Even though Buenos-Aires is the birthplace of Tango, Paris played a major role in the history of this dance and musical style. To be more precise, Paris was one the place where Tango evolved from a controversial subculture to a popular and “respectable” artistic movement.
Since its appearance in the second half of the 19th Century, Tango had suffered from a bad reputation in Argentina, where it was associated with dirty suburban bars and brothels. This image changed slowly in the early 20th Century, when the young upper-class society started to accept Tango. This evolution took place partly in Paris.
A that time, Argentina’s economy was flourishing, thanks to agriculture, and rich Argentinian landowners sometimes came to Paris to make business. They were often accompanied by their sons, so that staying in Paris became more and more popular among young Argentinian bourgeois. These daddy’s boys used to meet at night in the cabarets of Pigalle and Montmartre, where they became famous for their elegant style and their propensity to spend a lot of money. That’s why the expression “riche comme un Argentin” became popular in France. Furthermore, this way of life raised a few critics in Paris, as this funny testimony of a French journalist shows : “There is a whole category of jealous Frenchmen who do not love these Argentines, but we must also admit that there is a whole category of Frenchwomen who adore them…” (Taken from the book The Life, Music, and Times of Carlos Gardel, by Simon Collier).
This Argentinian community wanted to listen to music from its own country. Attracted by this diaspora, several Tango musicians left Argentina and moved to Paris during the so-called “Années folles” (“Mad years”) period, after the First World War. Whereas dancing Tango was socially frowned upon in Argentina, this style was quickly adopted by these Argentines in the cabarets of Paris, where they overcame social barriers and could experience more freedom.
A scene progressively emerged and organised around bandoneonist and composer Manuel Pizarro, who arrived in France in the early 20’s. Several places became famous for their Tango bands, such as “Le Cabaret Princesse“, located rue Fontaine in Pigalle area, later renamed “El Garrón” (this club still exists today and is called “Le Bus Palladium“).
In this context, violonist Eduardo Bianco arrived in Paris in 1924, and formed with bandoneonist Juan “Bachicha” Deambroggio the band Bianco-Bachicha. They were joined by several musicians, like bandoneonist Víctor Lomuto and guitarist Horacio Pettorossi. This band became famous for its performances, which fitted perfectly the tastes of the Parisian public, whereas it was almost unknown in Argentina, according to this site.
The “Orquesta Típica Bianco-Bachicha” splitted in 1928, Bianco and Bachicha led their own career thereafter. There is a controversy about the role of Bianco during the Second World War, as he performed in Berlin for Hitler and Goebbels in 1939. One of his song, called “Plegaria“, was played by Jewish orchestras in the concentration camps and became the “Tango of death” (Tango de la Muerte).
Concerning Tango and the links between Argentina and France, I should also mention Carlos Gardel and the controversy about his birthplace (Toulouse, in France, or Tacuarembó, in Uruguay), but that’s another story !
Back to the record, now ! Angustia is a melancholic tango composed by Horacio Pettorossi and recorded in 1927 in Paris. This 78prm record was published by Odeon. If you like this band, there is a sampler devoted to Bianco-Bachicha available on the French label Frémeaux & Associés.