bodders me to confess it
but life is also a bandoneón"
The bandoneón and
the tango are almost inseparable, an ideal couple, two faces of the same
coin. From the songs dedicated to the instrument to the opinion of experts,
it is unquestionable the inveterate ligature that has been established
starting with the approach of the "fueye" (bellows, slang for
bandoneón), between it and the music that cradled it, incorporating
In spite the fact that there
are diverse versions about the birth of the bandoneón, the strongest
says that its invention was in charge of the German Heinrich Band (originally
from Hamburg) in the year 1835. The wind instrument, composed by a bellows,
with a wooden box and keyboard with forty four buttons, was at first created
with the purpose of cheering up the Bavarian peasants and also, to supplant
the organ, though supporting its solemnity in the countryside masses.
The bandoneón way then, at first played a more sacrum roll rather
than artistic, that is why some compare it to the harmonium.
Its the first denomination -band-union- naturally derived from the creator's
last name and apparently, a sort of cooperative in charge of solventing
Its following names were bandonión, bandolión, bandoleón,
mandolín and mandoleón.
The first samples arrived
in Buenos Aires at the end of the nineteenth century, presumably around
1870. The versions on its arrival also vary: apparently it was introduced
by a German sailor (although there are those who say that he could have
been English or Brazilian). Some assure that it was José Santa
Cruz, one of Mitre´s soldiers that was coming back from a victorious
war of the Triple Alliance, the first one who played the instrument since
he might have obtained it from a barter for clothes and victuals, done
the deal with a blond crewman from a German freight-carrier moored to
the Rio de la Plata.
Now the question would be why did the bandoneón failed in its native
land and had, instead such favorable welcome in this region. One possible
answer would be that "a new intrument like this one, was destined
to failure in such an old town, and it was precisely this particular young
and turbulent land who inserted a heart into that small wooden box, turning
it into the tango's sonorous spokesman, in its own soul.
"Like a child whose
mother has abandoned"
At the beginning, the first
bandoneones with forty-four or fifty-three knobs performed tango without
accompaniment in intimate parties of family ones. It was Domingo Santa
Cruz (son of José, the soldier) who incorporated it to the musical
ensemble. The tangos were performed by flutes tercets, guitar and violin.
Occasionally the accordion or mandolín and the harmonic were included.
Later, when included the bandoneón, it began displacing the flute
until it took a stand and became the star of the ensemble.
Some changes were also made on the button knobs, the instrument evolved
including seventy one keys (that is thirty eight buttons on the singing
box and thirty three on the lower one) becoming diatonic, that means that
it would play different sounds when it was opened and when closing it.
According to Zucchi "the bandoneón has a dual artistic feature:
when opening the bellows, its sonority is brilliant and clear, but when
closed it sounds extinct, muffled, as well as noisy and quarrelsome, as
if they were fighting between beatitude and the malindraje".
The country that purchased most of the bandoneones (mostly manufactured,
in general, by the German Alfred Arnold) since 1922 until 1930 was Argentina,
and the instrument in the advertisement proclaimed to be "the ideal
one for a perfect interpretation of argentine tango".
With the inclusion of the instrument in the tango, this last one earned
more harmonic richness richness and varied the role of the rest of the
instruments, and to its influence it adopted a more deep grumbling tone
due to the "sonorous" color of the bandoneón, and basically
varied its rhythm.
Since the bandoneón
was a totally unknown instrument, there was no previous experience in
order to make possible the application of resources originated from other
musical genres. But, it had the capacity of being an instrument willing
to learn and mold, and that is precisely what made possible its quick
affirmation and consolidation in tango, and improntu creative performance
At first, the teaching of the instrument was rather difficult, considering
that there existed no competent teachers, and the conservatories considered
that it was degrading to include it as a subject. Once the experienced
executants would learn the pieces "by ear", that would pass
them on to the beginners, teaching them the hand settings, not knowing
which note corresponded to such key, being their only guide the ciphers
on each knob. Considering this, it was even possible to "pass on"
a piece by mail (letter).
"Its the one that
expresses what I want to say"
There is no doubt that it
is difficult to try to explain in a rational way the relationship between
the tango composer and the tango. In any case, it would be more judicious
to suggest poetically an idea of this wise and profound communion between
Ever since the beginning, it has been established a relationship between
them, a relationship of mutual forsakes: both accompany each other in
solitude. The bandoneón stops being a simple musical instrument,
to replace the inseparable singer and the poet. Both share a deep sorrow,
a dark anguish, a restrained cry, the cry that can only come out if certain
poetry is supported by the sweet and sonorous melody of the bandoneón.
Its the instrument that traduces most faithfully sleepless nights and
the grief of the poet, its it who with its melancholic and deaf complaints
intones the pain impossible to even name with words.
Its notorious and persistent the personification of the figure of the
bandoneón in the very many songs that name it (Calla bandoneón!
...calla por favor!).
Clearly the bandoneón is neither for the poets or interpreters
a simple instrument, but a friend, which can comprehend, and can also
be the voice, whether its what one's voice can no longer intone, the ring
and tone that complement the voice with a griefless perfection.
It is also the witness, sometimes mute of the poets sorrow and always,
in comparison to the traitor woman, its loyal and faithful to its interpreter.
It has in itself the dichotomy, the sadness and sweetness, expresses the
deep melancholy of the tango and exalts it to its limits. Without him,
the tango would lack of its most deep and plaintive notes.
Cries the bandoneón, and so does the tango when they get together,
it is there where thay acquire the style, its true nostalgic spirit, the
broken melody, there dwells its charm, in the profound grief of the bandoneón.
Portable wind instrument
of single with notes vertical keys (chord-keys free) operated by a bellows
played with both hands on the right and left side of the bellows.
There exist chromatic models, on which by pressing a key the sound is
the same, whether when opening it or when closing the bellows, an achromatic
bi-sonorous, in which by pressing one same key will emit two different
notes according to whether its while opening it or by closing the bellows,
this is why the chords vary.
Cretaed in Viena, Austria in 1829 by Cyrillus Damián . In our
country it was known since Juan Manuel de Rosas´s epoch and the
black musician Jorge Machado would play it in the wild milongas in San
Concertina: The date of its creation is uncertain, and it is
due to the fact that the German Carl Uhling, luthier and clarinet solo
player. For each key, whether when closing or opening the bellows, one
would obtain a different note which would constitute the germ of the
creation of the bi-sonorous.