Roberto Selles

La payanca - Brief story of the tango "La payanca"

ugusto Pedro Berto —who had been a guitar strummer, but was already a bandoneon player— used, in 1906, an old gato (folk air) of an anonymous author which he had in his initial repertoire, changed its time signature and transformed it into the third part of a tango. When he finally published it —only in 1917— he wrote in the sheetmusic: «Tango milonga based on popular airs». He also spent a long time before finding a title for it.

About this, the pianist Juan Santa Cruz told Juan Silbido (Emilio J. Vattuone) that «when Berto performed at the cabaret L'Abbaye on 500 Esmeralda Street, the above mentioned tango was frequently played there, without any title». Concerning the title, Santa Cruz went on saying, «One evening, a customer who was a friend of his told him: Don Augusto, why don't you entitle it “La payanca”?».

Another is the story that Augusto Berto himself told León Benarós: «Near the corner of Guido and Callao there was a vacant lot on which some boys played attempting to lasso some hens with packthread slipknots». It was then when he heard a friend of his tell to one of the kids: «Lasso her in Payanca style!». The sentence gave him a hint for the title of his tango. The term describes a lasso thrown to catch an animal by its fore legs.

Of course, the version of the composer himself seems to be more reliable. But, hadn't Berto camouflaged the true origin of that title? We ask ourselves it because there is also a third story revealed by Enrique Ricardo del Valle: «According to some people, Payanca was the nickname of a whorehouse girl». The anonymous line that was applied to the tango seems to support this version: «Payanca, Payanquita, / don't you hurry, / 'cause when I'm screwin' you / I want it to last long».

Whatever the case, the tango was entitled “La payanca” and it bore Juan Andrés Caruso's lines at first and later another lyric by Jesús Fernández Blanco. After fifty-two years of its inception, in 1958 Los Muchachos de Antes (The Boys of the Old Days) trio —led by Panchito Cao— transformed it into their popular signature tune. The craze for the old tango was such then that the young boys, fans of rock and roll, used to whistle its melody on the street.

Recordings of “La payanca
Orquesta Eduardo Arolas, singng: Pancho Cueva
Orquesta Típica Victor, instrumental (1926)
Guitarras de Iriarte, Pagés and Pesoa, instrumental
Orquesta Juan D'Arienzo, instrumental (1936)
Cuarteto Roberto Firpo, instrumental (1946)
Orquesta Juan D'Arienzo, instrumental (1949)
Cuarteto Enrique Mora, instrumental (1952)
Orquesta Juan D'Arienzo, instrumental (1954)
Orquesta Héctor Varela, instrumental (1957)
Panchito Cao y Sus Muchachos De Antes, instrumental (1958)
Quinteto Roberto Firpo "Qunteto De Antes", instrumental (1959)
Quinteto Roberto Firpo, instrumental (1959)
Quinteto Oscar Sabino - "Los Cinco De Sabino", instrumental
Conjunto Eulogio Viola y su ritmo Del 900, instrumental
Cuarteto Palais De Glace, instrumental
Las Guitarras De Oro, instrumental
Quinteto "Los Taitas", instrumental
Orquesta Osvaldo Pugliese, instrumental (1964)
Quinteto Pirincho Dir: Francisco Canaro, instrumental (1964)
Orquesta Juan D'Arienzo, instrumental (1966)
Conjunto Felipe Antonio, instrumental (1972)
Walter Yonsky, with guitars by Bartolomé Palermo y Paco Peñalba (1973)
Orquesta Florindo Sassone, instrumental (1974)
Cuarteto De La Ochava, instrumental (1983)
Orquesta Alberto Nery, singing: Quique Ojeda and Víctor Renda (1984)
Guitar solo by Conrado López Torres (1989)
Orquesta Color Tango, instrumental (1997)