Oscar Zucchi

Biafore - Interview to Roque Biafore «Roquito»

oquito (Roque Biafore) was one of the representatives of the generation of 1910, but due to his sensitivity, temper and style of playing, he became an archetypal figure of the 20s and 30s. With a trend associated to the one imposed by Pedro Maffia, either in the way of playing as in the body attitude when holding the instrument, always placed on both legs and keeping his feet together on the customary small stool, and his upright head. His sound was soft, with a tendency toward the legato playing, delicate, always with a respect for melody.

His conservative temper made that the excellent groups he led were confined to the bandstands of the cafés where they played instead of having dates in the recording studios. But the good pay at those venues made many musicians forget that discs and compositions are two of the main things that help an artist name to last and stand out.

The interview was made on May 14, 1974, at his home located on Emilio Solá Street, in Wilde. He was in poor health, depressed, unprotected, with meager resources to live. He tried to warm his cold body wrapping himself in old newspaper sheets. It was an effort for him to answer my questions, but a pleasure too.

«The Biafores was a family of musicians of Italian origin. My parents had settled in the neighborhood of Parque de los Patricios. Six brothers devoted ourselves to music. But now Antonio and I only remained. He lives with me, he was drummer, bassist and singer. I always had a weak health and the boys used to play jokes on that. Many a time they spread the news that I was seriously ill. They did it so many times that someone said: «No, but Roquito never dies!».

«My liking for music must have started when listening to my elder brother, Ángel, who began to teach me and he did it with a symbol notation —by the number written on each key–, when he traveled he sent me the symbols by mail. He was born in 1892. Later my friend Alcides Palavecino —a good violinist— taught me lessons about theory and solfegge. Much later Cipriano Nava taught me the elements of harmony and polished my technique with the instrument. From then on I was self-taught.

«My professional debut must have been around 1917 at the Café 43, on Caseros Avenue and Matheu, with a trio alongside José Tarantino —father of the pianist Osvaldo Tarantino— and the then famous Negro Eduardo, in fact Floriano Benavento, who played with a nine-stringed guitar. Later we switched to the Café de Don Francisco, on Rincón and Garay. By that time I joined the outfit led by the pianist José Martínez at the Café Parisina on 25 de Mayo Street. They were Antonio Buglione, Graciano de Leone, and Pacífico Lambertucci on drums. I taught Negro Eduardo to play bandoneon. When he left he was replaced by Marino García, the composer of “Mis harapos”.

«Finally I reached the downtown area, the famous Bar Iglesias on 1425 Corrientes Street. In 1918 I joined the orchestra headed by Geroni Flores. There my fellow players were Agesilao Ferrazzano, Bernardo Germino, Brignolo. At another famous bar, the Domínguez, on 1537 Corrientes St. I played for Graciano de Leone and later I had the honor to play along with Vicente Greco at Lo de Laura, the renowned “venue”. The Café Nacional on 974 Corrientes Street, used to present only all-girl orchestras, and I leading my quartet changed the habit. We were the first male group at that local. It was lined up by José Tarantino and Ernesto Pierri on violins, Fidel del Negro on piano and I. This was for the afternoon show, in the evening I appeared with other boys, Emilio Bianchi by my side, José de Grandis on violin, the one of “Amurado” and a brother of Pierri’s on piano.

«Five years at the Nacional. In 1919 I was member of the Samuel Castriota's orchestra at the Pabellón de las Rosas. In 1921 I joined a big aggregation conducted by Francisco Canaro, for the carnival balls at the Teatro Ópera. The following year I appeared in the province of Tucumán for several months, the pay was good.

«It was a satisfaction for me when Enrique Delfino, who led the so-called Cuarteto de Maestros, summoned me to play as substitute for Fresedo who had quit. In 1922 I was musician for Juan Canaro at the Armenonville. In December 1922 I made my debut with my orchestra at the bar and beer-shop El Manzanares, on Caseros Avenue, daily after 8 pm. On radio I had too much work, the first station was Radio Cultura. It was one gig after the other, all of a sudden I had my orchestra and, according to the circumstances I joined another as sideman. In 1925 I was with Francisco Lomuto. I appeared on Radio Prieto, Splendid, when it was called Grand Splendid. I worked for Alpidio Fernández, for Roberto Zerrillo, in 1932, I put together again the Típica Biafore.

«My last public performances were between 1938 and 1941 with an orchestra led by my brother Pascual on the radio stations Porteña, Mitre and Belgrano. Also at the famous Matinés de Juan Manuel. In 1942 I widened a little bit my playing. Lopecito -that radio man, author of poems, little theater plays and so many things- presented at the Teatro Apolo the play La cabalgata del tango, de Villoldo a Gardel. In a scene I appear playing the role of Eduardo Arolas; Juan Santa Cruz on piano played Castriota's role and Tano Vicente Pecci and the guitarist Emilio Fernández played as themselves. That was the finale of my career.»

Biafore as composer has left an important oeuvre in number and in quality that was included in the repertoires of the most qualified players of the period. But as those pieces were not reprised by the musicians of the forties they were forgotten:

“Amurado me dejaste” (lyric by Juan Durante) and “Cabecita plateada” (lyric by Julián de Charras), recorded by Roberto Firpo and Ignacio Corsini; “Carocito”, Firpo (1922); “Declaración”, Firpo and Fresedo (1926); “Una apuesta” (with José Tarantino), Firpo (1924); “Un recuerdo” (Homage to the Café El Nacional), Firpo (1918); “Triste pasado” (waltz), Roberto Firpo and Ignacio Corsini (1927); “Cambió tu suerte” (lyric by Manuel Meaños), Lomuto with Príncipe Azul (1930); “Te armarás” (lyric by Antonio Polito), renamed later as “La galleta” (lyric by Claudio Arena), Juan Maglio (1923); “Misterioso”, Francisco Canaro (1927); “Secante”, Francisco Lomuto with Charlo (1929); “Ilusión” (waltz with lyric by José De Grandis), Lomuto (1929); “Moza linda” (ranchera, with his brother Pascual and lyric by Alfredo Bigeschi), Pedro Maffia with Rafael Cisca (1931).

Excerpted from the book El tango, el bandoneón y sus intérpretes. Volume 2.