Bruno Cespi
| Néstor Pinsón

Tango and the Navy

he titles about the aviation and the army are a much greater number than those dedicated to the navy. The tangos we shall cite include, save for some exception, written music prior to the 20s.

Curiously, tango turned out definitely associated with the navy because of a motion picture, “La muchachada de a bordo”, in which a catchy march composed by Alberto Soifer, main theme of the film, would become its official music. That film was premiered on February 5, 1936 and was directed by Manuel Romero (the author of the lyric) and with an all-star cast: Santiago Arrieta, José Gola, Alicia Barrié, Tito Lusiardo and Luis Sandrini. The definitive version, still in vogue, was recorded by the Navy Band conducted by the musician/arranger Martín Darré and sung by Jorge Sobral.

Another march, in this case written on request of the authorities, is “Rumbo al mar” (Seabound), firstly entitled “Vamos rumbo al mar”. Its composer was the pianist Carlos Figari.

But getting to the point, here we have the titles we researched:

Marejada” (tidal wave), tango by Roberto Firpo. On the front cover of the sheetmusic we see a ship and, within a frame, the drawing of a sailor whose epigraph says: «To Mr. Bonifacio del Carril». Firpo recorded it many times. The first, a piano solo in 1912. On two occasions, in 1914, with his Orquesta Típica Criolla. Again with orchestra in 1918. Once again as a piano solo in 1920. And lastly, in 1929, already with lyric by Vicente Planells del Campo and with the refrain sung by Príncipe Azul. The words tell us about the protagonist’s return to our country after a long voyage. Here he found that the woman he loves was no longer the same as before. The tidal wave, at issue, symbolizes the problems of love. Finally, again as an instrumental, a new version, in March 1932.

El torpedero”, by Rosendo Mendizábal. «Dedicated to Mr. Fernando Casabel».

Mi capitán”, by Manuel Campoamor. «To my friend Francisco Solano González, Captain General of the port of Paraguay».

“Fragata Sarmiento”, by Luis Conde. We have no information about the author.

Another with similar title: “Fragata Sarmiento”, by Diego Centeno, composed several years later based on a poem by Felipe Mitre Navas was known in 1938 because the singer Roberto Guerra, of a short career, was interested in its verses. He was admirer and was influenced by the style and repertory of Agustín Magaldi. He appeared on some radio stations of the period and at casual venues. When he was in touch with these lines, he suggested Centeno to write music to them and, according to what he himself said, the former did it in a few hours. It turned out a march-song, which allowed him, on November 3, 1942, to cut his only recording. The composer, who died on January 4, 1959, was artistically associated with Magaldi’s career. The latter included in his songbook his tangos “Carne y uña”, “Huerfanita”, “Moneda falsa” and the waltzes “Alma mía” and “Suspiros”. Felipe Mitre Navas, poet and journalist born on November 8, 1909, was the author of the popular tango: “Libertad” with music by Magaldi.

“El acorazado Moreno”, by Fortunato Cardullo. «Dedicated to the Captain Ismael Galíndez» who was the Commander of the battleship by that time.

Finally, four titles more, closely linked because all of them are referred to the same vessel:

“El incorporado”, written by the violinist Ernesto Francisco Zambonini (1880-1947). «Dedicated to A. J. Moneta, chief of the Acorazado Rivadavia». The author started his career before the beginning of the twentieth century. He played at whorehouses in towns of the countryside, at cheap cafés of La Boca. He played along with Eduardo Arolas, joined the group led by Tano Genaro Espósito, but his tenure with Roberto Firpo stood out. And it was not because his playing was remarkable but because an incident between both of them was settled when he stabbed the bandleader's chin. But his consummation came with two tangos: “Recuerdos de Zambonini”, of course dedicated to the small scar that remained on Firpo's face and, the most widely spread piece of his because of its musicality, “La clavada”.

Acorazado Rivadavia”, by Ángel Villoldo, tango «Dedicated to the commander and officers of the first Argentine Dreadnought». It was commited to record by the Cuarteto del Centenario.

Dreadnought Rivadavia [b]”, by Luis D'Argenio. «Dedicated to Mr. Eduardo Rezabal».

Dreadnought Rivadavia”, by Carmelo Liparini. «Dedicated to the commander, officers and crew of the first Argentine battleship». The composer was major in an argentine military band.

Which was the importance of the dreadnought Rivadavia and why in two cases is called Dreadnought?

When in 1904 the Russian-Japanese war broke out two armored ships were in the last stage of construction at Italian shipyards by request of the Argentine goverment: the Rivadavia and the Moreno. But due to the spur of the moment both were sold to the Japanese for about 17 millon yens. In Japan were renamed Kasuga and Nishin and fought in Tsushima, the battle that led the Russians to surrender. Later, the Kasuga was used as coast patrol until 1919 when already, out of service, became a museum. The Argentines, like other countries, sent supervisors to come to conclusions for their own fleet. Our supervisor was A. J. Moneta.

This war demonstrated that the vessels reached long distances but that the weapons of medium caliber were not enough for the circumstances, they were able to carry only four 305 mm cannons of deadly power.

In 1906 the theories of the Italian naval genius Vittorio Cuniberti, about the importance of heavy weapons, were taken into practice. A bigger vessel, heavier and faster was needed. The British admiral Sir John Fischer, observing the development of turbine engines, thought it was possible and, following Cuniberti, made such a naval revolution that all battleships became obsolete when he built a ship he called dreadnought. It had ten 305 mm. cannons, two groups of Persons turbines which produced 23.000 h.p., were able to reach a speed of 21 knots and, with full load, reach 31.000 tons. Its length was 160,6 m, beam 25 m and draft 8 m. The Rivadavia and Moreno battleships had these features, they were two dreadnoughts.

Dreadnought or its synonym fearnought, literally means: «that dreads nothing», or more correctly for the occasion: «the one that fears nothing».

In the Caras y Caretas magazine N° 680, of October 14, 1911, there are photographs of its construction in Massachussets, United States, and an interesting paragraph: «The customary battleships compared with the present ones seem something like modest Ottoman torpedo boats».

The construction of the Rivadavia was finished first, hence the importance it has achieved. As from these vessels, our fleet became the most powerful in Latin America.