Ary in Argentina

An unknown disc surfaces in Buenos Aires. Might there be more?

Daniella Thompson

7 April 2005

Ary Barroso and his orchestra. Note AB emblem on musicians’ pockets.

As Brazil’s foremost popular songwriter during the 1940s and ’50s, Ary Barroso was often invited to tour abroad. His 1953 tour in Mexico and Venezuela resulted in the composer’s first album—the Mexican LP Fantasia Carioca, which remained practically unknown until 2003.

It was for the purpose of touring that Ary formed his Orquestra de Ritmos Brasileiros in 1953. In January 1955, he embarked with this orchestra on a tour of Uruguay and Argentina. On board were 21 musicians and singers, the latter including Sara Rios, Vera Regina, and Ernani Filho.

Son of the clarinetist Ernani Amorim, Ernani Filho (born 1920) was singing at the Clube da Chave in Copacabana in 1953 when Ary Barroso happened by. The singer demonstrated such knowledge of Ary’s work that the composer ended up accompanying him on the piano that night and becoming his friend for the remainder of his life. Beginning in 1954, Ernani Filho toured with Ary seven times in six years. In 1962, he would release the LP Dois Amigos—As Músicas de Ary Barroso na Voz de Ernani Filho. Following Ary’s death in 1964, the singer abandoned his performing career.

Ernani Filho sings in front of Ary Barroso’s orchestra at the Brazilian
embassy in Buenos Aires (photo: Joseph;

In his book No Tempo de Ari Barroso, Sérgio Cabral records that the 1955 tour was the apogee of Ary’s career as a performer. In one Buenos Aires club, the orchestra played to 25,000 persons, and the engagements were so numerous that the tour was extended several times. The group did not return home until July—more than five months after its departure.

Among the orchestra’s venues in Buenos Aires, Cabral lists the Club Comunicaciones (where they played alongside Aníbal Troilo and his orchestra), the Teatro Nacional, and various nightclubs including the Tabaris and the Sunset. Every Wedneday and Sundays at 9:15 pm, they had a program on Radio Belgrano.

Cabral cites the following typical evening in Buenos Aires:

The journalist Pascoal Longo, producer of Rádio Ministério da Educação who was on a visit to Buenos Aires, decided to write to the Rio de Janeiro paper Última Hora, giving an account of the Brazilian group’s success in Argentina. “Very cold outside the theatre,” wrote Pascoal, “but inside, a standing ovation from thousands of persons, with heat resembling that of the High-Life [a club on rua Santo Amaro in Catete, home of a famous carnaval ball] on a carnaval Monday. The curtain rises and falls, and the audience continues applauding, shouting, wanting more.” Pascoal also informed that Ari [sic] began the spectacle speaking Spanish, but that minutes later he had relapsed to the language of Vermelinho [a Rio café-bar where intellectuals and artists congregated]. He was impressed with the energy of the group, which played two sets at the fully booked theatre and at 3 am continued playing at the nightclub. He described the orchestra’s presentations, with Ari in front playing reco-reco, and indicated that the most successful song was the marchinha carnavalesca “Maria Escandalosa” by Armando Cavalcante [sic] and Klecius Caldas. His greatest enthusiasm, however, was directed toward Vera Regina, “uma mulata que é um verdadeiro grito de Ipiranga.”

Ary Barroso and his orchestra (source:

When Ary performed or recorded in Brazil, the repertoire always consisted of his own compositions. On his foreign tours, he made sure to include current hits by other songwriters and well-known songs of his host countries. The orchestra’s 1953 tour to Mexico and Venezuela featured “Granada” by the Mexican composer Agustín Lara; the joropo “Alma Llanera” by the Venezualan Pedro Elias Gutiérrez; “Maria la O” by the Cuban Ernesto Lecuona; and the evergreen samba-canção “Copacabana” (João de Barro/Alberto Ribeiro, 1946).

Cabral doesn’t mention any Argentine or Uruguayan songs performed by Ary’s orchestra on tour. Indeed, the only song title he cites is the marchinha carnavalesca “Maria Escandalosa,” which according to Pascoal Longo generated the most success. When first released on disc in March 1955, “Maria Escandalosa” (Klecius Caldas/Armando Cavalcanti) was played in tango rhythm. This may be the reason why Ary selected it for his Argentine repertoire. It may also explain why the song was more popular during the tour than any of Ary’s own hits.

The enormous popularity of “Maria Escandalosa” in Argentina must have been the reason for the recording Ary made of it in Buenos Aires. This recording was virtually unknown until last week, when a 78-rpm disc was offered at auction on eBay by an Argentine dealer (the disc sold for $14.99; the one and only bidder was another dealer). Side B includes another non-Ary song: Ataulfo Alves’ samba “Você Não Quer, Nem Eu,” whose debut recording by Jorge Goulart was released in January 1955, just as Ary and his orchestra were embarking on their tour. This selection is also easily explained. In various interviews, including one he gave Paulo Mendes Campos in September 1954, Ary named Ataulfo Alves as the best Brazilian songwriter. On the back of his 1956 album O Carnaval do Ary, the composer would declare that were he able to write only lyrics, Ataulfo Alves or Dorival Caymmi would be his choice to compose the music. As for Jorge Goulart, interpreter of “Voce Não Quer, Nem Eu,” Ary named him and Elizeth Cardoso as the singers to whom he would give his first important composition.

The disc was recorded for the Buenos Aires label Music Hall. This firm’s reputation among musicians was tainted, for it had a pattern of non-payment. Astor Piazzolla, who formed the Octeto Buenos Aires upon his return from Paris in 1955, recorded his early discs at Music Hall. In a 1980 interview with Antonio Marimón, Piazzolla recalled:

La empresa Music Hall hasta nos robó los royalties. Nos estafaron. Y eso que en ese octeto estabán Franchini, Stampone, Bragato, Federico... los mejores músicos de Buenos Aires. Pero, como digo yo, los gerentes de grabadoras pasan y los discos quedan, por suerte.

The rock musician León Gieco reported a similar experience:

[...] yo venía de pasar por una grabadora que se había fundido, donde hubo mucho robo y se trabajaba en negro. Sin embargo, en ese sello se editaron a lo largo de algo más de 20 años, discos muy importantes para mi trayectoria; “Pensar en nada”, “Siete años”, la primera versión de “Solo le pido a Dios” en “4to. LP”, mi primer disco, el segundo que fue “Banda de caballos cansados”, “El fantasma de Canterville”, “PorSuiGieco” y los tres volúmenes de “De Ushuaia a La Quiaca”. Esa compañía se llamaba Music Hall. Luego se fundió debido a esos malos manejos de los que te hablaba.

Of Ary Barroso’s relationship with the label nothing is known. Still lingering is the big question: Did Ary make more than one record in Argentina? And if so, when will it come to light?

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My thanks to Duane Shimizu for alerting me to the eBay auction.



Copyright © 2005–2013 Daniella Thompson. All rights reserved.