4 May 2008

The Big Bosses of Tango: ANIBAL TROILO

In the present moment, May 2008

Some folks are addicted to the news, to events currently happening. Que paso?? Take my parents for instance. News on the telly, news on the radio, news articles in the newspapers. News in my country, news overseas, news from all round the world. Such are daily fodders of life for my parents, who are rivetted to news on an hourly basis.

Conversely, I am inordinately fond of documentaries and given any excuse, will consume them in large qualities like popping candies. The calm and factual voice of documentary-telling, when juxtaposed with the colourful stories unfolding infront of one´s eyes, is a fascinating combination which gives me hours of viewing pleasure. There lives a bit of the historian in everyone:)

Los Capos Del Tango: Anibal Troilo
Finally I have the opportunity to watch the DVD tango documentary "Los Capos Del Tango: Anibal Troilo". The word "Capo" is used to refer to the Head of an organised crime syndicate, a.k.a The Big Boss.

The nickname given to Troilo by his dad was "Pichuco", and affectionately, Troilo is also referred to as "El Gordo" ("Gordo" means fat). Since Anibal Troilo passed away in the month of May (18 May 1975), I though it is rather apt to feature this article during this month.

If you are a fan of tango music, you will know of the unassailable status Anibal Troilo occupies today. He is Argentina´s national hero of tango music. Troilo is known as "El Bandoneón mayor de Buenos Aires" (The greatest bandoneon of Buenos Aires).

The day of Troilo´s birth (11 July 1914) on 11 July has been dedicated as the National Day of the Bandoneon in Argentina.

The sphere of influence of Troilo´s mark goes beyond that of tango music for dancing, although Troilo was always intent on his dancing audience. His warm personality that inspired goodwill and loyalty from those that knew him, his vision in arrangement and most of all, his talent as an orchestra leader for orchestrating and elevating tango music to a complex and symphonic level made Troilo the national tango icon that he is today.

For fans of Troilo, we can enjoy the elegantly designed official website of Anibal Troilo at http://www.troilo.com.ar/ The Spanish version contains a fascinating wealth of information on Troilo, while the English and Japanese versions are in brief.

"El Bandoneón mayor de Buenos Aires"

I previously read that Anibal Troilo adored his mother above all else. So the documentary began fittingly with these words in the voice of his bandoneon:

"It is me, your bandoneon, I am talking to you Anibal Troilo, from Solera and Gallo*. The one you used to take to the movie at Corrientes and Medrano** as a boy.

The same bandoneon your old mother bought, with the coins she used to keep in the closet, and it was on her account that my plaintive tunes were sadder on the opening night of "Alma de bohemio" ".

* Solera and Gallo are streets in the barrio of Palermo in Buenos Aires. The area is also popularly known as Palermo Soho, for its resemblance to the artistic vibes of Soho, NYC.

** Similarly, Corrienties and Medrano are 2 cross streets along Avenida Corrientes, at the Subte (train) station Medrano (B line) in the barrio Almagro.

The documentary recounts that Troilo´s love affair with the bandoneon started young; he convinced his mother Doña Felisa to purchase his first bandoneon when he was 10 years old. In his youth, Troilo was influenced by 2 renowned bandoneonists, Pedro Maffia and Pedro Laurenz. The duo at the time were part of Julio de Caro´s sextet. Another major bandoneonist who shaped his style was Ciriaco Ortiz, whose orchestra Troilo played in before starting his own.

Troilo made his debut on 1 July, 1937 with his own orchestra tipica. Among his musicians was the pianist Orlando Goni while Francisco Florentino was his singer. With this pairing, the orchestra played rhythmic, very danceable music. Later on with singers such as Alberto Marino and Floreal Ruiz, the orchestra developed a more melodic style with less driving compass.

How Troilo played his bandoneon

"No hay tango viejo ni tango nuevo. El tango es uno sólo. Tal vez la única diferencia está en los que lo hacen bien y los que lo hacen mal."
Aníbal Troilo

(There is no old tango or new tango. The tango is one. Perhaps the only difference is in those who do it well and those who do it badly.)

Troilo´s stage presence is a distinctive one. He sat quite still and played with quiet and plaintive eyes, staring lost in internal conversation with his bandoneon. The classic signature look is Troilo playing with his eyes closed, head slightly tilted, double-chin pursed and rapted in phrasing the bandoneon chords. Above I have included a CD cover that captured this signature look of Troilo´s.

It was said that Troilo had a relatively understated and retrospective style. Paradoxically, his control and fine balance allowed his bandoneon music to convey poignancy, subtleness of emotions and richness of texture.

In the documentary "Los Capos Del Tango: Anibal Troilo" there was a description that I particularly liked of Troilo´s style. In an interview with the bandoneonist and arranger Pascal Mamone, he described a tremendous sweetness in the Troilo sound. He said, "There was one thing about Troilo, he would play a note... which will perforate your heart"

The description in Castellano: "Hacer una nota que te perforaba tu corazon"] - what a marvellously beautiful and poetic turn of phrase!

Pascal Mamone was borned in 1921. He was taught by his idol Pedro Maffia and later joined his orchestra in 1942.

Recommendations of "Los Capos Del Tango: Anibal Troilo"
If you are interested in knowing more about Anibal Troilo, one of the greatest celebrity of tango music, this DVD would be an excellent source of interviews and archival material. The tone in the DVD documentary is slightly academic, so I would recommend this DVD as a must for Troilo fans and lovers of tango music who are already versed in the major tango orchestras and various musicians.

For fans of old tango movies, there is even an amusing scene from "Tango Vuelve a Paris" (Tango Back in Paris, made in 1948) showing Alberto Castillo together with Anibal Troilo, in animated discussion about taking Paris by storm with their music, in the same way that Pizaro, Canaro, Arolas and Gardel had made their triumph marks before.

So far there is only 1 other DVD made in this series, Los Capos Del Tango: JUAN D´ARIENZO. I was told that the directors had planned another DVD on Osvaldo Pugliese but apparently the effort stalled in the negotiation of production rights.

Information on the DVD:
"Los Capos del Tango: Anibal Troilo" was produced for Solo Tango and contains approximately 93 mins of play in total, featuring 60 mins of material taken from interviews and visual material of Solo Tango archives. In addition, it comes with an extra 30 mins consisting of 3 musical videoclips of Troilo and his orchestra tipica. Non-Spanish speakers would be pleased to know that while the language medium used is Spanish, English subtitles are included!

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