Learning about tango music will make your dancing much much better. Every month we pick a tango orchestra, listen to it in class, translate songs, recommend CDs… You will become a tango mogul in no time!

September orchestra is Francisco Canaro’s; here’s a short bio about his fruitful life as a musician, leader and composer.



Violin player, orchestra leader, composer (1888-1964)

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Canaro was born in Uruguay and moved at an early age to Buenos Aires, where he lived with his family in extreme poverty. Over the course of his career, he became one of the most successful musician, orchestra leader and composer of all (tango) times.

Out of necessity, he couldn’t go to school and instead started working as a newspaper boy at the age of 10. At this age, he already was attracted to music – especially the violin. So he built his own instrument from an oil can and a thin wooden plank and went on to earn some money at the dance halls!

In his twenties, he was playing tango music in cafes around la Boca and his name started to become known in the tango community.


1912 marks the beginning of his fantastic work as a composer with the tango “Pinta Brava”. By 1918, he had started fighting for composers rights, which gained him the respect of his tango colleagues and he was instrumental in the establishment of the Argentine Society of Composers and Songwriters in 1935.

In the 1920’s, he joined a 2-year long European tour. When he came back to Buenos Aires, he started touring Argentina extensively and using the expansion of radio, made himself a household name. There were other musicians, some better than him, but still Canaro was the one who was known by everyone. In the 1950’s, it was common to say “this is from when Canaro already had his orchestra” to talk about something really old, or “he has more money than Canaro” to talk about wealthy people.

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During his career, Canaro changed styles various times, following the trends of the time. As a result, he didn’t develop a strong musical personality like other orchestras, and instead varied between harder and softer beat. Many agree that his late work tended to be motivated by commercial reasons.


Canaro however liked to take risks and was one of the first directors to introduce the double bass in his orchestra, hence heralding the “sexteto típico” formation; he also introduced the chorus singer.

His later compositions include “El chamuyo”, “El pollito”, “Charamusca”, “Mano brava”, “Nobleza de arrabal”, “La tablada”, “Destellos”, “El opio”, “Sentimiento gaucho”, “La última copa”, “Madreselva”, “Déjame”, “Envidia”, “Se dice de mí”, “La brisa”, “Madreselva” y “El tigre Millán”.

A rare bone disease is at the origin of his early death.

Source: http://www.todotango.com and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francisco_Canaro
Images: “OTS-Canaro” by Archivo General de la Nación. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:OTS-Canaro.jpg#/media/File:OTS-Canaro.jpg