Silencio Tango
Juan Manuel Peña

Tango in Spain

few years ago I devoted to writing a book about the Spanish Civil War with my friend Dr. José Luis Alonso. Researching bibliography I found many anecdotes referring to the events in Spain during the Civil War and furthermore, the appearance of tango in the war, although sometimes it was only a sideways presence. Even though I had written some articles about tango and El tango en el Colón I had the intention of writing a book about tango in Spain, its introduction, development and its present full of events connected with the music of Buenos Aires. Specially today when it has been declared as World Heritage.

There is a very good work made by Ernesto Portalet and published by Corregidor but it ends when the war begins and I myself thought that something was missing. With these short lines I shall try to summarize my book El tango en España. Historia de una pasión (Tango in Spain. History of a passion).

I started a thorough research of the appearance of Spanish maestros in the beginnings of tango. Those that accompanied the theatrical companies of the minor Spanish genres like zarzuela. Also, the songs de ida y vuelta introduced by Spanish female fingers (tonadilleras and cupletistas), the recordings made by pioneers like Gobbi and his wife, besides the tours of Spain made by Argentinians. Firstly, Barcelona was the epicenter of what today we would call movida (the scene), to later continue in Madrid and thereafter the whole peninsula.

Teresita Maravall «La Zazá», Linda Thelma, Lola Membrives before being the great actress she later was, Raquel Meller, Imperio Argentina, Celia Gámez, Álvaro Retana and his tango “La hora del thé”, La Banda Municipal of Barcelona recording tangos in 1915, the Spanish composers like Rosendo Llurba, Juan Viladomat, Leopoldo Corretjer, Keppler Lais, Ramuncho, the Spanish tango orchestras. All these artists began to frequently appear in the wide field of tango in Spain.

And later came the names of Carlos Spaventa and his brother, the singer Francisco Spaventa that amazed the Spanish audiences until Carlos Gardel arrived. Then true Argentine tango was known in the wonderful voice of our top singer. And, of course, the Irusta-Fugazot-Demare trio that for ten years delighted the Spanish public and also appeared in two movies Boliche and Aves sin rumbo. And the dancer Bernabé Simarra who began to teach dancing tango to Spaniards. Tango magazines were published, at least three were issued in Barcelona and they would deserve a special research.

Soon thereafter a great number of renowned Argentine tango artists arrived in Spain. Lets us only mention Cátulo Castillo and his orchestra that included, among others, Miguel Caló, Alberto Cima and the Malerba brothers, with Roberto Maida on vocals. It was a group of young boys eager of adventure who reached wide acclaim in Spain. Bianco-Bachicha, an orchestra formed by the violinist Ernesto Bianco and the bandoneon player Juan Bautista Deambroggio (Bachicha), with the female singer Emilia García who was Bachicha’s wife. They succeeded in performing for the Spanish monarchs.

Carlos Vicente Geroni Flores and his orchestra, Sofía Bozán, Azucena Maizani that traveled with Joaquín Mora, Roberto Zerrillo and Orestes Cúfaro, the Trío Buenos Aires, the Navarrine Brothers and «Los de la Raza» with Horacio Pettorossi who later was Gardel’s guitarist. They were followed by Juan Carlos Marambio Catán, Eduardo Pereyra, Gerardo Matos Rodríguez, Enrique Cadícamo who did not hesitate in regarding Barcelona as «the third tango fatherland», Pilar Arcos, the bandoneon player Mario Melfi, Juan Albá and Juan Giliberti, besides Manuel Buzón and his orchestra.

Furthermore, the visit made by Tania and Enrique Santos Discepolo and their encounter with Federico García Lorca has to be highlighted. Tania recalled that Enrique and Federico used to hold extremely long conversations. We remember their performances and their journey throughout Spain, north of Africa and Mallorca, an island where Discepolo composed the music of his “Canción desesperada”.

And also the brothers Manuel and Salvador Pizarro, Juan Canaro and Rafael Canaro that worked with the Spanish female artists Tani Zerja, Carmelita Aubert, Celia Deza, Perla Greco, María Olimpia, María Turgenova and others like the singer Luis Scalon.

Carlos Gardel and his four voyages to Spain that galvanized the Spanish public that warmthly welcomed him and his movies. The Spanish motion picture Barrios bajos with a tango as the title song was shot in Spain. All this happened before the bloody and painful Civil War.

Later during the war, tango resisted in the Madrid trenches where Gardel used to be heard singing through his records when shooting ceased in the trenches. The three known versions of the tango “Silencio” are one which is the real one and two others made by Catalonists with a clear political intention like the one made by the Republicans which totally referred to the vicissitudes of the civil war. The lyrics of “Melodía de arrabal” were translated into Italian and sung during the conflict. The music of another unforgettable tango “Esta noche me emborracho” was sung with these words: «Somos los rojos refugiados, a este campo llegados, después de mucho andar…» (We are the refugee reds that arrived at this camp after a long way) while the Republican army was sent to the concentration camps of France after they had lost the war and had to be exiled.

When the war ended the censorship imposed by Franco modified the lyrics of some tangos. It is an environment of pain and reconstruction, Carlos Acuña —came exiled from Argentina and stayed for a long time—; Celia Gámez went on singing; Rafael Canaro returned and Agustín Irusta was back again. Agustín Duarte and the Argentinian Roberto Gallardo that settled in Spain appeared in the scene.

New visitors in Spain are: Francisco Lomuto and his orchestra with Chola Luna and Alberto Rivera on vocals; the great Edmundo Rivero —who stayed seven months and toured all Spain—; Alberto Castillo with the orchestra headed by Jorge Dragone with the bandoneon player Ángel Condercuri who also appeared on the Spanish television. And again Manuel Pizarro, the pianist Juancito Díaz and the female singer Jovita Luna, Charlo and Sabina Olmos, as well as the great orchestra led by Eduardo Rovira who made a one-year tour.

Films that starred Sarita Montiel and Marujita Díaz singing tangos were shot. Tania returned and Alberto Marcó, Horacio Molina and Jorge Sarraute appeared. The latter accompanied the female singer Elba Picó who today is still displaying her tango mastery in Spain. The presence of tango goes on with: the Cuarteto led by Juan Cedrón and the bandoneon player César Stroscio; Néstor Fabián; the Spanish group “Malevaje” with Antonio Battrina; Cholo Montironi, the Astor Piazzolla’s aggregation and the Osvaldo Pugliese orchestra which arrived in Madrid for the first time.

Let alone the performances of the orchestra fronted by Atilio Stampone; the Sexteto Mayor; Néstor Marconi and his quintet; Susana Rinaldi; Rubén Juárez. Many are the Spanish singers that today sing tangos: Joan Manuel Serrat, Plácido Domingo, Rocío Dúrcal, Dyango, Maité Martín, Martirio as later will do the cantaores Enrique Morente, El Cabrero, Miguel Poveda or El Cigala.

And in this short summary we have to mention the appearance of Pablo Mainetti and his bandoneon, the dancers Nélida and Nelson, maestro Horacio Salgán and the Quinteto Real, the Orquesta Color Tango, the Tango por Dos Company and the extraordinary success of Tango Argentino, by Segovia and Orezzoli that renewed the tango show worldwide. And also Mariano Mores; Patricia Barone; the operita “María de Buenos Aires” by Horacio Ferrer and Astor Piazzolla; Rodolfo Mederos; Osvaldo Berlingieri, among many others.

And in 1989 Tato Rébora had the great idea of creating a festival that until today has presented twenty-two Tango Festivals in the city of Granada. Now is the oldest festival of the genre in the world. There had paraded the most important contemporary tango figures, not only from Buenos Aires but also from Spain and other latitudes. Leopoldo Federico, Raúl Garello, Roberto Goyeneche, Rubén Juárez, Susana Rinaldi, Juan Carlos Copes and María Nieves, Osvaldo Requena, Horacio Ferrer, Miguel Ángel Zotto and Milena Plebs, Horacio Salgán and Ubaldo De Lío, Eladia Blázquez, Daniel Binelli, Osvaldo Tarantino, Ángel Ridolfi, Reynaldo Nichele, Elba Picó, Julio Bocca and Eleonora Cassano, José Ángel Trelles, Héctor Stamponi, Jorge Arduh, Cacho Tirao, Guillermo Fernández, Silvana Gregori, Nicolás Ledesma, Cristian Zárate, Osvaldo Montes, Aníbal Arias, Walter Ríos, as well as a large number of dancers of which we have just mentioned the most renowned ones.

As a well-deserved homage, from the first pages the names of so many Spanish musicians that contributed with their artistry in the early years of tango are included in the book. They are pianists, violinists, bandoneonists and singers, also composers and lyricists, that arrived with their parents as immigrants and picked up the ways and the language of the music of Buenos Aires, besides the others that were on tour or were especially hired and stayed for a long time appearing in Argentina.