Néstor Pinsón

Story of "La López Pereyra" and its connection with tango

he conflicts that derived from the issue about who the author was of this popular zamba -the zamba par excellence in the province of Salta- were finally settled in the late years of the twentieth century.

Its melody began to reach notoriety around 1900 and it is strange that specialists in criolla (folk) music had made no contribution to the issue. The exception was the unparalleled tango collector Héctor Lorenzo Lucci, who also owns many records of Argentine folk music.

When Argentine folk music became all of a sudden a big boom in the mid- 50s, I heard someone saying that the title of the already famous zamba alluded to a woman: la López Pereyra. It was so far from the truth! The feminine article “la” in Spanish, in this case, only indicates that the melody is played with a zamba beat, it has no relation with a lady. (The noun zamba in Spanish is feminine)

One year ago the story told by one of the members of the vocal quartet Los Artilleros, Mr. Raúl Milano, attracted my attention. He had said that a certain López Pereyra had been a lawyer in Salta that saved from prison the musician and guitar strummer Artidorio Cresseri who had murdered a woman. Because of that, and to show his gratitude, he paid homage to the lawyer by naming the zamba with the latter’s family name.

Héctor Lucci, many years ago, told me that he had had a long talk with don Artidorio’s old son. The latter told him that his father was born in Salta on March 5, 1862 and died in the same city on October 8, 1950. That partially contradicts the reading of several paragraphs of the huge volume of documents of a court case, filed much later, in which it is said that Cresseri was of Italian origin, a professional musician, and a bandleader. He also told him that the music was composed by his father and that the lyrics, written much later, belonged to the local journalist Arturo Gambolini, as for the first lines, and the rest, most of it, to the Uruguayan singer and poet Juan Francia. And that Mr. López Pereyra himself had actively contributed to the definitive adaptation of the lyrics to the melody of the song.

Prior to the writing of the lyrics and when the zamba had no title yet, Cresseri let the mother of the, later famous, Hermanos Ábalos know it. Not only she made it known in different meetings but also she probably named it as “La chayateña”.

Back to Salta, when the lawsuit entitled his father to be the copyright owner of the song, Artidorio’s son said in a published interview the following: «In the middle of a party —he is alluding to a coterie- when everybody was cheerful, López Pereyra asked Cresseri to play that "chilena" he liked so much. It was then when, touched as well by the thrill of the moment, the latter dedicated his composition to the former by naming it: “Chilena dedicated to Mr. Carlos López Pereyra, attorney-at-law". The excitement of the audience forced a reprise and the lawyer then danced it with a lady of Santiago del Estero. So was consecrated the christening of the zamba».

Cresseri changed the title in the subsequent originals that the signed and handed to his acquaintances. So it finally was shortened to only the surname of his beloved friend. Gambolini’s lyrics were praised, among others, by the payador (itinerant singer) José María López (1885-1967), witness of the birth and christening of the zamba. But those lines either were lost in the bends of time or were included in the later and definitive lyrics.

To clear out the issue new contributions are needed. Then the famous and legendary Uruguayan payador Juan Francia appears. He was as well a personal friend of Cresseri’s and he was supposed to have written the first three stanzas with which, for a long time, the zamba was sung. The fourth stanza was added later and the author is unknown.

It's worthwhile to add that day at the coterie when the dedication was born was a special occasion, April 25, the birthday of López Pereyra (1875-1929).

A dossier signed by Luis A. Lescano coincides in the gesture of gratitude of Artidorio towards his lawyer, trial judge then, for having helped him to get rid of a police problem. But also it brings a version less amazing: the magistrate was a habitual attendant to meetings where, of course, music was ever present and his presence coincided many times with that of the guitar player, to whom he always asked to play that zamba. Knowing the musician what he meant, his answer was immediate. It became a widespread tune so that even though when none of both characters were present people used to ask the musician playing at the venue: "la de López Pereyra", in a clear reference to the zamba that the latter always liked to hear.

People say that legal problems began when around 1916 in the province of Santiago del Estero, Andrés Chazarreta published his second album of new compositions and among them "La chayateña" was. They as well say that relatives of Cresseri's -still alive then- filed a lawsuit and that Chazarreta always said that it was a zamba he heard several times in Salta and that he did not know who the author was.

Nobody must doubt about the proficiency of Chazarreta as musician, leader and composer, with over 400 pieces including those he collected. The latter activity ought not to be regarded lightly or as a tricky appropriation of somebody else's creations. Thanks to the collectors and compilers lost melodies managed to reach the ears of the peoples. Let's mention an example, among many ones: "La zamba de Vargas".

In this case the conflict arose because in Salta people were thoroughly convinced of either that the zamba had an author or that Cresseri had collected it before.

It was filed in the SADAIC record in 1958 and about ten years later the verdict favored the man from Salta, thereafter there was an appeal. In sum, over twenty years passed until the ratification and definitive verdict.

The Cresseri's friends had no confidence at all in the task of researcher, collector and compiler carried out by Chazarreta. So they invented a burlesque lyrics, without subtleties, to sing along the melody of the zamba:

Esta zamba fue robada
por don Andrés Chazarreta
al viejo don Artidorio
que duerme bajo la tierra.
Y es bueno que ustedes sepan
que aquel ladrón
se llevó el broche de oro
cobrándose derechos de autor.

Por los campos tucumanos
llevan preso a un santiagueño
por haberse hallado un caso
antes que pierda el dueño.
Y para justificarse
le dijo al juez,
Señor juez no me condene
yo soy sobrino de don Andrés

Yo canto de este modo
porque mi'e olvidau la letra
pero lo que no me olvido sí,
es el robo de Chazarreta.
Esta zamba es más salteña
que el cigarrillo de Villagrán
y tiene sabor a coca
y a cacharpaya de carnaval.

The history of copyright law is very long and much information can be added to improve what was said up to now. We have the chance to follow page after page the several volumes of the documents filed concerning similar issues. But we put this aside, on a second level, to talk about the impact that its melody made in Buenos Aires.

Quite possibly it was performed at the appearance of the outfit led by don Andrés Chazarreta in March 1921 at the Teatro Politeama. But that same year and the next year two very important events took place.

The first name that springs up is Adolfo Rosquellas, a boy who enjoyed a good financial situation because he was born to a well-to-do family. He was an amateur musician and a traveler. He composed the tango piece "Una pena", recorded by Gardel and, previously, he had achieved a hit with the tango piece "Pura clase".

In 1921 he released another tango tune: "Cap Polonio". This title alludes to the name of a luxurious ship for tourists that, voyaging in the southern seas and reaching Brazil in the north, provided relaxed holidays for the wealthy classes of our society. And some nice times, undoubtedly, they had with the shows of the orchestra playing on board. On several occasions it was conducted by Francisco Lomuto, accompanied by musicians that years later had an outstanding place in the tango scene. One of them was Rosquellas, who recalling the good old days, despite his youth, paid his homage. Quite soon his financial situation changed and what was a hobby became a profession. He traveled to North America and there he was successful. He recorded many discs with his orchestra named Don Pancho.

Why do we highlight "Cap Polónio"? In 1922 it was committed to record to great success by the Roberto Firpo's outfit. On that rendition the first section is heard with no musical appeal and it seems a sort of introduction, but in the second, the melody is emphasized, and to our surprise it is formed by the notes of "La López Pereyra".

We don't know if this appropriation, although partial, has aroused any complaint. Possibly this had not happened because it was played as a tango or maybe because Chazarreta did not appear as composer.

That same year Enrique Delfino recorded "Cap Polonio" as a piano solo. It highlighted the merits of the composition due to the high level that Delfino already had as composer and because he, furthermore, preferred to play his own works.

It is important to say that the tango piece at issue became a hit. So much so that Ignacio Corsini asked the lyricist Juan Andrés Caruso to write its lyrics and he immediately recorded it. The result was some lines that had nothing to do with the ship. They are about the silly adventures of a guy named Julián.

In 1927 the Francisco Lomuto Orchestra included it in its discography. Later in 1948 the Ciriaco Ortiz Trio recorded it and in the 70s the eccentric Tuba Tango did it.

Another curiosity is that in 1964 José Canet made his own adaptation of the zamba as a tango piece and only eliminated the feminine article "la" to the original title because it was a tango number. (The noun tango in Spanish is masculine). So the tango "López Pereyra" sprang up. It was recorded with the original lyrics by the singer Alberto Marino accompanied by his guitar group.

But the impact it caused in 1922 does not end with what we said above. That year the Gardel-Razzano duo included in their songbook the tonada (air) titled "El sapo y la comadreja" (The Toad and The Weasel). When they agreed to commit it to record, they found out that it is not a popular anonymous song but it belonged to the renowned criollista Cristino Tapia. Author of over 200 numbers and fourteen of them would be recorded by Carlos Gardel time later.

Then -according to Orlando del Greco- they asked Tapia about it and he said he was not the author, that he heard it once and only he added some lines to sing it. The thing was settled, they released the record on which the duo and Tapia himself appeared as authors.

Why this story? Because the melody of the tonada is exactly the same melodic line as the one of "La López Pereyra" and even more clear than in "Cap Polonio" because here there is neither introduction nor first section. Here the guitars play a short intro and subsequently the three hardly humorous stories come. Later the guitars play a bridge and the melody follows just like we know it. In 1940 Charlo recorded it. He slightly modifies it due to the nuances and embellishments that he makes use of, displaying his vocal quality, totally evidenced in this recording.

Lastly and returning to Artidorio Cresseri, those who defend him from the ones who have said that he was but a compiler that arrived before Chazarreta -what is quite possible- have enumerated at least four titles he composed: Zamba para Palmira, Bailecito de Bolivia (bailecito), "Al pie del Chañí" (waltz) and "Ofrenda" (waltz).