Enrique Puccia

Avena - Interview to Osvaldo Avena

ear reader, if some time you are dying of nostalgia, do not hesitate, get on any means of transport that takes you to Pacífico and walk along Bonpland Street, just for a while, and you will be in a piece of neighborhood down there in Palermo. Thereafter, it will be a question of looking around among doorsteps for a music note, certain vital chord and the entire guitar as a ceremony. With Osvaldo Avena it happens like with certain poetry that appears, brushes us, and stays with us. Music is a part of him. His father was don José, a bandoneon player who was partner of Anselmo Aieta, back in 1918, at the Parque Goal de la Avenida de Mayo.

«I was around seven and I already used to play percussion or the harmonica alongside Dad and some other musicians that you won’t even imagine. I didn’t miss any appearance of my old man. So I came to know Roberto Firpo, Juan Maglio, Osvaldo Fresedo and so many others. All them a hell of musicians but like the Elvino Vardaro’s violin I’ve never seen anything of the kind.

«At age twelve I began to strum something and when I was fifteen I used to accompany Héctor Mauré when he was still Tito Falivene. I played by ear, that was my first professional job. Time later I joined Costita, former partner of the itinerant singer Pachequito. With him I toured throughout the southern territory. Those were tours in which I assimilated the essence of the milonga in nearly all its variants, so I reached the command which I would have never learnt in a conservatory. I always played by ear but I also studied a bit. One day I asked a colleague what teacher he would recommend me to study music with, and he answered me: «Avena, you’re an intuitive fellow, a guy with much strength. Be careful with your choice. The one who teaches you must thoroughly know you». I went to study for a time but I couldn’t stand it. I went on with my eight hours in a corner of the kitchen striving for polishing a melody. I reach the same as if I were studying but it takes me more time.

«When I was twenty I joined the Trío Argentino in which I also sang. It was 1943. By that time the Hermanos López had come back from Mexico where they had appeared to great acclaim. I was pleased with them and became acquainted in depth with the music of that country. All of a sudden I decided to play jazz, we gathered with Pichi Mazzei, Vignola and others. We were a gang but it didn’t turn out to be.

«Soon my association with La Mejicanita sprung up. Enrique De Lorenzo, a pianist known in the milieu as El Pibe de Oro (The Golden Boy), came to offer me a job. The former did not find what she wanted but when she auditioned me I told her about my relationship with the Hermanos López and everything went all right. We were nearly everywhere around the world and also there was much money. I had to put aside several things but instead this brought me great satisfactions. Abroad I was far more recognized than here. Surely it’s because no one is a prophet in his own land.

«Look, one evening on an important radio station of São Paulo the director came into the studio. He arrived to find out who that guitar player was. And, likewise, a lot of things such as that happened to me. I had been eight years with La Mejicanita, I wanted to quit, I wanted to do things on my own. “Milonga para el domingo”, for example, belongs to that time.

«Then with El Trío Azul the expectations were different. We toured the American continent. The singers that sang with us were Nanai, Omar Brandan, Roberto Palmer (later with the Quilla Huasi), Nelly Panizza (later an actress), but the idea was not successful. People were not fond of new trends, they preferred traditional tango orchestras. Because of that I was deeply disappointed and I decided to stop for a while.

«To work for a living I agreed to back up the tango singer Aldo Calderón for two years. Thereafter I met the poet Héctor Negro, in 1965, and soon we started to work together. At the beginning Reynaldo Martín (El Alemancito) teamed up with us. With him we appeared at the Recitales de la Nueva Canción in several underground theaters.

«With Negro we produced beautiful things like “Con una milonga de estas”, “Responso para un hombre gris”, “Un lobo más”, “Un mundo nuevo”, “Buenos Aires vos y yo”, “Para cantarle a mi gente”, “América nueva” and others. In 1974 we made a show, with José Ángel Trelles and Los Juglares, entitled “Para cantarle a mi gente”. In the second section there were three guitar solos with compositions that belong to me: “Tangata al negro Cele” (for Celedonio Flores), “Preludio y Milonga” and “Tres movimientos”. My numbers are not instrumentals, they all bear lyrics by Héctor Negro.

«For two years I accompanied Susana Rinaldi. I did the same with Graciela Susana in a long-playing record for Japan. I also composed some pieces with lyrics by Armando Tejada Gómez. I dedicated “José, mi viejo” for my Dad and “Magoyando”, to Susana Rinaldi. I wrote the music for two lyrics by Cátulo Castillo: “Esta última carta” and the tango “El montón”.

Chatting with Avena is like attending a lesson about music and life. We can very well say that the Avena’s guitar “is like a celebration that follows us”.