Gobbi Vals Tanda – February 25, 2021

Tango Mahi Tanda of the Week – Orquesta Tipica Alfredo Gobbi

Alfredo Gobbi was a virtuoso violinist. His father, Alfredo Eusebio Gobbi, was an internationally renowned Uruguayan singer, guitarist, dancer, acrobat and composer, who wrote the lyrics to “Don Juan” and composed many classic tango songs.

Alfredo Junior was born in France, moved with his family to Buenos Aires and learnt piano and violin from the age of six.

At age 13 (in 1925) he started playing in various tango groups, then at age 18 (in 1930) joined an orquesta that morphed into a sextet whose members included Anibal Troilo on bandoneon and Osvaldo Pugliese on piano. In 1935 (age 23) he joined the Pedro Laurenz orquesta as lead violinist and in 1942 (age 30) left to form his own orquesta comprising various top class musicians.

The Gobbi orquesta tipica released 83 recordings from 1947 to 1957, including about a dozen valses, all of which incorporated some particular rhythms and syncopations that came to be recognised as Gobbi signature vals rhythms.

The basic version of Gobbi’s signature rhythm involves replacing groups of normal three vals beats, with “duplets”, which are pairs of two evenly spaced beats that have the same time value in aggregate as the three notes they replace.

Duplets have been used in many genres of music for centuries, and can be heard in many baroque waltzes by JS Bach, classical waltzes of Mozart and Stravinsky, French waltzes by Edith Piaf, jazz waltzes by many bands and in some tango valses by Canaro, Troilo and others. (Tango recordings I am aware of with prominent duplets include Canaro’s “Nube Gris”, Troilo’s “Flor de Canela” and Canaro’s 1938 version of “Corozon de ora”).

Graphically, the beats of a vals change from normal vals beats:

To duplet beats:
[1………….2…………1…………..2…………] with (a) no change in the regularity of the sounding of each “one” beat and (b) the replacement “twos” being evenly spaced between the “ones”.

An exercise that anyone can use to create a duplet rhythm is to count out loud the normal three vals beats as six half beats in a steady loop with a primary accent on each “one” and lesser accents on the “twos” and “threes”:
then, without altering the steadiness of the counting, change the accents to only the “ones” and the “&s” between the “twos” and “threes”.

For dancers dancing a tango vals only on the ”ones”, there is no need to make any changes in the timing of steps to maintain good musicality.

For dancers dancing a tango vals who choose to also step on the normal “twos” or “threes”, it would usually be best from a good musicality perspective to either refrain from doing so in sections in which the duplets occur, or to refine the timing of these steps to match the duplet beats that can be heard.

For dancers dancing a tango vals who want to acknowledge the duplets, this can be done by simply stepping or effecting adornments to match the duplets, or alternatively by dancing simple steps on “one” for the duplet phrases as a contrast to dancing more complex vals rhythms for the sections before and after the duplet sections.

An extension of the signature rhythm involves adding a syncopated additional beat ahead of some duplets, to create an effective “swing” rhythm (or “gallop-sounding” rhythm), similar to the rhythm through the first “clapping” section of a chacarera song.

For dancers wanting to acknowledge these peripheral beats, a possible way would be to add traspié steps to match them.

Duplets are present in each of the three songs I have chosen for this Tanda of the Week:
1949 – “Tu amargura” (“Your bitterness”) – Alfredo Gobbi y Jorge Maciel y Angel Diaz
1952 – “Como la margarita” (“Like the daisy”) – Alfredo Gobbi y Jorge Maciel y Hector Coral
1956 – “El solitario” (“The lonely man”) – Alfredo Gobbi y Alfredo del Rio y Tito Lando


Here is a 2016 YouTube clip of Bulgarian maestros Miroslav Tsvetkova and Dorin Nedev dancing to “Estrellita del sur”, being the only reasonably good clip I could find of anyone dancing to a Gobbi vals. It is a more complex and challenging song than those chosen for the tanda, in that it has many more and longer duplet phrases and sections. The dancers limit their steps to the “one” beats” (and sometimes the “duplet” beats) through most of the duplet phrases and provide contrast by adopting more typical or complex waltz movements through the regular vals-rhythm sections. Examples of duplet phrases are at 26 seconds, 30 Seconds. 60 seconds and 1 minute 24 seconds.