Ricardo García Blaya

Castaña - Cacho Castaña at the Academia

ecause of his inclusion in the group of the Intermediate Generation of the Academia Nacional del Tango on July 16, 2007 a public plenary session was held in which I had the pleasure of talking to Cacho Castaña in a room full of fans.

We belong to the same musical generation when tango was going towards a slow and constant decline and rock and roll was strongly winning the young through Bill Halley, Little Richard and, especially, Elvis Presley.

Cacho is the archetypal neighborhood boy, shrewd, likable, that dreams of succeeding in the music business. His time was a period of transition, tango was declining and the models in art were no longer ours, they came from the northern hemisphere.

«The record companies decided that tango was over. Because the United States that rule the whole planet how on earth wouldn’t they have control of the music business? Sometimes at those nights when I drink spirituous liquors I think that, had we been a power like they are, things would be the other way around and tango would be the music of the North American boys.

«I’m a pianist that studied and went to the academy because I liked it. My parents didn’t force me to do it. I graduated as superior professor of music at age 14, and one year later I made my debut with the tango orchestra led by Oscar Espósito at the Parque Japonés, in the old Parque Retiro. After that I was lucky and it’s like a miracle that I had not stopped working with music and I can live on what I like.

«When Elvis Presley appeared the young guys, who played tango like I did and were having their early gigs, began to be confused. We let our sideburns grow long, we liked to shake our pelvis onstage, and we tried to get involved with rock and roll.

«After that each one did what he was capable to. But we can say that we belong to a generation that grew up with tango and rock. Of course, with The Beatles too.

«There was a break with Julio Sosa who conquered the young. Sosa´s following was the same as Palito Ortega’s. Very few know that my early roots were Charlo, Francisco Fiorentino, Aníbal Troilo, the Glostora Tango Club. A long time later Susana Rinaldi and Rubén Juárez would spring up. But tango was a sort of island.

«The first tango I composed was awful. I threw it into the garbage can, I was just 13 years old. I started playing all kinds of music. Some of them were very popular, airs sung by everybody, at soccer stadiums, on the streets and, however, they are not record sellers. They are hits that are sung or whistled by everybody but are useless from the commercial point of view.

«In 1971 I achieved a smash hit with a piece of mine entitled “Me gusta, me gusta”. I sang it in Japan. By that time I made hits that were released as singles. Up to that year I worked hard to get something, the good things came later.

«Tonight I’m going to tell you something you won’t believe. I have filed in the record of SADAIC around 600 numbers committed to disc. The song which less money brought me is the one best regarded: “Café La Humedad” but it’s the one which made me happiest. I composed it in 1972 and it evokes the cafe on Gaona and Boyacá where I used to meet with the gang of my heart but it’s no longer there.

«With tango I reached a special recognition. I always had a good rapport with people, but now I notice it every day with the latter tango records that also were awarded gold and platinum discs because of their sales. I’m doing what I like and I don’t think about quitting this genre.

«I was fortunate to work with El Polaco Roberto Goyeneche in the last years of his career. He was my top idol. He taught me to get the best out of silences.

«With “Qué tango hay que cantar” which I wrote with Rubén Juárez something funny happened. We agreed to meet one day at six in the evening and, in a haughty display, we said: «Let’s write a tango today». But you can write a tango when God wants, not when you want to. We had a glass of wine, later we had another and another. It was around midnight and we were still drinking. Dawn found us working on the same task and, by noon we realized that we had not even written a word. We said goodbye and, the following day when we were sober and, by phone, we got the complete piece. But I don’t complain about it, we greatly enjoyed that evening.

«A song that I worked up with my heart and mind was “Septiembre del 88”. It expresses what I really felt. I wanted Argentina to improve. In the first section I enumerate all the things I was living: inflation, looting of supermarkets, Alfonsín’s goverment decline. But later came a different look and I said to myself: I want a booming Argentina, pushing upwards, that poor people don’t have to suffer, and that we improve. And so the second part came out. It was not so difficult. It was inspired by a friend of mine that lived abroad.

«When people ask me about the reason why a tango I wrote is entitled “La Gata Varela” as homage to Adriana Varela. I always answer: Because she’s a tramp when she sings. You look at her and you know that she doesn’t go to church. She’s like me.

«I also dedicated a number to the beloved Tita Merello, “Tita de Buenos Aires” and another to my unforgettable teacher, El Polaco Goyeneche, “Garganta con arena”. I owe to pay homage to Virginia Luque who was the first in singing my pieces.

«I’m a pianist but I compose with a guitar. Don’t you find it queer? The human being is a rare bird.

«At this time I’m making a new recording for the Odeon label. I composed enough this year and I have many expectations. It keeps the line of the previous ones. I always say that I don’t sing tango, I play ballad-tango. I include a bandoneon because it has a special sound and color to portray any thing. By the way, if to a song that has only violins, you add a little touch of bandoneon, then it’s like seeing a sunrise in Buenos Aires.

«Poets have to suffer in order to write, otherwise they’re not poets. In the past their women died of tuberculosis when they were fifteen. Now it’s not like that, we have to base our lyrics on other reasons. We have to be updated. Had I not suffered I wouldn’t have written at all.

«One of the happiest days in my life was when I appeared with the Selección del Tango headed by Leopoldo Federico and featuring all the monsters.»

And he said goodbye like a great by singing «a cappella» his “Garganta con arena” to great acclaim by the audience and it caused a special sensation within me by having shared a chat with an authentic popular idol.