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La Balsa: wasn't you born in La Perla?

“La Balsa”, the first big hit of national rock, would have a very different story than the “official”.

 It would not have been the bar La Perla, in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of Once, the place where  La Balsa was born , one of the hymns of the  national rock , but its origin would go back to the south of the country, in the middle of the journey  — long and exhausting  — towards  Esquel , the moment when José Alberto Iglesias, Tanguito, was inspired to compose it.  And the version is completed with an even more revealing fact: a group from the Cordillerana town would have performed the song before its official release.

In a sort of historical revisionism of an icon of Argentine music, it is  Juan “Gamba” Gentilini who discarded the possibility that La Perla was the birthplace of La Balsa.  And he also puts on the table the question of co-authorship of the song between Tanguito and Lito Nebbia.

But we're going in parts.  The official story ensures that one dawn, in the bathroom of the mythical bar, Tanguito and Nebbia began to compose the song  that later the latter made famous with Los Gatos when it saw the light in July 1967.

 Was that how La Balsa was born? 

However, in recent years, another version took force, which places the origins of one of the national rock hymns  in a car of  La Trochita  , the Patagonian express that a car has taken effect.iacute; to Ingeniero Jacobacci, in the province of  Río Negro , with Esquel, in Oh , Chubut .

“Gamba” Gentillini stated in an interview with Radio Nacional Esquel that the origin of La Balsa was months before its broadcast on “Ayer Nomás” in Los Gatos.

Tanguito came to Chubut from the hand of Gentilini, who had achieved a space to perform with his band Los Guantes Negros, with the detail that the musical group had separated, so “Gamba” had to look for replacements. This is where Iglesias appears on stage, which from one day to the next took the train journey from Capital Federal to the Argentine South.With them two also traveled Néstor Rama (keyboardist), Renato Meana (drummer), Miguel “Fender” Monti (bassist).

 The first leg of the trip was from Constitución to Ingeniero Jacobacci, there they were surprised a couple of two days. “ We traveled in Single Class, absolutely unique, and without a weight. We spent those two days with all the cold there in Jacobacci,” Gentilini recalled. Hungry and cold,  they boarded La Trochita, the old Patagonian Express, to get to Esquel, although he first made a 4-hour stop in El Maitén.  The stomachs were still sounding from hunger and, desperate, they went out to knock on house doors to see if any neighbor sold them anything.

“They sold us a couple of homemade breads, those big ones they make there. We also got sardines and orange Crush. Even today, and having toured the best restaurants in the world, I assure you that I remember that food as it was the tastiest delicacy I tasted in my life,” recalled “Gamba”.

 They started the last leg of the trip and Tanguito, who was not very ducho with the guitar, grabbed the viola and began to play three chords: e major, f sharp minor, and again my to then humming: “I have to get a lot of wood”, one of the iconic phrases of “La Balsa”. 

 Who confirms Gentilini's version is the talented musician Hugo Juárez , who at that time lived in  Trelew , about 600 kilometers from Esquel, who came to replace Néstor Rama.

In his blog, in which he recalls anecdotes from his musical life, Juárez said:

“ I remember the day Tanguito was at the entrance to Esquel's Colosseum cinema, sitting on the floor and singing with his guitar. It was the month of February 1967. When he saw me, he said to me, “Hugo, listen to this little bit that I brought out a little ago,” and he began to sing 'I'm so lonely and sad here, in this crap world... ', and what follows. Tanguito was singing to show me his song La Balsa.”

The publication is commented on by the very “Gamba” Gentilini, who expresses his anger for the installation of the version of the bathroom of La Perla.

“ The Sister of Tanguito, Carmen Iglesias, remembers that time and Tango singing La Balsa at her home in Caseros long before it was recorded by Los Gatos. Tango passed the song to Nebbia, he corrected the lyrics and it is logical that he shares the authorship. Javier Martínez does not tire of saying that La Balsa is Tango, what is not true is that Tango has composed it in La Perla del Once, and we must thank it that it was recorded by Los Gatos because otherwise La Balsa would never have been known.”

 Before in Esquel than on the radios 

In case the version that banish the composition of La Balsa in the bathroom of La Perla was not strong enough for the myth of the birth of national rock, there is one more revealing fact:  the skeleton group Los Esqueletos would have performed Tanguito's work before Los Gatos recorded it. 

Jorge Tascón, who was one of the creators of the musical group, a remembered “orchestra” of the Cordilleran town composed of boys aged 13, 14 and 15 years, who in the 1960s knew how to liven up the evenings and nights of bars such as Cinema Armonía or El Americano, as well as others places in the city and the area.

In addition to supporting the version of La Trochita and the first sketches of La Balsa, Tascón assured that Tanguito had passed the lyrics and chords of the song, so Los Esqueletos performed the play, even without knowing that it would become an icon of rock in our language.

An interesting twist in the history of the first big hit of national rock.

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