Jesús Orozco

The origins of tango in Mexico and its interpreters

ith the recording of “Mi noche triste”, cut by Carlos Gardel in 1917, begins the era of tango song that would influence definitively the musical structure, the subject matter and the literature of tango. As soon as “El Morocho” sang Pascual Contursi's words he invented the way of singing tangos. The singers that came after him, Ignacio Corsini, Rosita Quiroga, Charlo, Azucena Maizani and Hugo del Carril, among many others, had no other choice but to stick to this style of interpretation.

This way, the definitive dice of vocal tango were tossed. It was born at the beginning of the twentieth century, it was consecrated in Spain and France to become part of the European social life, it crossed the ocean and entered the movie milieu of the United States. In the Ibero-American countries it arose an extraordinary interest due to its dramatic lyrics and its eloquent jail origin. In sum, they were passages of daily life that took place on both banks of the River Plate, but that were transferable, because of their universality, to the rest of the Spanish-speaking peoples.

Mexico was not the exception, thanks to the acme of the broadcasting and the phonographic advances, in a country that was in full modernization and recovering from a civil war. His majesty, tango, invaded radio stations, record shops, gramophones, the loudspeakers of fairs and most Mexican homes.

Jorge Sareli comments in his book “El tango a través del tiempo” (Tango through time): «In the thirties tango was located in the city of Mexico due to its quality, its rhythm, its cadence, its languor, its subject matter, its drama, its tragedy, its tenderness, its brief philosophy of life, its message, its humorous situations and its choreography different from other musical rhythms. Thousands of fans were attracted by this genre that impassioned and captivated all social classes either belonging to the suburbs or to the elite of the capital».

He continues saying: «It was the most widespread music and it was listened with much interest and enthusiasm. It was sung and it was danced with the clear happiness of novelty that the people of the city of Mexico assimilated it without suspicion. And it was adapted to such an extent that composers and Mexican singers were fully devoted to interpret it and to feel it like any Argentine or Uruguayan artist».

On XEB “La estación del buen tono” and on XEQ “Cadena Radio Continental” appeared groups of singers that devoted themselves to tango. There were Maruca Pérez “La Mocosita” who was the first interpreter of Agustín Lara's oeuvre, Carlos de Nava “The Mexican Gardel”, Blanca Reducindo, the brothers Americo and Abdón Alak, “El Trío Argentino” (a Mexican group that was modeled after the homonymous trio of Irusta, Fugazot, Demare), Blanca de la Fuente, Raquel Moreno and “El Che” Sareli, among many others.

Of course we should have to consider in this list the previously consecrated artists: Emilio Tuero, a Spanish baritone based in Mexico, the tenor Juan Arvizu that was first tango singer, the tenor Alfonso Ortiz Tirado, with his great rendering of the tango “Clavel del aire”, the popular Tito Guizar, Fernando Fernández (later cinema director and a great friend of Discépolo’s), “Los gauchos de los ponchos verdes” and the famous bolero singer Pedro Vargas who also dared to spread worldwide a repertoire with tangos composed by Mexican authors like the inspired Agustín Lara with his tango “Arráncame la vida” or Belisario de Jesús García, creator of “Tango negro.”

Sereli tells us that: «by that time artists of all categories and different histrionic qualities arrived from Argentina; for example, actors, singers, female singers, reciters, poets, composers, authors, comedians, dancers, choreographers, writers and cinema directors».

The Argentine star Libertad Lamarque met Pedro Vargas and Ortiz Tirado in the radio milieu of Buenos Aires, and began a friendship that later would grow with her arrival in Mexico. The success that the Argentine singer achieved was overwhelming. She had no rival in the Aztec country where there were very few tango female singers. Her extraordinary popular acclaim transformed her into a diva, not only of song, but also of the movies. And due to her success in the movies, her admirers distinguished her with the sobriquet: “La novia de América.”

Before her in 1938 the beautiful Mercedes Simone had come. She was the first foreign artist hired by the mythical night local “El patio”, owned by the impresario Vicente Miranda. In 1932 the famous Trío Argentino formed by Irusta, Fugazot and Demare came. But the latter didn't travel and was replaced by Rafael Iriarte.

Others that arrived between 1937 and 1945, were: Azucena Maizani, Agustín Irusta, Alberto Gómez, the Llamas-Barroso duet that played tango, folk music and humor sketches, Rosita Quintana and the great Hugo del Carril. The following artists were also successful in the Mexican venues: Ignacio Corsini, Charlo, Ángel Vargas and Amanda Ledesma “The blond angel of tango” who had a brief but interesting career in the Aztec cinema.

Agustín Lara, undoubtedly the top popular composer of Mexico, also was unable to avoid the influence of our city music in his oeuvre. He composed several tangos; most of them were recorded by Libertad Lamarque. And among those that stand out “Arráncame la vida”, possibly the best known, “Carita de cielo [b]”, “Mentira [d]”, “Reproche [b]”, “No tengo la culpa [b]”, “Canalla”, “El cofre”, “Lejos”, “Adiós [b]”, “Como te extraño”, “Consejo”, “Lo de siempre”, all of a high quality and widely known.

The famous creator of so many boleros and unforgettable songs like “Granada” or “María bonita” was born in the city of Mexico on October 30, 1896 and died on November 6, 1970.