Serenata Tango
Luciano Londoño López

Colombian songs in El Zorzal's repertoire

ome notes about colombian songs in Carlos Gardel's repertoire

Academic communication Nº 1.303

From señor Académico Correspondiente in Colombia, with domicile in Medellín, don Luciano Londoño López about

Mr. President:

According to what Orlando del Greco´s(1) work states, Gardel learnt several Colombian songs during his stay in Chile, in 1917. The others, I think, he may have learnt from recordings.

Those songs had been taken to Chile three years before by the Lira Antioqueña, a Colombian group that visited those lands in 1914 and there they disbanded.

The Lira Antioqueña was founded in Medellín in 1903. His members, all artisans, learnt to play stringed instruments and singing with the Spanish musician Jesús Arriola (2)(3).

This outfit recorded in the city of New York in July 1910 and its singers were Cabecitas (Enrique Gutiérrez), Leonel Calle and Eusebio Ochoa (4).

The Colombian songs interpreted by Carlos Gardel were 4 bambucos, a pasillo and a tango (5) and they are models of phrasing and well saying, even though the first ones have little of the authentic style. They were recorded for the first time in this chronological order:

1. MIS PERROS, bambuco beat, lyrics attributed to the poet Federico Rivas Frade by Jorge Añez. It was recorded by the Gardel-Razzano duo in 1919. The Argentine researcher Roberto Selles states that "Mis perros" has ancient Andalusian anonymous quatrains and his melody is anonymous. (6).

2. EL VAGABUNDO, bambuco beat, song from the Colombian folklore whose music was attributed to Fulgencio García. It was recorded by the Gardel-Razzano duo in 1919. Its last verses surely belong to the Andalusian tradition. As for "El vagabundo, Selles states that it bears ancient anonymous quatrains and his melody belongs to an unknown composer (6).

This bambuco has a curious recording by the Lira Antioqueña, with the voices of Leonel Calle and Eusebio Ochoa, made in New York in July 1910, which, perhaps due to a commercial trick of that time, bears as title "El bagamundo antioqueño" (sic). We are talking of the disc labeled as Columbia Records C-885 (Patent 4708), whose probably only existing copy is owned by the person that runs "La Esquinita" in the city of Bucaramanga, Mr. Carlos A. Pinto, who is the major 78 R.P.M. record collector existing in Colombia.

It is worth mentioning that, for reasons we do not know, this recording by the Lira Antioqueña is not included, in the seven volumes of the discography by Richard K. Spottswood, which compiles all popular music recorded in the United States between 1839 and 1942.(7)

3. RUMORES, whose real title was "Tras de las verdes colinas" and also known under the title "Las aguas del Magdalena", bambuco beat, with lyrics by the poet from Antioquia, Francisco Restrepo Gómez and music by Alejandro Wills. This song was recorded in 1914 by the Colombian duet Wills-Escobar (Alejandro Wills and Alberto Escobar) on a Victor portable machine in Bogotá.

The Gardel-Razzano duo recorded it in 1920 and it was part of the farewell repertory that El Zorzal sang in the Victor´s Voice in Bogotá, on Sunday June 23, 1935 (8).

4. ASOMATE A LA VENTANA whose true title is "Serenata", bambuco beat, was composed around 1886 by Alejandro Florez, brother of the Colombian poet Julio Florez.

This song was recorded by the "Trovadores Colombianos" Pelón and Marín (Pedro León Franco "Santamarta" and Adolfo Marín), for the Mexican Columbia in September 1908. Carlos Gardel recorded in 1920.

About this song it is worth remembering that during his visit to Medellín, on November 18, 1978, Jorge Luis Borges asked, at the "Casa Gardeliana" that he wanted to listen to an interpretation of "Serenata" and said that its last stanzas were one of the most beautiful he had ever known.

5. MIS FLORES NEGRAS, pasillo beat, composed by the Colombian poet Julio Florez in 1903. The first recording made of this popular song was by the Ecuadorian duet Alvarado and Safady, in 1916. Carlos Gardel recorded it in 1922.

6. EL BRUJO, tango, it bears lyrics by the Bogotan poet Eduardo Carraquilla Mallarino and music by the Argentine clarinetist Juan Carlos Bazán. This tango won the first prize awarded by Discos Nacional in 1925. Carlos Gardel recorded it in 1926.

Furthermore, other Colombian songs were about to be part of Gardel´s songbook (8).

When the singer was in Bogotá in June 1935, the maestro Emilio Murillo became friends with him. There he handed him four bambucos he had composed, which Gardel promised to include in his films. Unfortunately, this music sheets became ashes in the accident of Medellín (3).

Those four songs and the earliest recordings known were:

"Campo fatal" or "Hambre la madre tenía": There is a recording of this bambuco of December 6, 1927, made in New York, for Brunswick by the Colombian duo Briceño-Añez (Alcides Briceño and Jorge Añez).

"El trapiche": Of this bambuco, which has lyrics by the poet Ismael Enrique Arciniegas, there is a recording made in New York on July 10, 1935 by the Colombian soprano Sarita Herrera in a duet with Cecilia Pinzón for the Victor label, and a previous one by the famous (Cuban) Trío Matamoros), also made in Nueva York on August 3, 1934 for Victor.

"Las campanas de la carcel": I do not know recordings of this bambuco.

"Van cantando por la sierra". Bambuco of the Colombian folklore, that appeared around 1890 according to Jorge Añez and which the maestro Emilio Murillo(3) pretended it was his own, and according to Heriberto Zapata Cuencar and Roberto Zuluaga y Gutiérrez, it sprang up at a military camp during the war of the thousand days (1899 - 1902), when its anonymous author created its lyrics and asked a musical arrangement to Emilio Murillo (3). There is a recording of this bambuco made in New York by the baritone from Antioquia, Daniel Uribe Uribe, for Columbia, in January 1910.

Académico Correspondiente
Medellín (Colombia), 24 June 1993.


1) Del Greco, Orlando. Carlos Gardel y los autores de sus canciones. Ediciones Akián, June 1990, Buenos Aires.

(2) Zapata Cuencar, Heriberto. Compositores Antioqueños. Editorial Granamérica, July 1973, Medellín.

(3) Restrepo Duque, Hernán. Lo que cuentan las canciones. -cronicón musical-. Tercer Mundo, December 1971, Bogotá.

(4) Retrepo Duque, Hernán. A mí cánteme un bambuco. Ediciones autores antioqueños, Vol. 28, Gobernación de Antioquia, 1986, Medellín.

(5) Puga, Boris. Carlos Gardel -Discografía- Guía de información especializada para coleccionistas y estudiosos. Book number 7 of Tangueando, Publication of Club de la Guardia Nueva, 2nd. Edition, May 1970, Montevideo.

(6) Selles, Roberto. "Gardel compositor", in Revista Universidad de América, Year 2, 2 December 1990, Bayamón, Puerto Rico.

(7) Spottswood, Richard K. Ethnic music on records, a discography of ehtnic recording produced in the United States, 1893 to 1942. University of Illinois Press, 1990.

(8) Díaz del Castillo, Nicolás. Últimos diez días de Gardel (14 to 24 de June 1935). Editorial ABC, 1936, Bogotá.

(9) Añez, Jorge. Canciones y recuerdos. Ediciones Mundial, 2nd. edition, 1968, Bogotá.