Ricardo García Blaya

The tango singer: His evolution along time - The orchestra singer

he exact date of the beginning of the following stage is impossible to precise, because during some time the «cantor nacional» and the «estribillista» lived together with the «cantor de la orquesta¦ (orchestra singer), who appeared in the late 30s.

By 1933 Francisco Lomuto´s orchestra, without losing its hegemony in what was strictly musical, was granting its singer, Fernando Díaz, and after 1935, Jorge Omar, a more highlighted space than that of a mere estribillista, but still with a secondary role in the orchestra. The same happened with Roberto Maida in Canaro's line-up and with Horacio Lagos in Edgardo Donato's.

In 1934 Roberto Zerrillo orchestra with Francisco Fiorentino's voice performed the number “Serenata de amor” —by Zerrilo himself and Oreste Cúfaro— with an almost complete lyric.

I think that the turning point between the «cantor de orquesta» and his forerunner has to be looked for in the birth of the new orchestras which started in the mid- 30s and in the early 40s, the would-be leaders of that renaissance phenomenon of our urban music which happened in the 40s.

I am speaking, in first place, of Juan D'Arienzo, who took over the direction of his orchestra in 1934 and began to work for the Victor label the following year, recorded on January 4, 1938 the tango “Indiferencia” by Rodolfo Biagi and Juan Carlos Thorry, with his singer Alberto Echagüe and he performed it with all the features of the «orchestra singer».

Aníbal Troilo, who made his début with his orchestra on July 1, 1937, only recorded his sung tango on March 4, 1941, “Yo soy el tango” with Francisco Fiorentino's voice, the «orchestra singer» symbol.

An orchestra already consecrated in the 20s, such as the maestro Osvaldo Fresedo´s turned its estribillista Roberto Ray into its singer, as of the tango “Media vida”, recorded on September 3, 1938.

Ricardo Tanturi who began with his orchestra in 1937 and recorded, with his singer Alberto Castillo, the waltz “Recuerdo” in January 1941, generated another of the most remembered teams, later continued by the Uruguayan singer Enrique Campos.

Ángel D'Agostino, who formed one of the most famous associations of his time with his singer Ángel Vargas, recorded on November 13, 1940 “No aflojés” by Pedro Maffia, Sebastián Piana and lyrics by Mario Battistella.

Miguel Caló with Raúl Berón, Rodolfo Biagi with Jorge Ortiz, Aníbal Troilo with Alberto Marino, after Fiorentino's departure, Osvaldo Pugliese with Alberto Morán and, Carlos Di Sarli with Roberto Rufino, are other famous teams of this stage.

The main characteristic of this period in the evolutional development of sung tango is, no doubt, the perfect synchronization and understanding between vocalist and orchestral background. The singer was a highlighted voice but he also was another instrument in the orchestra, which generally was featured at the beginning and in the middle of the number, to later be at the voice´s service for the rest of the number.

The voice tuned up with the musicians in such a way that the singer was like another player and his voice a spotlighted musical instrument, not due to the architecture of his solo, such as a violin or a bandoneon would do in the previous stage, but for his protagonism on the number, an also brief role assigned to the estribillistas.

Besides, this protagonism was evidenced in the popular acclaim and in the commercial importance achieved by the singer, by his fees value, by the volume of record sales, by the amount of public attracted, by his fame, through the articles on radios, journals and magazines.

The impressive boom achieved by tango in the 40s originated in three causes. The first was the enormous proliferation of orchestras composed of young and gifted musicians: Aníbal Troilo, Osvaldo Pugliese, Miguel Caló, Alfredo de Angelis, etc.

The second was the rhythm made popular by Juan D'Arienzo's orchestra in the mid- 30s, what produced a new interest by young people in dancing and in this genre, generating a tango revival.

And, in third place, the new role of the tango singer in the orchestra, an importance that is seen in the discographies of the most important line-ups of that period where we scarcely find instrumental numbers.

Being an orchestra singer, not only meant to sing the whole lyric of a tango, but it was mainly the result of a new structure in the conception of the number, which was planned in a way different to what had been done until then.

Carlos Dante, the best singer in Alfredo de Angelis orchestra, interpreted the tango “Vieja luna” by Arturo Gallucci and Celedonio Flores, recorded on August 31, 1945, singing only half of its lyrics, the same happened with the rendition of the tango “Los mareados” by Juan Carlos Cobián and Enrique Cadícamo recorded by Francisco Fiorentino with Aníbal Troilo on June 15, 1942, and with Ángel Vargas on “Muchacho” by Edgardo Donato and Celedonio Flores, recorded by D'Agostino on November 13, 1940, and not because of that could they be disregarded as archetypes of orchestra singers.

The singer and the leader were partners in a design which showed them with equal protagonism, giving origin, in most cases —on billboards and marquee—, to an association of two names: Troilo-Fiorentino, D'Agostino-Vargas, D'Arienzo-Echagüe, etc.

Definitively, singer and orchestra formed an inseparable unit, a true artistic society.