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Which accountant was known as the 'Ace of Tango'?

posted Apr 3, 2015, 5:25 PM by Sophia de Lautour   [ updated Apr 3, 2015, 5:25 PM ]
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Who was the tango musician from the Golden Era who was nicknamed the 'Ace of Tango'?

A lesser known name of Tango to be sure. He was a bandoneonist, leader, arranger and composer. He's not in the top 20 names that immediately come to mind when we talk about Golden Era musicians. 

'El As del Tango's' given name was Salustiano Paco Varela. His stage name - Héctor Varela! 

Born on January 29th, 1914, Varela was born and raised in Avellaneda in the Buenos Aires Province of Argentina, where he trained as an accountant. His mother liked to joke that her son was an accountant who had never practiced a single day in his life! 

Varela's tango debut came with Salvador Grupillo in 1930 at the tender age of 16. In 1934 after some back and forth with a few orchestras,  Maestro Juan d'Arienzo hired him as lead bandonista! 

During Varela's tenure with D'Arienzo, he composed many songs including Chichiponía, Bien Polenta, Te Espero en Rodríguez Peña, Salí de Perdedor, Sí Supieras que la Extraño, and Don Alfonso

In 1950, after 10 years with D'Arienzo, and at the time of the orchestra's greatest success, he left to form his own group. Audiences and critics were expecting something similar to the old style of D'Arienzo, but Varela surprised almost everyone when he presented his own unique tight outfit of rhythm and sound.

It's not surprising that D'Arienzo had a major impact on Varela's musical style and interpretation, just as it did with another D'Arienzo cohort - Rodolfo Biagi. Surprisingly while Varela composed hundreds of pieces, only about 10 to 15 are well known today.

Varela was a musician criticised by the innovative players but loved by the fans of dancing and popular tango. Many critics consider his best artistic stage to have been in the early 50s. 

It's a real treat to hear Varela's songs played at milongas because often when you first hear one of his songs you think it's D'Arienzo and then you know it's Varela when the orchestra changes rhythms and relents - unlike D'Arienzo who was entirely relentless, continually pounding one's senses!

Varela died on 30 January 1987, one day after his 73rd birthday.

You can hear some of Varela's best here...