Ricardo García Blaya

The Canaro brothers, a tango dynasty

rancisco, the eldest of the Canaros, is, undoubtedly, one of the greatest heroes of the genre. There is a lot of material about him in Todo Tango. The same applies to Juan, the third of the brothers, of whom we also have quite enough information. Because of that, we shall exclude them both of the present chronicle to devote ourselves to the other three, less frequented by the tango media, but who also had an outstanding place in our urban music.

Rafael Canaro, the second one, in his beginnings was guitarist and later, bass player, and also, leader and composer. He was born like almost all the members of his family, except Mario, in San José de Mayo, capital of the San José district, in the República Oriental del Uruguay.

When he was very young, his family moved to Buenos Aires. His first job was when he worked as newspaper boy on Entre Ríos Street, when he, together with his brothers Francisco and Juan, contributed to the family income.

Like many guitar players of that time, when the orchestras of the twenties did without that instrument, Rafael switched to playing double bass.

When he was member of the music ensemble which his brother Francisco led in Paris (France), in 1925, he settled in Europe for a long period. At that continent, and with his other brother Juan, he shared the leadership of several groups that appeared in Spain, France and Germany.

At the end of those tours, in 1931, he continued his work as independent director. The center of his activities was Paris, where he recorded a large number of records for the Odeon label with his countrymen: Fioravanti Di Cicco (piano), Héctor María Artola –also born in San José- (bandoneon) and the Argentine vocalist Aldo Campoamor. The singers Alberto Tagle and Luis Scalon also passed through the ranks of his orchestra.

In appearances he made at the cabaret Les Ambassadeurs, in Paris, and at night venues in Spain, his line-ups included the renowned tenor Singer Luis Mariano and a beautiful young girl –who later became famous- Carmen Sevilla, who was taking the first steps in her professional career.

He composed the tangos “La palmera”, “Ciertos amores”, “La batuta”, “Lejanía”, “Pizpireta”, “Tango de media noche” with Enrique Cadícamo, recorded by Francisco Canaro and Carlos Roldán on vocals; the waltz “Ya lo sabés (No te cases)”, co-written with Oscar Sabino and lyrics by Aristeo Salgueiro, also recorded by the orchestra led by his elder brother with the vocalist Francisco Amor, and the popular “Sentimiento gaucho”. The latter was signed by his brother Francisco and has thousands of renditions.

Humberto Canaro, a good pianist, leader and composer, also born in San José de Mayo (Uruguay). He was still a kid when his family settled in Buenos Aires.

He carried out his music career in the capital of Argentina, and released several tangos which were successful: “Alfredo”, “Gloria” with lyrics by Armando Tagini, “Palo Verde”, “Tortura”, “Fiebre”, “Ventaja”, “Novia mía”, “Nuevas esperanzas”.

Manuel Pizarro once said: «In 1918 I went to Córdoba, on a tour, and I was accompanied by Humberto Canaro (piano) and the violinists Rovati and a guy from my neighborhood named Pizella. We appeared at Las Delicias, a café with female waiters. There I came to know Ciriaco Ortiz, when he still wore short trousers, who played after the performance of my orchestra».

In 1920 he led the substitute orchestra of his brother Francisco, which appeared at several cabarets, Maipú Pigall, Tabarís, Dancing Florida. In that ensemble some of the players were Rafael Tuegols, also known as El Viejo (violin) and Carmelo Mutarelli (singer and double bass player). Later, he led another similar group at the Casino Pigall, on 340 Maipú Street, in which José Schumacher, Anselmo Aieta and Ángel Danesi were the players.

In 1922 he joined the first orchestra of his brother Juan, which included Humberto Canaro (piano), Juan Canaro and Roque Biafore (bandoneons), Rafael Tuegols and Antonio Buglione (violins), Rodolfo Duclós (double bass).

In 1935 he conducted his own orchestra on Radio Splendid and on the radio stations Porteña and Cultura. He appeared accompanied by the ‘chansonnier’ Pedro Arrieta.

Lastly, José Libertella told us a nice story with the maestro: «I began to study bandoneon playing with several teachers and later polished my technique with Francisco Requena and with Marcos Madrigal. But one day Humberto Canaro heard me and then he told me: «Come downtown or you’re gonna stay among the bushes».

Mario Canaro, player of several instruments, was violinist, bandoneonist and bass player, and also, leader and composer. He was the youngest of the Canaro brothers devoted to tango; he was born in Buenos Aires in the neighborhood of San Cristóbal.

Despite of the fact he had begun as violinist, he appeared for several years as bandoneon player in the Francisco Canaro orchestra, to later switch to double bass.

He released several tangos: “Así es el mundo” (1924), its recording with Roberto Díaz on vocals opened the period of the estribillistas (refrain singers); “Quiero verte una vez más” (1938), a piece which, previously and with other lyrics, was entitled “Viejo gaucho”; “Recuerdos de París” with Carmelo Santiago (1942), were among his greatest hits.

In 1947 he was member of the Cuarteto Espectacular Buenos Aires, led by Alejandro Scarpino (bandoneon), Francisco Di Rosa (piano), Juan Pedro Castillo (violin) and Mario Canaro (double bass).

He played in Buenos Aires and abroad, and appeared for a period in 1959 in the city of São Paulo (Brazil). In 1953 he recorded for the Pampa label, co-leading with Juan Canaro the Sexteto de los Hermanos Canaro.

He composed the tangos: “Maragato”, “Don Horacio”, “Oigo tu voz”, “Chonguita”, “Qué yunta”, “Mi querer” with Juan Andrés Caruso; “Ya no cantas más”, “Quien más que yo”, “La quimera”.

In 1967, with his orchestra and the vocalists Tito Landó and Néstor Peña, he cut a long-playing record for the Magenta label, disc 13049, in which “Corazón de oro”, “Sentimiento gaucho”, “Puentecito de plata (Juramento)”, two pieces of his own: “Tú el cielo y tú” and “Duerme mi niña” stand out, among others.

In 1969 he recorded, as Quinteto Canaro, a 33 rpm double-playing record, EMI-Odeon label, disc DTOA/E – 2272, with four pieces: “Requiem a Francisco Canaro” by Mario Canaro and “Pedime lo que querés” by Francisco Canosa with words by Juan Andrés Caruso, sung by Néstor Peña, and “Quiero verte una vez más” and “Envidia”, sung by Elda Solano.