Tango in 1932

While he returned to the studio occasionally, the beginning of 1932 saw the end of Charlo’s regular recordings with Canaro. Theirs had been an amazingly productive partnership, but times were changing. Canaro (who regularly adapted his performing style to changes in fashion) was changing too. For several years, he adopted a more emphatically rhythmic style of performance, well-illustrated by the following two tandas.

Canaro (Instrumental) 1932

Francisco Canaro

These songs are wonderful for dancing. They have a regular and steady pulse: ideal for a ‘walking-based’ dance, but on closer listening, we hear that the arrangements are actually quite varied and rhythmically interesting. The sound quality is perfectly acceptable and the standard of performance is very high.

  • Fenómeno (17-Feb-1932)
  • Pura milonga (9-Dec-1932)
  • Inspiración (11-Apr-1932)
  • Bar exposición (4-Aug-1932)

Canaro (Irusta) 1932

Agustín Irusta

Ernesto Famá took up his position as Canaro’s main singer in the middle of 1932, but for the preceding three months Canaro had worked with tenor, Agustín Irusta, who brought a very different timbre of voice to his role: elegant and tender. Ever-flexible, Canaro softened his ‘new’ rhythmic style a little, and perhaps this brief partnership was a first glimpse of the further changes that were to come in the mid-thirties, with the arrival, first, of Carlos Galán and then of Roberto Maida.

  • Ventanita florida (21-Apr-1932)
  • San Telmo (23-Jun-1932)
  • Silbando (21-Apr-1932)
  • Esclavas blancas (4-May-1932)

Carabelli (Gómez) 1932

Adolpho Carabelli

One of the oddities of tango in recordings is that as well as managing Victor’s house orchestra, Orquesta Típica Victor, for several years, Adolpho Carabelli also ran a recording orchestra in his own name, using exactly the same pool of players (and it, too, recorded with Victor). The repertoire of the two ‘brands’ were slightly different, with the recordings in Carabelli’s own name often being the more adventurous. Alma, is a good example: a strong and dramatic arrangement. Singer, Alberto Gómez, makes an unusually early appearance, because the star of this show is not the estribillista, but the virtuoso bandoneón soloist, who totally dominates the arrangement. Gómez returns, though, right at the end; and that is unusual, too.

Virtuoso bandoneón playing is also very prominent in Carabelli’s version of  Inspiración. The singer’s contribution is also unusual: as much spoken as sung. The violins take over to draw the arrangement to a very low-key conclusion. Compared with the straightforward Canaro arrangement, this is strikingly original: both lyrical and dramatic in turns – and very forward-looking.

  • Alma (9-Sep-1932)
  • Loco (9-Sep-1932)
  • El trece (27-Sep-1932)
  • Inspiración (13-Jun-1932)

Click here for ‘Tango in 1931’.

Click here for ‘Tango in 1933’.

Clive HarrisonBarrio de tango is the tango blog and online home of tango DJ, Clive Harrison, based in the English Midlands. Now retired from teaching and hosting dance events, Clive remains available to DJ, playing exclusively traditional tango music from the great tango orchestras.

Tango in 1931

The early thirties bring slow incremental changes in the performance styles of the main orchestras; and the recording technology also improves steadily. The lack of any real innovation or new development might cause listeners to overlook the period – even to write it off as dull – but that would be an error. There is much danceable music: the leading orchestras were producing straightforward arrangements in decent sound quality and with excellent players and singers.

Canaro (Charlo) 1931


This is the third time that Canaro with Charlo has featured in this series, but there has been a subtle change of style. Canaro is moving to more rhythmic arrangements, a trend which accelerates when Charlo’s place at the microphone is eventually taken by Famá. A noteworthy feature of the opening song, Maldita, is just how good the sound is for 1931. For the version in my own library, I decided to alter the speed/pitch of the transfer, bringing the pitch up to match that of the Di Sarli version (see below). The pace seems better, and the timbre of Charlo’s voice sounds more natural. One or other of them must have been wrong: a semi-tone difference in pitch (the smallest interval in Western music) would be a speed difference of 8.33%). To bring them to the same pitch required one version to be raised in pitch by just 3%, which is a little less than half a semitone.

Here’s a clip – compare it with the version on Spotify and then decide for yourself:

  • Maldita (23-Oct-1931)
  • Canto por no llorar (22-Apr-1931)
  • Escribile al comisario (24-Jun-1931)
  • La última copa (13-May-1931)

Di Sarli (Famá) 1930-31

Ernesto Famá

It’s interesting to compare the arrangements and the performance of Canaro & Di Sarli’s recordings of Maldita. The first thing to say is that Canaro was recording with a lineup of six bandoneóns and five violins, together with bass and piano. Di Sarli used just two bandoneóns and two violins, together with bass and piano – a much smaller scale, creating a more intimate sound. Effectively, each player is a soloist, rather than part of an ensemble. The arrangement is in a different form too. Canaro’s singer enters just after 1:00 to sing the same melody as the very opening (section A). Di Sarli repeats section A, instrumentally, first and only then does his singer enter just after 1:30 to sing the ‘second half’ of the musical material (section B). The contribution of both singers is just half a minute, typical of the limited rôle of the estribillista. Lastly, the vocal delivery of Charlo is unusually free, rhythmically – particularly in the second half of his chorus. It opens the possibility, in interpreting the performance as a dancer, of ‘following the singer’ rather than the underlying pulse: the sort of challenge relished by more musical dancers.

  • Maldita (14-Aug-1931)
  • Chau Pinela (03-Spe-1930)
  • Flora (04-Nov-1930)
  • La estancia (04-Nov-1930)

Firpo (Príncipe Azul) 1931

Roberto Firpo

Firpo is little heard any more, but having formed his first orchestra in 1913, he recorded prolifically, particularly during the late twenties. By the early thirties, his output was slowing, and while he had once been an important and leading innovator (along with Canaro), his influence and popularity is now in decline. Many of his recordings, however, are attractive and very danceable. The third song here, De cita en cita, is a vocal duet with Héctor Villanueva. The main singer, Príncipe Azul (real name, Herberto da Costa), would probably have become better known, but he died suddenly in 1935, two days before his 34th birthday.

  • La que murió en París (17-Sep-1931)
  • Por ellas …no me casé (15-Oct-1931)
  • De cita en cita (07-Oct-1931)
  • Viejo tango (13-Aug-1931)

Lomuto (Díaz & Acuña) 1931

Diminished seventh cadence

The Lomuto ‘signature ending’ (the diminished seventh cadence) had first appeared at the end of 1930. Pan, recorded on 13 December, is the first song in my library that has it. If you’re not sure what it sounds like, here are just the closing bars of the first three songs in this tanda (only Muñequita doesn’t have it). It’s very distinctive sound, and once he had started to use it, it became his ‘standard’ ending in song after song.

  • Nunca más (27-Aug-1931)
  • Íntimas (22-Dec-1931)
  • Se te dio vuelta la taba (08-Oct-1931)
  • Muñequita (03-Sep-1931)

Click here for ‘Tango in 1930’.

Click here for ‘Tango in 1932’.

Clive HarrisonBarrio de tango is the tango blog and online home of tango DJ, Clive Harrison, based in the English Midlands. Now retired from teaching and hosting dance events, Clive remains available to DJ, playing exclusively traditional tango music from the great tango orchestras.

Tango in 1930

In 1927 a gifted young pianist formed a tango sextet which began recording for Victor in November 1928. He was Carlos Di Sarli. He had been performing from the age of 13 and had already played with several groups including for Osvaldo Fresedo.

After recording just 2 sides in 1928, 22 more followed in 1929 and another 24 in 1930-31. However, many tango musicians relied on cinema work to accompany silent films. Following the introduction of talkies in the early 30s, Di Sarli lost his recording contract and was not heard of again (on disc) until the very end of 1939, by which time the era of the sextets was over.

The early 30s were a period of change: the old guard was giving way to the new. Only a few established groups successfully navigated through the changeover, but Canaro, Lomuto and Fresedo moved with the times, while others waned, their places taken by a younger generation.

Di Sarli (Instrumental) 1929-30

Carlos Di Sarli

Many ingredients of the Di Sarli orchestra of the late 30s/early 40s are already present: the melody is carried mostly by the violins, and strong rhythmic support comes from the other instruments. Only Di Sarli’s own distinctive style of piano playing (so important to the sound of the later orchestra) is still undeveloped. But this is still music-making of high quality and great for dancing.

  • Pobre yo (9-Oct-1929)
  • Belén (9-Oct-1929)
  • No te aguanto más (31-Dec-1929)
  • No cantes victoria (3-Jun-1930)

Lomuto (Instrumental) 1930

Francisco Lomuto

These four instrumentals all have straightforward arrangements and are good for dancing. It comes as a surprise to some that so many of the songs we know well from later arrangements had been composed years before and were recorded again and again. Cuando llora la milonga is a good example: written in 1927 by Juan de Dios Filiberto, it was recorded, that year, by Canaro, Fresedo, Maglio & others. Canaro recorded it twice more in 1930 and again in 1939. Lomuto recorded it twice too, in 1930 and 1941. Perhaps the best-known version, by Biagi, dates from 1946, and there are other recordings by Tanturi (1950), D’Arienzo (1963) and Pugliese (1973).

  • Cuando llora la milonga (17-Oct-1930)
  • Piñataro (5-Apr-1930)
  • Sin clemencia (16-Sep-1930)
  • Corazón de oro (16-Jul-1930)

Orquesta Típica Victor (Famá) 1929-31

Ernesto Famá

Between 1929 & 1931, the young estribillista Ernesto Famá (born 1908) recorded 17 sides with OTV. He recorded about 300 songs, in total, but only in about 20 does he sing the full lyric – he was very much the refrain singer. He is best known for his recordings with Canaro, with whom he had two working periods: the early 30s and the late 30s, but during the 20s and early 30s the singers were not the stars, and they recorded their modest vocal contributions with most of the leading orchestras of the day. The lineup of singers recording with OTV in 1930 reads like a who’s who of tango singers of the time.

  • Carrillón de la Merced (9-Jun-1931)
  • Milonga por qué llorás (10-Sep-1930)
  • Música de calesita (5-May-1930)
  • Payuca (11-Dec-1929)

Click here for ‘Tango in 1929’.

Click here for ‘Tango in 1931’.

Clive Harrison

Barrio de tango is the tango blog and online home of tango DJ, Clive Harrison, based in the English Midlands. Now retired from teaching and hosting dance events, Clive remains available to DJ, playing exclusively traditional tango music from the great tango orchestras.


Playlist: 5 May 2017 (Upton Bishop)

Genre Name Year Artist
Tango En un beso la vida 1940 Francisco Canaro (Ernesto Famá)
Toda mi vida 1941
Como dos extraños 1940
Tango Mano a mano 1936 Francisco Lomuto (Jorge Omar)
Nostalgias 1936
Las cuarenta 1937
Vals Alma dolorida 1937 Juan D’Arienzo (Instrumental)
Mentías 1937
Pasión 1937
Tango Se va la vida 1936 Edgardo Donato (Horacio Lagos)
Así es el tango 1937
Alas rotas 1938
Tango Junto a tu corazón 1942 Carlos Di Sarli (Alberto Podestá)
La capilla blanca 1944
Nada 1944
Milonga El porteñito 1943 Ángel D’Agostino (Ángel Vargas)
Así me gusta a mí 1942
Entre copa y copa 1942
Tango El espiante 1933 Osvaldo Fresedo (Instrumental)
La clavada 1933
Tigre viejo 1934
Tango Maragata 1941 Aníbal Troilo (Francisco Fiorentino)
Pájaro ciego 1941
Tabernero 1941
Vals Bajo un cielo de estrellas 1941 Miguel Caló (Alberto Podestá)
Luna de plata 1943 Miguel Caló (Raúl Iriarte)
El vals soñador 1942 Miguel Caló (Raúl Berón)
Tango La bruja 1938 Juan D’Arienzo (Alberto Echagüe)
Pénsalo bien 1938
Indiferencia 1938
Tango Marioneta 1943 Alfredo De Angelis (Floreal Ruíz)
Déjame así 1943
Bajo el cono azul 1944
Fox Trot La calesita se destrozó 1937 Enrique Rodríguez (Roberto Flores)
La colegiala 1938
A tisket a tasket 1939
Tango Don Juan 1932 Orquesta Típica Victor (Alberto Gómez)
Lemita 1933
Ventarrón 1933
Tango Champagne tango 1952 Carlos Di Sarli (Instrumental)
Bar exposición 1952
Cuidao con los cincuenta 1952
Vals Al pasar 1943 Lucio Demare (Raúl Berón)
Un vals (Se fue) 1943
No nos veremos más 1943
Tango Humillación 1941 Rodolfo Biagi (Jorge Ortiz)
Marcas 1940
Indiferencia 1942
Tango Recuerdo 1944 Osvaldo Pugliese (Instrumental)
Tierra querida 1944
El taita (Raza criolla) 1945
Milonga-candombe La rumbita candombé 1943 Francisco Canaro (Carlos Roldán)
Candombe criollo 1942
Candombe 1943
Tango Esta noche al pasar 1944 Pedro Laurenz (Jorge Linares)
Naranjo en flor 1944
Barrio tranquilo 1944
Tango Por qué? 1955 Osvaldo Fresedo (Instrumental)
Apasionado 1953
Vida mía 1956
Tango La cumparsita 1943 Aníbal Troilo (Instrumental)

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Tango in 1929

The leading orchestras of the day were all busy in the recording studio and, inevitably (given the volume of output), the arrangements are mostly very straightforward and formulaic. Tango songs were arranged with a clear structure, and it is hugely beneficial to dancers to learn to recognise the musical structure to help them navigate through the song.

The Anatomy of a Song

Juan Maglio recorded his own composition, Cuando llora el corazón, on 5 March 1929, with singer, Carlos Viván, setting a lyric by Jesús Blanco. It’s one of those lyrics that give tango its reputation for melancholy: ‘When the Heart Weeps’. It’s not cheerful.

The structure of the song is very typical. The thematic or melodic material from which the song is composed is in two parts: A & B. Each part is made up of quite distinct musical phrases, and they have the form of a ‘call and response’. In this song, the basic melodic material of part A is played twice (with slight alteration); and is then followed by quite different material (part B), which is also repeated.

The basic musical material, then, consists of two sections: A & B. Each section is made up of two pairs of short phrases (setting one line of the lyric, each) and is played through twice to set one verse of the lyric. The musical arrangement takes that basic material and repeats it several times, varying the way the instruments play the repeats of the material (with or without the singer) to make the complete piece. Had the whole lyric been set, rather than just a third of it, the song would necessarily have been much longer than it is.

This sounds complicated – but it isn’t. Just listen carefully to the sung verse in the recording, and the structure becomes clear very quickly.

This is how the first A section looks in musical notation:

The melody is now repeated, setting the 2nd half of the verse.

Part B has exactly the same musical structure, but a different melody. The whole arrangement takes the two basic parts (A & B) and repeats them in the format AABBAABBAA. The singer is heard only in the middle AA section (from 1:08 in the recording). An interesting feature of this tango is that while the lyric has three verses, Maglio only sets one. More particularly, he sets the first half of the first verse, and the second half of the third.

On 2 April 1929, Lomuto and Charlo went into the recording studio to record the same song but in a different arrangement. This time the whole of the 2nd verse of the lyric is set, but it is set to the musical material of section B, not section A. The overall structure of the arrangement is the same as Maglio’s (AABBAABBAA), but the singer sings different words to a different melody and he sings earlier.

Here’s an extract. The sound quality is awful, but you get a sense of the Lomuto ‘heavy’ style. I’ve included the repeat of the 1st A section, leading into the 1st sung B section:

Just one day later, Charlo was back in the studio, recording the song with Canaro. Once again, he sings the 2nd verse of the lyric and to the music of section B. However, the musical arrangement is different. This time, the material of sections A and B are played through, and then section A returns with an extended violin solo (and this is where Maglio’s own arrangement had included a singer). Only then, does the singer enter with section B, and section B is immediately repeated instrumentally (with a bandoneon solo in the 2nd half), before the final return of section A (with another violin solo in the 2nd half). The arrangement is over half a minute longer than either of the others, because of the additional repeat of section B.

You can hear the Canaro arrangement as the opening song of the first tanda, below.

Canaro (Charlo) 1929

Francisco Canaro

Charlo recorded just over 150 songs with Canaro in 1929 alone and over 30 with Lomuto. Each time, the vocal contribution is limited to presenting just one verse of the lyric. Margaritas is a vocal duet between Charlo and Ángel Ramos.

  • Cuando llora el corazón (3-Apr-1929)
  • Azulidad (29-May-1929)
  • Bailarín compadrito (28-Aug-1929)
  • Margaritas (11-Oct-1929)

Margaritas isn’t available on Spotify, but here’s a link to a version on YouTube.

Lomuto (Instrumental) 1929

Francisco Lomuto

There continues to be a significant overlap in repertoire and playing style between Canaro and Lomuto. Lomuto usually has the heavier, more insistent beat. The tell-tale Lomuto ‘signature’ of ending with an unusual final cadence (using a diminshed seventh) doesn’t appear until the end of 1930.

  • Mamita (8-Mar-1929)
  • Puerto nuevo (22-Oct-1929)
  • Mi pibe (19-Jul-1929)
  • Viejo amigo (22-Oct-1929)

Orquesta Típica Victor (Díaz) 1929


Until the Autumn of 1928, the output of OTV had been exclusively instrumental. Roberto Díaz was one of a handful of singers who took on the fashionable role of estribillista (chorus singer), recording with OTV between Dec-28 and Apr-30.

  • Vieja calesita  (2-Oct-1929)
  • Una noche en la calle (26-Nov-1929)
  • Hombrecito (18-Oct-1929)
  • Bronca rea (27-Aug-1929)

Click here for ‘Tango in 1928’.

Click here for ‘Tango in 1930’.

Clive Harrison: Tango DJBarrio de tango is the tango blog and online home of tango DJ, Clive Harrison, based in the English Midlands. Now retired from teaching and hosting dance events, Clive remains available to DJ, playing exclusively traditional tango music from the great tango orchestras.

Colorao, colorao

Clive Harrison: Tango DJTroilo’s 1942 recording of Colorao, colorao is a little-heard masterpiece, but I’ve never played it when I DJ.

The problem is the non-availability of a complete, playable, transfer. Most transfers seem to derive from the same ultimate source in the RCA-Victor archives and for whatever reason (Michael Lavocah mentions in his 2014 book ‘Tango Masters: Aníbal Troilo’ that the source disc was badly damaged), the engineer just cuts 15s from a lovely bandoneón solo). Here’s a 30s clip taken from the current BMG CD, Tinta Roja. The edit (at 19s) is crude and it just doesn’t work:

In 2013, TangoTunes produced a new transfer from a shellac 78 source, and while it doesn’t have the same clumsy cut, there is significant separate damage to the source disc in the preceding vocal section. Here’s a 30s clip in which the damage is very obvious (from 5s), but you can hear the beginning of the bandoneón solo, missing from the other releases.

TangoTunes said at the time of its release, “We hope to find a new shellac for a new digitalization soon”, but no further version has been released. A new and complete Troilo edition (1938-48) is promised (probably for 2018), but it may use the same, damaged, shellac source, anyway.

The fidelity of the TangoTunes transfer is rather better than the available alternatives, although it has been over-processed and sounds a little ‘dull’. I find a treble lift of around 3dB from 1kHz helps considerably. By comparison, the BMG version (apart from showing obvious signs of clipping) has some unwelcome added reverberation and a rather tubby, mid-bass heavy balance. Nevertheless, I wondered, this morning, whether the two versions could be edited into one, complete, version, avoiding both the damaged section from the TangoTunes transfer (by substituting part of the BMG one), and having the rest of the performance uncut. Most people, familiar with the song from CD or download sources derived from the same ‘butchered’ original, probably don’t even know that the solo exists.

It took a bit of fiddling about: the level of the two versions needed equalising, the BMG version needed a bass cut to better match the tonal balance of the TangoTunes version, and I introduced some pink noise to better match the overall running noise of the later transfer. I synchronised the two versions, and introduced a fast cross-fade between the two versions, and then back again (rather that just cutting them together, which sounded too abrupt). I used Audacity for the editing, and this is what the relevant section looked like in the Audacity interface:

Editing Colorao, colorao in Audacity

I played around with the levels and equalisation until I was reasonably happy, and then exported the results, mixed down to a single mono channel as a lossless AIFF file. Here’s a 45s clip that matches the screenshot. You can hear the lead-in to the substitution, and the switch back, and I’m pretty pleased with the result.

My next job is to listen, again, to Troilo’s other recordings around the same period – the 1942 recordings make a steady transition from the faster, upbeat ‘hits’ of 1941 to the slower and more measured 1943 recordings – and then compile a tanda or two that successfully incorporates Colorao, colorao. Perhaps something like:

  • Fueye > Colorao, colorao > Malena > El encopao

I’m open to other suggestions.