-handed but he played without changing the placement of the strings, which was not customary. So he managed to get from his instrument original sounds that characterized his style.

He liked trios; he formed the first one in 1933. He called it El Trébol; the other members were Bahillo and Barroso —who later would be his brother-in-law—. Another, in 1936, was the Trio Mastra, with his wife, the female singer Josefina Barroso and Alejandro De Luca. They appeared on Radio El Mundo and made tours in several neighboring countries. Another more trio with Eduardo Márquez and Miguel Gurpide. Later, with Hugo Daniel and Carlos Montenegro and a last trio for recording in Buenos Aires, with the guitarist Martín Torre and Arturo Gallucci on double bass.

They say he was a virtuoso with his instrument. Maybe, he might have only stood out in a medium level. As a singer he was a surprise when he was a child, but he was already an adult, as soloist, to his dull voice was added an evident lack of intonation. He possessed neither the features of the interpreter of folk-like songs nor the the posture of a tango man.

When listening to him, I imagine him restless on the stage, saying the lyrics to the beat of the milongas or the candombes, acting as if he were one of the characters of his songs. He was a singer-author before that label was in vogue. And the important thing about these singer-authors are the texts, their portrayals of daily life and, in his case, his protest.

When the recording companies were not yet established in Montevideo, he recorded four pieces for the Victor company in Buenos Aires. Three of them composed by him: “El viaje del negro”, “La polquita de José”, “Se va la carreta”. The Sondor label of Uruguay opened its doors for him in 1956 and there he recorded a long-playing disc with the accompaniment of the guitarist Abel Carlevaro. His last recordings date back to 1969.

His facet as author needs to be highlighted. His creations were soon included in the songbooks of the most important singers, among others, that of Edmundo Rivero who achieved remarkable renditions with “Bon jour mamá” and “No la quiero más”. Also belong to him: “La fulana”, “El criollo oriental”, “Maldonado [c]”, “Candombe federal”, “Fatalmente nada”, “Después del gris”, among over one hundred recorded titles.

We have said that he was an itinerant artist and, thinking about it, takes us to imagine a circus. Is there a more wandering thing on the roads than a circus? Mastra made it complete. By 1954, with his new wife, Lía Méndez, he bought an amusement park —the closest thing to a circus— and together they toured throughout Uruguay once more.