Oscar Del Priore
| Irene Amuchástegui

Boedo - Story of the tango "Boedo”

tango that represents the musical evolution raised in the genre by the Julio De Caro school, “Boedo” occupies a place in history and holds a space in contemporary repertoires. As a good tango of a characteristic, strongly rhythmical, danceable style it prevailed in instrumental renditions.

In 1928 Julio De Caro, fronting a notable aggregation and following the Juan Carlos Cobián’s ideas as precedent influences, since the four previous years had been already establishing a new tango conception. His sextet had an instrumental technical hierarchy and arrangements of a level of development unknown until 1924. Then, not only did it brighten the beauty of earlier tangos but also it admitted (almost demanded) a new repertoire, richer and with a deeper commitment of interpretation.

The entertainment guides in the newspapers on October 8, 1928 announced: «Today the event that everybody in Buenos Aires is waiting for will take place at 18:20 and in the evening at 21:30: the appearance of JULIO DE CARO and his renowned tango orchestra, the orchestra that is in the soul of the porteños. It will premiere the following tangos: “Orgullo criollo” by J. De Caro and P. Laurenz; “Boedo” by J. De Caro; “Loca bohemia” by F. De Caro; “Mal de amores” by P. Laurenz». That happened at the Cine Renacimiento, on Lavalle 925. It was also the debut of the singer Roberto Díaz.

Together with “Buen amigo”, “Derecho viejo” and “El monito”, “Boedo” is among the tangos that Julio De Caro recorded most (four times in each case). The first time for the Victor company in 1928. In 1939 he recorded it for Odeon with an excerpt from the lyrics said by Héctor Farrell. In 1950 he again cut it for Odeon, once more without lyrics. And, also as an instrumental, he committed it to disc for Pathé in 1952.

We also have to say that Lucio Demare recorded “Boedo” with the orchestra of the Irusta-Fugazot-Demare trio at the time of its premiere. Among later renditions, let us mention those by the Francini-Pontier Orchestra, Osvaldo Pugliese, the two recordings by Horacio Salgán (with orchestra and as a duo with Ubaldo De Lío), the one by the Los Astros del Tango and Ástor Piazzolla’s with the Octeto Buenos Aires. And let us remember that Francisco Canaro, who did not frequently play De Caro’s pieces, indeed recorded this tango with his Quinteto Pirincho.

The area of Boedo Street, even though it was officially declared as neighborhood in 1972, had been for a long time before a territory of poets and tango men: among its neighbors there were José González Castillo, his son Cátulo, and Homero Manzi. The latter’s works made the reflections of the place be everlasting. Boedo is present in tango by means of the beautiful lines of Manzi in “Sur” of 1948. It already existed, from a long time before, the tango “Mi Boedo querido” by José Milano with the simple words by Enrique D’Aquila: «¡My Boedo! ... / you’re that pretty street / open... to let illusion enter / Today I want ... / to tell you, my neighborhood / that I’ve got you so close/ in my poor heart».

Julián Centeya rescued the mythology and the tango and literary history of the area in the poem entitled Boedo: «I come to gather the group. / But I come from the legendary Boedo. / The one with the Balear and the Aeroplano, / the one of Eufemio Pizarro and the Chancha / who was deadly shot on the wide sidewalk at the Biarritz’s door, / (...) / From that Boedo, yes, the Boedo of the Dante cafe / and the noisy bus station / facing the Los Andes, / where my astonishment / interspersed Gorki with Barletta».

But the charms of this neighborhood also reached a “downtown poet” like Enrique Cadícamo who wrote lyrics and music of “Boedo y San Juan” («From here, Boedo and San Juan / I’m goin’ to sing / for the neighborhood where I was born»).

Neither De Caro, born in Once and raised in San Telmo, nor Dante A. Linyera that was born on Independencia and Sáenz Peña were Boedo’s children. However, in original sheet music of the tango is read: «I dedicate this little memory to my childhood mates, the Boedo kids», and it is unarguable that the authors are among the first creators of the genre that were attracted by that scenery. De Caro will consecrate again a piece to it, this time with lyrics by Mario Gomila and entitled with the name of one of the emblematic streets of the neighborhood, “Chiclana”: «I come back to you, dear neighborhood / of my faraway past. / Old Chiclana / I learnt to love you / caressed by the tough rumor / of your bandoneon».

Boedo” was not very successful as a tango with lyrics, even though Roberto Díaz cut his rendering accompanied by guitars on a date near its premiere, on April 18, 1929. But the issue of its lyric is very interesting for several reasons.

Just to start let us comment that in the very 1928, Dante A. Linyera released another tango of similar subject with music composed by Ricardo Luis Brignolo. It was “Florida de arrabal”: «Neighborhood of axe and chalk, poor, from the outskirts, / where the new emotion was cradled, / where the rebel soul goes on wearing neckerchief / and tango is twisted like a bandoneon». The excerpt suffices to show the affinity with the tango at issue. Let us add another stanza of “Florida de arrabal” especially dedicated to Boedo Street, sensitive center of the neighborhood that Linyera chose as panoramic spot in both tangos: «Boedo, Boedo, / everybody’s street / the happy Florida / of the sad outskirts / very softly / tell the pretty / romantic young girl / that’s about to come».

It is interesting to stop for a while in the comparison that in the two lyrics Dante A. Linyera makes with Boedo and Florida Streets. Because we are in 1928 when the legendary confrontation between the literary movements represented by the Florida Group and the Boedo Group was at its peak.

Around the Martin Fierro magazine —established in Buenos Aires in 1924— launched by Ernesto Palacio and Roberto Marianise a notable group of writers is reunited. Among them are Jorge Luis Borges, Conrado Nalé Roxio, Macedonio Fernández and Raúl Scalabrini Ortiz. Their meeting place is Florida and Tucumán. While the corner of San Juan and Boedo gathers, in its cafés, a notable group of writers like Roberto Arlt and Álvaro Yunque. Their central headquarters are the workshops of the Claridad magazine. The rivalry between both groups soon grows spurred by an evening paper.

Their differences were far from enmity. Many years later, in 1959, some of the most outstanding protagonists of this story said to Clarín.

So Borges affirmed: «Florida and Boedo really existed, but not clearly defined. For example Nicolás Olivari was in Boedo and used to publish in Florida. Raúl González Tuñon began in Boedo and later switched to Florida (...) My impression is the following: the ones in Boedo represented an involved and social art while the ones in Florida had purist tendencies, it was art for the sake of art. The ones of Boedo were followers of Emile Zola, Máximo Gorki. Their meridian passed through Russia and also through France. The ones of Florida, in fact, had a tendency derived from Lugones although publicly we were his enemies. It was also, in a way, for political reasons and because we owe too much to him and we did not want to admit it. (...) Florida was then a literary revolution, somewhat spectacular, sort of noisy, but finally fruitful. Some results were given. Roberto Arlt and others like him came from Boedo and published in Claridad run by Antonio Zamora...»

For Álvaro Yunque: «The ones of Florida were more concerned for sounds. We were revolutionaries and they were members of the avant-garde».

And Ernesto Palacio said it quite clearly: «This issue of Boedo against Florida was, I think so, a phenomenon of little importance. One day, I think I had the idea of suggesting Roberto Mariano, a refined and learned spirit, the creation of a literary movement as a joke. Later that joke reached an unexpected importance for our amazement. That importante, in fact, was flared up by an evening paper. So much so that nobody was against anyone, the ones on one side or the other worked in the same magazines, sat at the same editing desks and appeared together at the same circles. Furthermore and it is worthwhile saying it: the members of Boedo were people of an inferior social level. They were mostly workers who aspired to a literary representation of their class. Later it would be called “proletarian literature”. The genuine spokesmen of this stream were Castelnuovo and Roberto Arlt. But the latter was also with us (although a little bit later and under the patronage of Conrado Nalé Roxlo). It was not easy to enter our circles. Raúl González Tuñón was in both memberships. The denomination was due, I think, to fortuitous geographical chances. For the sake of convenience we used to meet at the cafés near Florida and they, on San Juan and Boedo».

The fact is that Dante A. Linyera, profoundly involved, added his burning coal to the spectacular fireworks of the confrontation with his provoking: «What the hell does that conceited Florida want to do?...».

Lastly, the second lyric of Boedo is in fact a variation of the original. It was surely written in 1943 as a concession to the censorship to radio airing imposed by the government of the general Pedro Pablo Ramírez. In this new version, according to the dictatorship rules, the lunfardo expressions, the use of “vos” for the second person singular and, especially, the “heretic” lines: «where tango, provocative and macho / today is God / Our Lord / of Berretín» were wiped out.

It is difficult to ascertain who wrote this “more decent” version, if, as we think, it is not previous to 1943. The sheet music copies in which it appears still have the signature of Dante A. Linyera but the poet had died in 1938, at age 35.

This lyric, of a less dark origin, but relatively faithful to the original subject matter —though not to the essential form—, can be heard in the recorded rendition by the singer Guillermo Fernández cut at a time much later of its appearance.

Excerpted from the book Cien tangos fundamentales by Oscar del Priore and Irene Amuchástegui, Aguilar, Buenos Aires 1998.