Archive for the ‘ African Descent ’ Category


Composer, Guitarist, Violinist (Gemini) – his paternal gandparents Agustin Ocampo and Angela Vilaza came to Argentina in leg irons; they were slaves from the Congo…although Modesto Ocampo was brought up in extreme poverty in Montevideo’s tough “Barrio Sur”, where two other tango pioneers of African descent Lagrima Rios and Carlos Olmedo also grew up, he was also given the gift of a loving family which would manifest itself in kindness and generosity as an adult…this, along with his musical ability, would earn him the respect of his community and in his mature years the honorary, “Don Vito”….out on the streets the young Modesto learned to defend himself and he was renown for his courage…in a famous incident, Modesto was the bandoneon player with a trio auditioning at the Cafe Boedo in Montevideo whose owner reportedly said “I like you guys very much except for black guy; he is too black for this place“, where upon the leader of the trio responded, “he is a good musician and has a big heart and so if he leaves we all leave”


As a child his teachers began to notice two talents, music and drawing…in fact he would pursue studies in violin, guitar and painting…in 1903 he moved to Buenos Aires to work as an apprentice in the laboratory of Bixio Photo Shop; in time he would become the manager…at the age of twenty-four he married his childhood sweetheart Paula Perez and it was in between the birth of his two daughters that he composed his two tangos  “Queca” and “Te Amo Con Delirio”…”Queca” was recorded first by Vicente Greco and later by Francisco Canaro…he played for many years with the Famiglietti Orchestra with whom he became celebrated for his impassioned virtuosity with the Bandoneon; later he opened his own photo shop…in his later years he would lock himself away in his attic to paint; in 1946, in Buenos Aires, he organized the only exhibition of his work…true to his nature, he gave away his paintings to admirers and friends….at the age of seventy-nine, with his beloved wife and daughters at his side, he passed away in the same house that his grandfather Agustin Ocampo, African slave, had lived in




Composer, Pianist (Aries) – for the last two years of his life he was ill, bedridden, partially paralyzed in one single, squalid room…on June 30, 1913, mercifully, he finally passed away, he was forty-five years old…and yet, just a few years earlier he had been a very wealthy man having inherited a huge sum of money from a deceased grandmother…this gifted, charming man might have simply been forgotten had he not composed “El Enterriano”, one of the most successful tangos in history…Rosendo Mendizabal, of mixed african blood, came from a well to do family…his father, was a poet and a renown writer, famous for, “Primos Versos y Oras de Meditacion” (First Versus and Hours of Meditation), a book of poems…Rosendo graduated from the conservatory as a piano teacher where he was a gifted student and a great career was predicted for him…however, with his sudden windfall, he embarked on a profligate, bohemian life squandering a considerable fortune in a short period of time…his life resembled that of his contemporary Angel Villoldo, composer of the immortal “El Choclo”


He was forced to survive by playing piano in clubs and brothels for tips but his immense talent and charm also made him a favorite entertainer in high-end cabarets like “La Vieja Eustaquia”, “Tarana”, ” and “Maria La Vasca” run by renown Laura Montserrat…it is here that in 1897 he began to improvise a tango “El Enterriano” which would become a great classic; it is considered by some historians as the first published tango in history…these were the times before authors earned royalties on their compositions so while his masterpiece would generate considerable sums in the future, like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, he would die destitute…it was the custom to dedicate a new tango to some important person who would in turn make a gift of a sum of money to the composer; it is believed that El Enterriano was dedicated to Ricardo Segovia who may have been an influential judge…Rosendo composed many tangos but as they were often just simply scribbled on blank sheets of paper, the majority of his works were lost… his tangos were generally humorous and referenced judges, bankers, politicians…no personal recordings by Mendizabal were ever made…some of his popular surviving tangos include, “A La Luz De Los Faroles”, “Arrabalera”, “Z Club”


1921, October 26 – BIRTH OF CARLOS OLMEDO

Singer, Composer (Scorpio) – he died relativel young from a heart attack just when things were finally beginning to come together for him in his career and he left few recording but he was immortalized by some of his compositions which were made into great hits by other singers years after his demise…he was born in Departamento de Rivero, Uruguay but his family soon moved to the mythical Barrio Sur in Montevideo the home of two other tango pioneers Lagrima Rios and Modesto Ocampo…he began singing as a very young man with a voice which in time would be described by one critic as “he has the virtue of creating an intimate and delicate mood with his baritone voice”


At the age 19 he won a singing contest at the historic Cafe El Ateneo which launched his career…later with another young friend Julio Sosa, who himself would become a renown singer and die young in a car accident, moved to Buenos Aires to seek their fortune….an early break came when he sang at Radio Mitre leading to performances at the Cafe La Armonia where he was applauded enthusiastically by its demanding audiences …he sang with different secondary groups but unfortunately his  tenure with two great orchestras that of Osvaldo Pugliese and that of Anibal Troilo were very brief…singer Alfredo Belusi had great success with two of his compositions “Y No Le Erre” and “Lo Que Voz Te Mereces”; Roberto Goyeneche with his “Por Quererla Asi”and several singers with his “De Puro Curda”


1924, September 26 – BIRTH OF LAGRIMA RIOS

Singer (Libra) – of mixed african descent, she was born to very humble surroundings  in Durazno, Uruguay…as a child she and her mother moved to “Barrio Sur”, Montevideo the legendary black neighborhood home also to two other pioneers of tango Modesto Ocampo and Carlos Olmedo…Lagrima would recall, as a child, having met Carlos Gardel in his celebrated visit there…for her entire life, through worldwide travels, she remained faithfully tethered to her candombe neighborhood…


She started singing at the age of 18 performing folk songs and tangos…in 1945 her first break came when she was invited to join the famous Alberto Mastra Trio…a series of kudos and awards  followed, culminating in important contracts for radio and night clubs…in 1960 she formed an a capella negro spiritual group “Brindis de Sala” which had great success for 10 years…critically acclaimed television appearances and european tours followed where she was especially active in anti racism campaigns…among her various personal tragedies, was an estrangement for many years from a beloved son, born out-of-wedlock, who had emigrated to Sweden