Nélida Rouchetto

Dragone - An eternal traveler

is complete name is Nicolás Jorge Dragone and was born in General Villegas, province of Buenos Aires, on February 12, 1927.

«I left my hometown at age fifteen to go to the capital city. I had tango in my veins. I can as well say today that I was also an Argentine ambassador, of course, without portfolio, with our music as an emblem on my lapel each time I played abroad. Maybe because of that my fellow countrymen honored me with the title of Ciudadano Ilustre (illustrious citizen) of Villegas.

«In my hometown I went to grade school and part of high school. I was inclined for piano since I was attracted by music. Theory and sight-reading were included. I made my debut at age 12 with an orchestra that played all the fashionable beats. When it was the time of tango for dancers, from the piano I stressed a style that was a mix of Juan D'Arienzo and Rodolfo Biagi.

«In 1943 I traveled to Buenos Aires and, soon, I joined the trio successfully led by the bandoneon player Antonio Sureda, with Oscar Valpreda on violin and I, a tenderfoot, replacing Carlos Figari. I was learning the craft, I played in orchestras like those of José García y sus Zorros Grises, and Edgardo Donato’s. With the natural audacity of youth, at age 19, I put together my first orchestra. It was in 1946 to appear on Radio Mitre. In 1948 I switched to the outfit led by Toto Rodríguez that had Alberto Marino on vocals. In 1950, only for some months, I replaced the pianist Héctor Grané in the Pedro Laurenz’s orchestra. I also played in the orchestra headed by Juan Sánchez Gorio. And, between 1951 and 1952, I played with Florindo Sassone. The vocalist was Rodolfo Galé.

«When I joined the orchestra led by Ángel Condercuri that accompanied Alberto Castillo, the music arrangements were written by the violinist of the group, Natalio Lamicela. My tenure was from 1954 until 1960. This job was shared, in 1957, with my work as conductor of my own orchestra that backed Argentino Ledesma. With the latter we appeared at the carnival balls that year at the Club Atlanta and, in June, we recorded the first of my long-playing records. We worked with no break, there were recordings, radios, and my first trips abroad. We went to Chile and Peru.

«Recently, with the bandoneonist Cacho Giannini we were at the recital of the Symphonic Orchestra of Bahía Blanca. Its conductor, Mario Grossi, included two pieces I had composed, “Tangorama” and “Espacial”. I also wrote all the arrangements of the different numbers they played. For the finale we played “El día que me quieras” with Suárez Paz as the soloist on violin. And in 2000 I’ll return to Chile and Europe.

«I say I’m returning because in 1996 and 1997 we traveled to Germany and Switzerland and the following year to Belgium, Holland, Norway, Austria and Germany. Now I’m going with my sextet, Cacho Giannini and Celso Amato (bandoneons), Eduardo and Diego Malaguarnera (violins), Juan Carlos Estévez (double bass) and Héctor Omar on vocals.

«I recall that my first tour of Latin America was to Colombia, in 1977, always on Gardel’s anniversary. They were a total of twelve trips until 1995. We also appeared in Peru, Ecuador. I went to Mexico to accompany Hugo Del Carril in 1973. I was there for six months. There Celso Amato was based and he helped me to put together the music group. We came back there with Hugo in 1982. We played in New York, Venezuela and again in Mexico. The end of tour was in Peru and Brazil.

«My history with Japan began when in 1967 I joined the Quinteto Gloria, led by José Libertella. The other bandoneonist was Carmelo Gentiluomo; Claudio González on violin and Rafael Ferro on double bass. We were the background for Edmundo Rivero, who was the main attraction. We appeared at several theaters. I returned in 1983 with a trio, together with Eduardo Cordobez (bandoneon) and Juan Carlos Estévez (double bass) we played in hotels and accompanying Japanese female singers. It was a 40-day tenure and this was repeated the following year. Again in 1987, but now with the singer Enrique Dumas, two teams of dancers and the Cuarteto del Centenario led by the guitarist Eduardo Valle. By that time I formed a sextet. Previously, in 1986, in Buenos Aires, on request of an impresario of Japan we recorded 16 numbers.

«In 1990 I came back to Japan with the Orquesta Símbolo «Francisco Canaro», conducted by Oscar Bassil. The vocalist was Daniel Cortés and Virginia Luque was featured as special guest. The boys returned but I stayed playing with other musicians. I also was there for three consecutive years until 1993, in this case, to look for Japanese musicians to back the Japanese female singer Minami Kohara. She had already been in Buenos Aires and had hired a team of dancers, Jorge Biurret and Fabiana Dragone, my daughter. Finally, I returned again in 1998.

«I accompanied a great number of outstanding singers on tours and recordings: Héctor Mauré, Mario Bustos, Alberto Morán, Carlos Dante, Floreal Ruiz, Jorge Valdez and, also, a lot of new guys whom I tried to encourage and help with my experience in tango».

Interview excerpted from the De mis pagos magazine, year 2000.