Manos Brujas

Rodolfo Biagi

I’ve always tried to bring the piano to the forefront compared to typical orchestras using this instrument to accompany. This is what I did with Juan D'Arienzo.

Rodolfo BIAGI (14/03/1906 – 24/09/1969) - Pianist, conductor and composer (~200 recordings)

Gregory Diaz 2012-12-01
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Manos Brujas

Rodolfo Biagi was born in Buenos Aires, San Telmo district. Following primary studies, he leaves the school to focus on music. He starts with the violin, but turns to piano quite quickly. With 13 years old, but without his parents' knowledge, he plays for silent cinema. Juan Maglio notices him there, and invites him to play together. Rodolfo Biagi career starts as pianist, and later as composer and conductor. Through D’Arienzo, he will influence the tango music at the end of the 30’s, and his Manos Brujas (bewitched hands) still make us dance in today’s milongas.

1930 – With Carlos Gardel

1930, Biagi accompanies Carlos Gardel. The orchestra also including 3 guitarists and the violinist Antonio Rodio, records under the label Odeon : Viejo Smoking, Buenos Aires, Aquellas Farras, as well as two foxtrots and a vals. A bit later, Gardel invites Biagi for a tour in Spain, but he declines and joins Juan Bautista Guido and Juan Canaro (Francisco’s brother) groups. During that period he wrote the famous tango Indiferencia.

1935 - Rodolfo Biagi and Juan D'Arienzo at Chantecler!

The two maestros become friends, and when the contract of the pianist Lidio Fasoli expires, D'Arienzo includes Biagi in his orchestra. Biagi brings a great influence by accelerating even more D’Arienzo’s tempo, and with his bright transitions at piano. The change is noticeable from "9 de Julio" recorded in December 1935.
"I’ve always tried to bring the piano to the forefront compared to typical orchestras using this instrument to accompany. This is what I did with Juan D'Arienzo."

1938 - Biagi leaves D'Arienzo and creates his own orchestra

Biagi starts at Marabú cabaret, and here we go with now 2 big orchestras at the end of the 30’s! Juan D'Arienzo does not lose the metronome ; Biagi put in practice his novel ideas and defines his own and unique style: El Incendio, El 13 (1938), La Maleva, Pura Clase (1939)… The first singer to join the orchestras is Teofilo Ibañez on Gólgota (composed par Biagi). Then Andrés Falgás in 1939 records outstanding valses: Dichas que viví, Cielo, Dejame amarte aunque sea un día (1939)…

1940 - Biagi and Jorge Ortiz

1940, Rodolfo Biagi calls Jorge Ortiz, probably the most typical singer of Biagi’s orchestra. His melodious voice fits perfectly and this duo becomes very famous. The first recording is Todo te nombra on 19th June 1940, but we also dance on Guapo y varón, No le digas que la quiero (1940), Humillación, Ahora no me conoces (1941)…

Others singers

Many singers joined the orchestra of Rodolfo Biagi: Alberto Lago, Carlos Acuña, Alberto Amor, Carlos Saavedra, and then Carlos Heredia, Carlos Almagro and Hugo Duval. The latter, as typical as Ortiz, starts from 1950 until the end. He lefts sublimes performances on Espérame en el cielo (1957), Todo es amor, (1958) En el lago azul (1959)…

Analysis of Rodolfo Biagi style

The style of Rodolfo Biagi is mainly focused on rhythm. Like Juan D'Arienzo, Biagi uses to emphasize 4 accents per time which increases the sensation of speed. However, while D'Arienzo is a real metronome that never gives up, Biagi is less systematic and authorizes some slower phrases, at the benefit of melody and voice. This is more noticeable from 1942 (Si de mi te has olvidado, Lison, Tus labios me dirán…), and brings a more sentimental mood. Biagi uses to let a melodic phrase to the violins, and sustain it by a rhythmical background with bandoneons. It is also important to mention the key role of the piano: he punctuates the end of the phrases with a fast and vigorous arpeggio, typical from the maestro, and usually performs a solo at piano, just before a final variation at bandoneons and/or a vocal part. But the main particularity of Rodolfo Biagi is the regular use of the off-beat accent…

Biagi off-beat

The time and the beat are the rhythmical elements musicians and dancers can synchronize and refer to. El Compas! But what means “off-beat”? To better understand, take a simple tango written is 2 beats per time, a tempo of 60 bpm (beats per minute) and a very simple analogy: grandmother’s clock!

First of all, let agree on some wordings… The BEAT happens every time the pendulum is fully at left or fully at right, in other words every second. The TIME or BAR, lasts a full back and forth, so 2 beats, and so 2 seconds. Usually, musicians accentuate each beat (when the pendulum is at left and at right) and everything goes well for everybody: the dancers easily catch the rhythm and step on grandma’s clock. But here comes the musical richness and the orchestra decides to put some accents outside the beat, leading to many rhythmical possibilities. What we call here “off-beat” is one of them. It is an accent happening exactly when the pendulum is vertical, exactly between 2 beats.

Wait… The best comes now… In order to get a good surprise effect, let’s delete the usual accent (the one on the beat) just before or after the off-beat accent, or even remove both. Dancers will end walking on silences while the orchestra accents happen between two steps. They may feel a bit disoriented. As you can imagine, this is exactly what Rodolfo Biagi enjoys to do, especially at the end of musical phrases. To illustrate this writting, there is no better example than Belgica (1942) which is a sublime and atypical arrangement. But Biagi went further applying the same to the milonga Soy del 90 with the voice of Carlos Acuña in 1943.

How to identify Biagi at the milonga

To identify Rodolfo Biagi at the milonga, you just need to recognize...

  • His clean and rhythmical style
  • The regular use of the off-beat accent
  • Vigorous and bright transitions at piano
  • Piano solos using the main melody

Otherwise, when you get lost and can’t step on the beat anymore… :-)

Gregory Diaz 2012-12-01
Do not copy this content without authorization.

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