José Gobello

El ciruja - Alfredo Marino and “El ciruja”

e was born in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of Almagro. When he was just a kid he got a guitar and, by ear, he started to pluck its strings until he managed to play with a professional facility.

In 1922 he appeared as singer at the Café Nacional where no one till then had dared to do it on the small stage. In 1926 he formed a duo with Pablo Eduardo Gómez that firstly appeared at the “Casino Pigall” and later at the above mentioned café where at that time the orchestra led by the bandoneonist Ernesto de la Cruz also appeared and which, naturally, had no vocalist.

A bet about the use of lunfardo in tango lyrics prompted Marino to improvise a lyric. So he forged a masterpiece, a classic that still is in vogue: “El ciruja”. The latter and its contemporaries “La gayola” and “Barajando” are the last malandra tangos, when the lyricism of Homero Manzi was timidly seeing the light with “Viejo ciego”.

Ernesto de la Cruz wrote the music for those words which were sung by Pablo Gómez. The premiere was at the same cafe on August 12. Marino never sang it. Gardel, instead, recorded it accompanied by José Ricardo and Guillermo Barbieri on guitars that same year. Ignacio Corsini cut it on February 21, 1927 and Rosita Quiroga, some days before: on February 5, 1927.

In the latter year Marino, on guitar, together with his peers Iturralde and Barroso became the accompanists of the singer Juan Carlos Marambio Catán. But after his marriage, always in 1927, he quit show business until 1930 when he was unable to decline the Carlos Vicente Geroni Flores’s invitation to join his orchestra for a European tour. The singers were Julio Vega and Héctor Morel (later Héctor Farrel). The duo became a trio when the American brunette Nildey Watkins, a blues singer, was added. They appeared in Spain and Morocco.

On his comeback to Buenos Aires he joined the Elvino Vardaro Sextet as refrain singer (estribillista) and was broadcast by Radio Fénix.

He was drawn to acting and so he was starred in two plays by Francisco Canaro and Ivo Pelay: “La patria del tango” and “Mal de amores”. He also appeared in movies like: “Turbión”, “El loco serenata”, “Pelota de trapo” and “Su última pelea”.

Finally he joined the cast of Radio El Mundo. He worked for that radio sation for 22 years. There he was featured in a famous daily soap opera “Los Pérez García”. For a short time he impersonated the father of that family: Don Pedro. That role was soon later played by Martín Zabalúa. He also appeared in another program that was aired forty-five minutes earlier, the detective story “Peter Fox knew it”. As from 1967 he was director of that radio station.

He wrote around thirty lyrics, among them: “Vieja volanta”, “El aguatero”, “El batidor”, “Viejo taura”, “Anochecer”, “Cuartiando”, “Del pasado”. But none of them reached, however, the level of “El ciruja” and no poem of the tango literature has equaled the expressiveness of the unsurpassable twelve-syllable pattern admired by many writers and poets, that figure: “Campaneando un cacho ‘e sol en la vedera” (Watching a piece of sunbeam on the sidewalk).

The fable that is told is the customary one, and in it the pimp that takes all the money from the poor hallucinated harlot is not missing at all. If “El ciruja” is a hallmark in the history of tango, it is not due to the anecdote it narrates, nor to the widespread popularity it reached —in five months 150.000 sheet music copies were sold—, but to the purity of its style. It is regarded as the lunfardesque tango par excellence. Maybe it is so but, in such case, it would share that honor with Lorenzo Traverso’s “Uno y uno”.

It’s necessary to notice, however, the precision of his phrases, free from useless words and pleonasms, as if they had been subjected to a detailed process of smoothing over. And again that line: “Campaneando un cacho ‘e sol en la vedera” (Watching a piece of sunbeam on the sidewalk). Bodily wretchedness and demoralization have never been expressed so eloquently.

In the vocabulary of “Nueva Antología Lunfarda” we can read: «Mosaico: deturpación of “moza” (young woman)» (the term deturpación means —according to the Real Academia—, distortion, impairment, pejorative mention).

On the tango pages of the periodical by Gaspar Astarita “Tango y Lunfardo”, Nº 80, appear two poems: “Corralón” which belongs to him and “A Alfredo Marino, mi padre” (To Alfredo Marino, my father) by his son Norberto.

Some recordings of "El ciruja":
Ignacio Corsini with guitars (1926 y 1927)
Orch. Osvaldo Fresedo (1926)
Carlos Gardel with guitars by Barbieri and Ricardo (1926)
Orch. Juan MaglioPacho” (1927)
Rosita Quiroga with guitars (1927)
Orch. Francisco Canaro (1927)
Quinteto Don Pancho (1939)
Orch. Alfredo De Angelis with Julio Martel (1949)
Orch. Francini-Pontier with Julio Sosa (1950)
Orch. Carlos Di Sarli (1951)
Edmundo Rivero with Orch. Carlos Figari (1956)
Conjunto Don Goyo
Edmundo Rivero with guitars (1963)
Orch. Alfredo De Angelis with Carlos Aguirre (1966)
Orch. José Basso with Alfredo Belusi (1967)
Jorge Vidal with guitars (1967)
Tita Merello with Orch. Carlos Figari (1968)
Enrique Dumas with orquesta
Orch. Los Señores del Tango
Juanita Larrauri with Orch. Ernesto Tití Rossi (1972)
Quartet “Pa’que Bailen Los Muchachos”-Dir Leopoldo Federico
Walter Yonsky with guitars by Palermo and Peñalba (1973)
Lalo Martel with Orch. Osvaldo Requena
Orch. Símbolo "Florindo Sassone" with Rodolfo Lemos (1983)
Bandoneon solo by Roberto Di Filippo (1983)
Carlos Acuña with guitars by Juanjo Domínguez (1984)
Mariano Leyes with Orch. Alberto Di Paulo
Walter Yonsky with Bebe Nevoso Trio (1989)
Luis Cardei (1990)
Sexteto Tango Real with Pablo Banchero (1996)
Orch. José Colángelo with Isabel Gil Arenas (1996)
Oscar Chávez with Grupo “Otro Puerto”-Coco Potenza (1997)
Conjunto La Chicana with Dolores Solá (2000)
Patricia Noval (2002)
Jorge Dobalo with Antonio Pisano (2005)
Las Bordonas with Ignacio Cedrún (2007)