El afilador Tango
León Benarós

Leopoldo Corretjer: from “Saludo a la Bandera” (Salute to the Flag) to tango compadró

ho didn't ever sing in his childhood, at a singing class, that of:

Salve argentina bandera azul y blanca
jirón del cielo en donde reina el sol;
tú, la más noble, la más gloriosa y santa,
el firmamento su color te dio.

(Hail blue and white Argentine flag,
sky scrap where the sun reigns;
Thou, the noblest, the most glorious and saint,
the firmament gave thee its color.)

It was, undoubtedly, a beautiful march that pleased our infantile ears.

Who was the author? Lyrics and music corresponded to a Catalonian, Leopoldo Corretjer. The lyrics seem to be a touching homage by someone who found among us an adoptive homeland and sang for her with devotion.

Leopoldo Corretjer was a great choir conductor. It is said that, for the celebrations of the Centennial of the May Revolution, at the Plaza del Congreso, in front of the National Congress he conducted an incredible choir of children, that it was reported amounting to thirty thousand voices.

Corretjer —according to the laborious and documented historian of our music, Vicente Gesualdo— was born in Barcelona in 1862 and died in Buenos Aires in 1941. He was an outstanding student at the Royal Conservatory of his native town. At the age of 18 he was already an orchestra conductor. He arrived in Buenos Aires in 1887

Was tango for so distinguished musician a sin of youth? However, after the first he composed, “El afilador”, followed others like “Mi negra” and “Apuntá pa' otro lao”. Unlike the previous ones, the latter does not bear mention of the publisher. It seemed to have been a private release. It is dedicated «to the officers of the Mounted Grenadiers Corps». It has no lyrics.

No little courage must have been needed by these distinguished music maestros, who dared to compose and publish tangos, when still, for the «good families» it was a kind of banned music. It was necessary that the boys from the haute society returned from Europe and taught dancing tango to their little sisters, behind closed doors, so that the austere society of yore decided to put their ears to what Lugones had called —he, especially!— «a brothel's reptile».

Originally published in the history magazine Desmemoria # 12, Buenos Aires.