José Gobello

Borges and “Discos de Gardel”

brief note by Jorge Luis Borges gives us the impression that, when he was already a grown-up boy, was unaware of the existence of shellac records, those still present in many record libraries. He said the following:

«I have two nephews who are very enthusiastic about him, they are true archeologists of Gardel records. They have even got what are called acoustic records, on which is hardly left a sort of a ghost, a reedy voice by Gardel; and they listen to him, with their friends, with a kind of religious devotion. My sister also likes him very much. She hears a Gardel record and says: The voice… the voice!».

As a matter of fact, those Gardel records, made that many of his fans, after his death, started a thorough hunt which seemed to be a race to find out who was the first to discover the complete collection of his recordings. Then at last, the lyricist Horacio Sanguinetti and the bandoneonist Eduardo Del Piano found the inspiration to create, in 1945, the tango entitled “Discos de Gardel”.

No siento tanto que mi vida es triste y sola
cuando escucho en la victrola
viejos discos de Gardel.
Los tangos del ayer
reviven sin querer
amores marchitados por el tiempo
y casi olvido que mis sienes están grises
escuchando “Cicatrices
Nunca más”, “Un tropezón
y trae la emoción
amarga del dolor
el tango “No te engañes corazón”.

Two singers stood out in the rendition of this tango. One of them recorded it on May 3, 1945: the excellent Uruguayan singer Enrique Campos with the Ricardo Tanturi orchestra.

The second one dates back to March 3, 1948, with the presence of a superb stylish interpreter: Alberto Gómez. Here it is worth mentioning a story he himself told. He was a professional respected for his seriousness in his job. He had begun with the lyrics but, soon afterward, the musicians stopped and watched that one of the executives of the recording company quickly got close to him. He was surprised when he heard the reason. Respectfully and apologizing, the sound engineer asked him to replace the word ‘Victrola’, which for the Victor label, was the name they had given to their playing devices, for ‘Fonola’ because he was recording for the Odeon label and they sold their devices with that name.

Director’s note: There are several articles about Borges’s liking for the Guardia Vieja (Old Guard) tangos, that is to say, those played by orchestras like the ones of Juan Maglio and Vicente Greco. He used to say that they were cheerful and rhythmical. He fully rejected tango-song which, according to the writer, had made that early tango, the tango milonga, sad and spoiled it. And he blamed no less than Gardel whom, he evidently did not like, for this.

And lastly, a digression. It is very interesting the opinion of our friend Néstor Pinsón, who says that Borges’s verses intrinsically have a milonga beat and so much so that some of them were musicalized. But it is a paradox that Astor Piazzolla was the one who wrote the music for most of those poems. A genial artist but diametrically opposed to the tango that the poet liked.

Some recordings of “Discos de Gardel”:
Orchestra Ricardo Tanturi with Enrique Campos (Buenos Aires, 3/5/1945)
Alberto Gómez with guitars group leaded by José Canet (Buenos Aires, 3/3/1948)
Manolo Fernández with the Orchestra Joaquín Mora (Havana, 1946)
Orchestra Eduardo Del Piano, with: Mario Bustos and Héctor De Rosas (Buenos Aires, 24/7/1953)
Esnaldo Ávila with Orchestra Alberto Dimaggio (Caracas, 1960)
Quartet A Puro Tango – Dir: Miguel Nijensohn, with Enrique Campos (Buenos Aires, 1969)
Orchestra Leopoldo Federico, canta: Gloria Díaz (Buenos Aires, 1979)
Mariano Leyes with orchestra (Buenos Aires)
Enrique Quique Gómez with guitars group leaded by Leo Rodríguez (Resistencia, 2008)