In my analysis, Roberto Flores should be regarded as one of the major representatives of a (sadly) lost part of tango dance music. But first, what does that ”lost part” mean? The recordings we now dance to, only give us a limited insight into the splendid creativity of this genre’s Golden Age. Some famous orchestras failed to record much or anything during key years, like Troilo (1938-1940) and Tanturi (late 30s). Other popular orchestras barely recorded anything, or nothing, in fact, for a variety of reasons, partly beyond their control. But so much tango music is lost forever, or maybe until we invent literal time machines to go back to the great concerts and radio shows of an epic age.
So what does all of this have to do with Roberto Flores? He was the first singer who successfully and sustainably went solo after working for an important orchestra (Rodriguez), but ultimately decided to focus on dance music, instead of the usual Gardel-like singers who disregarded dancers, and just wanted to let their voice shine. According to late Michael Krugman, this new orchestra made a number of important appearances, like providing the main act for Carnaval at Boca Juniors in 1942. And remember, not everyone was just as successful in such a competitive environment, during tango’s zenith.
After 1943, it is unclear what happened with Flores and his orchestra, but he ended up successfully touring other Latin American countries, until he settled down in Medellín, Colombia, a somewhat odd epicentre of tango enthusiasts far from Argentina. However, even though you could say Flores has been quite succesful in his endeavours, he left only four recordings, the most important of which is Tristeza Marina, a song that he himself composed, but is generally only known as a Di Sarli and a García recording. Take a moment to listen to his exquisite own recording, which is dance music indeed, and that is an understatement (the bandoneons, violins and piano in this song are amazing!). Even though I personally think there are better singers than Flores, we are also listening to him as a successful orchestra director. And it’s an almost entirely lost orchestra! Lost forever!
There are so many aspects of this genre tango fans today (including me) have absolutely no clue about, because luck has not always been on our side. Another reminder to celebrate how much material we actually have, even though it’s quite limited in comparison to what was actually being played, throughout a fervorous Buenos Aires in tango’s best years. A photo like mine below, at least shows a tiny bit of how that ”lost” music was created, by whom, with in this case a proud Roberto Flores standing next to his violinists in the studios of Radio Argentina. They too, were a part of the magic you are (partially) still dancing to, today.
a very interesting article! Tristeza Marina sounds indeed a little bit different than the other Flores recordings (with Rodriguez).. I have 21 recordings from Roberto Flores (there will be more I suppose) .. but I did not know that he had also his own orchestra.. What have you made a lot of research! Compliments!
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Buena nota Lucas. Lo conocí en Colombia al Chato y andaba mal… Como cantor, en Buenos Aires no dejó gran huella, aunque entonaba muy bien.
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