Roberto Selles
| Néstor Pinsón

Argañaraz, its story and its lyrics

rancisco Argañarás y Murguía was the Spanish conquistador who, in 1593, founded the city of San Salvador de Jujuy. But if somebody thinks that Roberto Firpo dedicated to him his tango “Argañaraz”, is completely mistaken or, at least, partly wrong. In fact, the composition was dedicated to a certain little house on Argañaraz Street —which does bear its name in memory of the conquistador— in which its composer used to play back in 1913.

Argañaraz is a hidden alley with only a block, located between Estado de Israel Avenue and Lavalleja Street, in the neighborhood of Villa Crespo. On its 39 number was located the little house (ballroom in which the dancers were also whores) where Firpo used to play piano in the evenings. It is not the only case when a tango title refers to one of those venues. When Eduardo Arolas had to appear in a little house on Catamarca Street and Rosendo Mendizábal in another on México Street, these players composed “Catamarca” and “México”.

We may add that the street was named by municipal ordinance on November 27, 1893, but only in the 1970s some nosy municipal employee found out that it was to pay homage to Francisco Argañaras y Murguía, a conquistador born in Guipúzcoa (Spain) in 1549. At a young age he joined the expedition led by Juan Ramírez de Velasco. He entered the territory of Tucumán and was taking part in all the campaigns against the Calchaquí indians. The mistake in spelling the surname, written for decades with a final “z”, was corrected that year. But the tango had already been filed in the record as “Argañaraz”.

So then, on that street there was that dance hall which was not mentioned at all in the review of the researchers as others had been: Lo de María la Vasca, Lo de Mamita, Lo de Laura and others. But from its room with balcony facing the street it was customary to hear the music from Firpo’s piano. Among the frequenters to those musical reunions, Mr. Alfredo Pini stood out, a gentleman with a good financial position and, therefore, linked to a very high social class. He was generous with the musicians who, on those evenings, played polkas and tangos suitable for cheerfulness and love. It was there where Firpo’s inspiration produced that tango which he dedicated to Mr. Pini.

Years later, around 1942, tango returned, this time, as a formal neighbor on that street. «On number 76 a new family moved, a married couple with several sons. And among the brouhaha of the moving we saw they had brought a piano, a pair of guitars and I think that there was also a bandoneon. The following day, in the late afternoon criollo songs and tangos were heard played by a piano. Who was the player? José Luis Padula. A family with good-natured habits, soon invited the neighboring children to enter the room to listen and watch how the instruments were played. But the kind, good-mannered Padula died soon, in 1945». (testimony collected by Jorge Larroca).

“Argañaraz” was an instrumental tango, until it got lyrics. But not one, but two. Maybe the first of them was written by a lyricist from Rosario, Germán Roberto, who entitled it “El canillita”, paying no attention to the original title.

Something similar happened when Enrique Cadícamo added his own stanzas which he entitled “Aquellas farras”. «The music of some old tangos, previous to 1920 —the latter lyricist says— by so much listening to them, began to enter my ears. I liked one named “Argañaraz”, which twenty years later, when I had already turned out into a tango author, by request of its composer, Roberto Firpo, I adjusted some words to it».

The latter lyrics were premiered by Rosita Montemar, on May 20, 1927, in the Carlos Schaeffer Gano’s play entitled Las muchachas de antes no usaban melena (Teatro Smart, Blanca Podestá company).

Carlos Gardel committed it to record on April 1, 1930, accompanied by Rodolfo Biagi (piano), Antonio Rodio (violin), Guillermo Barbieri, José María Aguilar and Ángel Domingo Riverol (guitars).

Recordings of “Argañaraz (Aquellas farras)”:
Piano solo by Roberto Firpo, 1912
Orchestra Típica Criolla Alfredo Gobbi (Instrumental), 1913
Orchestra Roberto Firpo (Instrumental), 1914
Carlos Gardel, with guitars by Aguilar, Barbieri, Riverol and Biagi (P) and Rodio (V), 1930
Orchestra Ricardo Tanturi (Instrumental), 1940
Orchestra Adolfo Pérez (Pocholo) (Instrumental), 1949
Orchestra Joaquín Do Reyes, sing Enrique Lucero, 1950
Orchestra Ángel D'Agostino, sing Tino García, 1952
Orchestra Héctor Varela (Instrumental), 1959
Orchestra Juan D'Arienzo, sing Armando Laborde, 1966
Conjunto Rafael Rossi «De La Guardia Vieja», wiht Andrés Chinarro, 1977
Carlos Acuña with guitars by Adolfo Carné, 1983
Orchestra Alfredo De Angelis, sing Rubén Linares, 1985
Trio Ruthie Dornfeld (Instrumental), 1994
Quartet Roberto Firpo [h], sing Edmundo Muni Rivero, 1996
Cardenal Domínguez and his Quartet, 2003
Cristóbal Repetto and violin solo by Javier Casalla, 2005
Orchestra Miguel Villasboas (Instrumental)