Most people think that the tango originated in Argentina. They are wrong. It’s birth occurred in Uruguay. It happened with the creation of a song, “La Cumparsita”, that you probably don’t think you know but do. It has been recorded about 2,700 times, and its 100th birthday will be on April 19, 2017. The tango itself has become an international institution. UNESCO declared it “an asset of intangible cultural heritage” in 2009. I read this in Uruguay Natural, a publication of the Ministry of Tourism.
The building in which “La Cumparsita” was first performed no longer exists. It contained the Confiteria La Giralda, an early 20th century tango bar on Montevideo’s Plaza Independencia. The building that replaced it is the grand Palacio Salvo completed in 1928, which remained the tallest building in South America until 1935. When the Hindenberg visited, there were some who suggested it be attached to Salvo’s top. Jorge and Monica Kaphammel are restoring it and opened a Tango Museum on its ground level two weeks ago. It’s destined to become a 5 Compass draw, perhaps the #1 attraction in Montevideo. Ruth & I both loved it.
The creator of “La Cumparsita”, which means the little parade, was Uruguayan Geraldo Matos Rodriguez. Jorge told us that he was 19 years old, had tuberculosis, and was experiencing divine inspiration when he composed it. First performed on April 19, 1917, Argentinian Pascual Contursi rewrote the lyrics 7 years later. French/Argentinian singer Carlos Gardel turned it into an international hit. Only The Beatles’ Yesterday, which has been recorded more than 3,000 times, rivals it in number of recordings.
If you want to hear “La Cumparsita”, check out YouTube to see part of Down Beat Bear, a Tom and Jerry cartoon that featured it. But Ruth & I enjoyed Roberto Herrera and Silvana Capra’s version much, much more. This super sexy rendition of “La Cumparsita” was performed at the Taipei Tango Festival in 2008, and more than 4 million YouTubers have seen it. Join them.