Enrique Carbel

Real name: Barbell, Efraín Enrique Ramón Francisco Pedro Javier
Nicknames: Enrique Carbel / Pacho
Singer and composer
(3 December 1917 - 29 November 1945)
Place of birth:
Chamical (La Rioja) Argentina
Héctor Ángel Benedetti

here were two «Pachos» in the history of tango. One, the well-known bandoneonist Juan Maglio; the pioneer of the tango orchestra and classic reference of the Guardia Vieja (old trend). The other one, that succeeded thirty years later in the same genre when Maglio's style was already definitively extinguished, was the singer Enrique Carbel.

He was born in Chamical, province of La Rioja. Some sources say he was born in 1918 —an inaccurate date— in Gobernador Gordillo; in fact mentioning one or the other toponym was to refer to the same place, because Gobernador Gordillo was the name of the station in the branch of Ferrocarriles del Estado (State Railroads) that passed through Chamical.

When he was eleven, and had just finished grammar school, Enrique was sent to Buenos Aires by his father, Mr. Sabas Barbell. As by that time in Chamical there was no secondary school, the idea was that the kid would continue his studies in the capital. He went to live with his grandmother Mariana. By this time Enrique already possessed interesting abilities as singer but his audience did not exceed a group of friends of his same age.

By chance he was discovered in order to start his career. In fact, he was with some friends on Plaza Italia, singing «for them» and maybe it was simply a teen-ager demonstration, when the actor Silvio Spaventa coincidentally passed by that place. The latter had formed a successful radio team with his wife Susy Kent. He emceed a radio show entirely devoted to children named Papel Picado on Radio Mayo; after he heard Enrique singing he asked him to go to the studios to eventually join the cast. And so it happened.

By 1936 he was already in front of the microphones on Radio Stentor as a tango singer although, as it will be seen later on, he was sufficiently versatile that in his songbook not only our city music was included but also folk songs and boleros.

In 1937, when he was not yet twenty years old, thanks to Pablo Osvaldo Valle he switched to the attractive Radio El Mundo; which like Radio Belgrano meant a kind of Mecca for any popular artist. He stayed until the late 1944 on this radio station.

During this process his real name had shortened and become more euphonic, being changed by a more «artistic» Enrique Carbel. His admirers nicknamed him El Jilguero de Los Llanos (The Goldfinch of The Plains).

He appeared on stages alongside such names as Hugo Del Carril, Agustín Irusta, María de la Fuente, Oscar Alemán, Oscar Ugarte, Ciriaco Ortiz and the comic duet Paquito Busto & Encarnación Fernández. He visited Mendoza, Rosario, Mar del Plata, in «artistic embassies» organized by the same radio station. On October 29, 1937 he recorded a refrain with Juan D'Arienzo's orchestra: the tango “Paciencia” that soon thereafter would become a great hit in Agustín Magaldi's rendition.

As a soloist singer Carbel cut four songs, which only two were published and the remaining ones still remain unpublished. Probably they have been lost definitively after some «cleaning» of archives. Those published were “Charlemos” and “En un beso la vida”. They were recorded on April 21, 1941. Although it was not mentioned on the record label, the accompaniment in both numbers was played by a group led by Horacio Salgán.

That same year he appeared in the movie Fronteras de la ley directed by Isidoro Navarro, along with Juan Sarcione, María de la Fuente and Enrique García Satur, among others. It was the story of a criminal nicknamed Cabeza Rota (Broken Head), with a clear allusion to the famous gangster Mate Cosido (Stitched Head). Carbel played the role of one of the members of the gang, also a singer. The film was premiered at the Melody theater on April 4 to rather no acclaim. «With scarce expectations and primitive realization», said the critic of the Heraldo del Cinematografista.

On November 3, 1943 again for Victor he recorded other two tangos that, as we said above, were never published: “Pobre Fanfán” and “A bailar”. It is a regrettable loss that prevents us today from appreciating the singer's evolution. Among the songs that he had in his repertoire people remember “Cuando lloran los zorzales”, the zamba "Mama vieja" and the bolero “Perfidia” that he performed to perfection according to those with good memory.

As composer (he was a very good guitarist) he left some numbers not very well known that would deserve to be revisited: “Sólo una vez” (lyric by the poet Ricardo Olcese), “Linda correntina” (with Juan Sarcione), “Mujer [b]”, “Noviecita [b]” (both by words by Víctor Álvarez) and the song “Perdona mujer”, dedicated to his wife: Rosa Glinsky, of Polish nationality. Among his other works: “Alicia [b]”, “No hay nada que hacerle”, “Risa cruel”, I highlight the waltz “A mi Rioja” with lyrics by Víctor Álvarez that began as follows:

Distant visions of blue skies
that high mountains seek to touch,
nostalgic songs wrapped up in tulles
of old memories today I listen again...

It was the permanent nostalgia for his native province; and it is known that at the peak of his fame he used to return periodically to La Rioja to make recitals to raise funds for the poor. Thanks to one of them, organized by father Bernardino Gómez with Ángel V. Carrizo's collaboration, the San Francisco's Infantile Band was founded. As in a chronicle the journalist Ricardo R. Quiroga remembered, «... the people present in the theater were delighted, rewarding with their sincere and insistent applause the artist's offering. They were in total sixteen pieces that Carbel sang without microphone due to his lung capacity and the volume of his voice.»

It could be said that the boy's career was at its top, and in spite of not being frequently required by the recording companies, his quick consecration foretold him an interesting succession of triumphs.

But affected by a sudden and fulminant ailment he had to be taken to the Hospital Militar of Buenos Aires, and died there in November 1945. He was not yet twenty-eight years old.

Enrique Carbel, The Goldfinch of The Plains became everlasting this way, forever young, as an artist of brief and intense life.