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Hugo Díaz

Hugo Díaz We know Hugo Díaz for his tango recordings, but he was in fact a folklore musician from Santiago del Estero. He was born on August 10th, 1927 and lost his sight when he was 5 when hit by a ball during a football match. It was then that he asked his father to buy him a harmonica.

Hugo Díaz After 14 months an operation restored his sight. By this time he had become a "boy wonder" of the harmonica, and when a new radio station opened locally, two years after beginning to play harmonica, he was ready to play on the main hour. He continued to learn folklore music from his relatives, the famous Díaz brothers. He was also listening to and played jazz music.

He first went to Buenos Aires in 1944 (aged 17) and moved there in 1946, performing as a soloist of folkloric music. In 1949 he organized a folklore band "Hugo Díaz y sus Changos (Hugo Díaz and his bad boys)" with whom he played on Radio Belgrano. Very soon he was recording with them on the Odeón, Teca and Dis Jokey labels.

In 1953, when he met Larry Adler and Toots Thielemans in Belgium, he was already considered one of the best harmonic playersa in the world. He travelled to the United States where he had the opportunity to play with Louis Armstrong and Oscar Peterson. Amongst his other tours, the most remarkable was one to Italy where he gave a series of concerts at La Scala in Milan with the lyric opera singers Renata Tebaldi and Mario del Monaco.

Sometimes he played tango on stage, but he never made a tango recording until 1972, when he signed a new contract with Tonodisc. When discussing what type of songs his first album with Tonodisc should contain, he said to the director: You haven't heard my tango before, right? The director responded, No, and I don't care to either. My job is to select 12 folklore songs, and record those, not tango.

After that talk, Hugo Diaz invited him to one of his tango gigs. Listening to this, the director immediately changed his mind and made the first tango recordings of Hugo Diaz. The title was Hugo Díaz en Buenos Aires. The second volume was recorded 1973 in and the third in 1974. These three LPs, in particular the first, remain classics.

In 1975, he made his last tango album Hugo Díaz para Gardel 40 Años Despues.

He died on October 23rd 1977.

Hugo Diaz on CD

When I first started tango Hugo Díaz's recordings were only ever seen on cassette, passed lovingly from hand to hand. That cassette turned out to be Hugo Díaz en Buenos Aires. In 1999, Victor Japan reprinted the three Hugo Diaz en Buenos Aires Lps over 2 CDs. That set is now deleted, so please don't ask me for it - in any case, when it was available, no-one wanted to spend the £30 it cost me to import them from Japan (zero margin).

However, there is good news: Díaz's final album has been reprinted by Aqua. We sell it for £9 + p&p.

Track list
  1. Mano a mano
  2. Mi buenos aires querido
  3. Melodia de arrabal
  4. Soledad
  5. Amores de estudiante vals
  6. Cuesta abajo
  7. Volver
  8. Volvió una noche
  9. Guitarra mía
  10. Por una cabeza
  11. Silencio
  12. Arrabal amargo

Until 2008, you wouldn't have had much more luck getting hold of his folklore recordings either. RCA Club never anticipated how popular this CD would be, and it went out-of-print before must of us even knew it existed. However in 2008, Acqua released the sound track of the new film documentary of his life, A los cuatro vientos [To the four winds]. This CD is a good introduction to Díaz's work outside tango as it covers his entire oeuvre.

Then in 2009, RCA released a selection of 16 of his folklorico recordings in their new series Los elegidos. The accompaniment, which sometimes includes hammond organ, is very much of it's time, although Díaz's brilliance on the harmonica is undimmed.

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© Michael Lavocah / 2000-2018