Home >> History of Argentine Tango Music & Dance >> Tango Orchestra Biographies >> Juan d'Arienzo
10/02/2010 at 12:28 PM in blog folder icon Music History
Juan d’Arienzo (December 14, 1900-January 14, 1976) was an Argentine tango musician, also known as “El Rey del Compas” (King of the Beat). D’Arienzo was born on 14 December 1900 in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of Balvanera.

D'Arienzo departed from other orchestras of the golden age by returning to the strong driving staccato dance rhythm that characterized the music of the old guard, but with more modern arrangements and instrumentation. He worked with some wonderful singers and recorded many great tangos, milongas and fast valses.

The defining moment of d'Arienzo's career came in 1935 when he added Rodolfo Biagi as the pianist for his Orchestra. Together d'Arienzo and Biagi created his signature driving staccato sound. By 1936 Juan d’Arienzo was at the height of his popularity. He was just 35 years old, one less than Julio de Caro, but stylistically at the other end of the musical spectrum of tango. De Caro had begun moving Tango music more towards the avante-guard with more robust, complex arrangements. D'Arienzo was seen as a step backwards by many tango musicians and fans of the music, but the dancer's loved him. He also became very popular on the radio.

D'Arienzo saw it differently and thought that tango had become a slave to the singers. In 1949 d'Arienzo said, "In my point of view, tango is, above all, rhythm, nerve, strength and character. Early tango, that of the old stream (guardia vieja), had all that, and we must try not to ever lose it. Because we forgot that, Argentine tango entered into a crisis some years ago. Putting aside modesty, I did all was possible to make it reappear. In my opinion, a good part of the blame for tango decline is on the singers. There was a time when a tango orchestra was nothing else but a mere pretext for the singer´s featuring. The players, including the leader, were no more than accompanists of a somewhat popular star. For me, that can´t be. Tango is also music, as is already said. I would add that is essentially music. In consequence, the orchestra, which plays it, cannot be relegated to the background to spotlight only the singer. On the contrary, it is for the orchestras and not for the singers. The human voice is not, it should not be another thing but an instrument more in the orchestra. To sacrifice everything for the singer´s sake, for the star, is a mistake. I reacted against that mistake which caused the tango crisis and placed the orchestra in the foreground and the singer in his place. Furthermore, I tried to rescue for tango its masculine strength, which it had been losing through successive circumstances. In that way in my interpretations I stamped the rhythm, the nerve, the strength and the character which distinguished it in the music world and which it had been losing for the above reasons. Luckily, that crisis was temporary, and today tango has been re-established, our tango, with the vitality of its best times. My major pride is to have contributed to that renaissance of our popular music."

Of course, d'Arienzo did work with many great singers such as Hector Maure, Alberto Echague and Jorge Valdez and sometimes did put them out front. He also made himself somewhat of a star and loved to be very enthusiastic during performances. Below are some live videos of his orchestra from the 1960s.

Live Perfomances:

Popular Songs:


Learn more about Juan d'Arienzo:


Tags: history , juan d'arienzo , music , orchestras


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