First harmonicas and accordions in Tenerife by Francisco José Dávila Dorta
The first harmonicas and accordions that sounded in Tenerife were the ones that they brought in the circuses, which on their trip to America stopped in these islands. Some companies broke and sold these instruments at a low price, with which some people had access to them. But the massive introduction of the harmonica in the Canary Islands was due to a German, settled in Tenerife, called Kurt Koppel Wassermann, who owned a store (which still exists) in the central street of the Castle, Santa Cruz de Tenerife. This German was the official agent of Hohner and sold his products in all the islands from 1933-34 onwards.
The harmonica, with that impulse (Koppel himself played the accordion and the harmonica) became very popular and by the 50’s it was rare for the student not to have a Hohner harmonica. There was even a group of harmonicas, already disappeared, called “Los diablos locos”, one of whose members was José Antonio Pardellas, former director of Radio Nacional de España in the Canary Islands and now director of Radio Isla, in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Currently there is almost no activity, except the one carried out by the Music School of the Federation of Associations “La Unión” of Geneto, where the guitar, the timple, the accordion, the harmonica, and other instruments of accompaniment such as “Güiro”, tambourine, singers and some singers.
These meetings are held every Friday night, at the end of the music class all students meet in a bar, facing the public, and with the help of good canary wine, wrinkled potatoes, tollos (small shark arranged in a special way) , pots, festive meat, wild potatoes, etc, leave aside the shyness and act face to the public, without inhibitions. The harmonicas used are, mainly, the Hohner “Comet” (tuned in C and G), the Echo, in C, and the Rheingold (C), in addition to one of oriental origin called “Swan” (Swan) of accompaniments, a little monster of more than 30 cm. long and tuned only with chords.
These parties are very appreciated by the country people and as an attempt to promote the harmonica we have thought of holding raffles on Fridays, and deliver a harmonica to the winner of it. Obviously we will have to give some initiation classes, but we have very good ear people, so we hope that, little by little, we will see again this field that is now almost deserted, except for the exception of the harmonicist Francisco José Dávila Dorta, that is trying not to lose the liking for this small but grateful instrument.
Greetings to all.
We add continuation and extension of the article by the hand of José Antonio Pardellas
Dear friend, I want to delve into the article by Francisco José Dávila from Santa Cruz de Tenerife and which refers to the harmonic and accordion activity in the province of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Effectively I belonged to a group of harmonicas the TRIO REX ARMÓNICA and CUARTETO REX ARMÓNICA.
The Diablos Locos Denomination disappeared soon, a few months after its creation, because there was a local rock band with the same name.
The quartet, first, and trio Rex, later, chose that name because we rehearsed very close to the theater-cinema Rex of Méndez Núñez street in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. There it is, right next to it, the building of the Civil Government, today Subdelegation of the Government.
On the ground floor of the government palace, we rehearsed every afternoon because the father of one of the members, Carlos Tauroni, was an official and had assigned housing there. Along with him, harmonic soloist, Vicente Serra, second harmonica, Francisco Rodríguez, chords and Harmonetta and José Antonio Pardellas, bass and soloist. After the departure of Vicente Serra, the quartet stayed at Trío Rex, definitively, for about four years, from 1957 to 1961.
It took part in numerous patron festivals of the towns of the island of Tenerife. They were guest artists at the Circo Price in the act of farewell to the trapeze artist Pinito del Oro and participated in numerous programs of Radio Club Tenerife and Radio Juventud de Canarias. In this last station a program of one hour a week was made entitled “Harmónica”, with the tune of a piece of the same title of the Rainer Trio and musical interludes that separated the different contents with interpretations of Hotcha trio, like “Alexander’s ragtime band “,” Rag of 12th Street “, etc.
It was at the beginning of the CAR radio station and the professional career of José Antonio Pardellas that he kept this program on the air for four years, before moving on to Radio Nacional de España. In “Harmónica”, in addition to publicizing the news that was produced around the instrument and its performers around the world, soloists performed on groups of the island, as well as guest artists who were passing through Tenerife performing in local venues.
This is the case of Les Akkords at the Royal Victoria Theater and Tony Sam, Antonio Samaniego, at the bullring in Tenerife who approached the studios of the station, Calle General Morales / Amargura and participated alongside the local harmonists. The program had a section dedicated to discovering new values. And each year, cups and harmonicas were donated by Kurt Koppel, representative of the Honner brand in Santa Cruz de Tenerife and trophies from commercial firms such as Pesquerías Pardellas and Quintana, Philips Ibérica, Pepsi Cola, etc.
A party in which the contestants participated, especially the winners, and family, public, the address of the station with Miguel Ángel Yanes Contreras at the head and presented by the speaker César Fernádez Trujillo. Independent of being members of the Rex trio of harmonica, both Carlos Tauroni and José Antonio Pardellas also acted as independent soloists and, for example, in the competitions that on the occasion of the festivities of Christ of La Laguna were held in the plaza of the Adelantado de la university city, Carlos Tauroni once won the first prize, performing “Hungarian Dances No. 5” by Brahms and José Antonio Pardellas with the second trophy playing “Indian Song” from the Sadko opera by Rimski Korsakov.
The times changed, the brides arrived and, later, the families and the jobs, and the harmonicas were silenced little by little. But we yearn for those wonderful times in which we devoted ourselves to harmonic time and passion. And now, memories. Unforgettable memories.
José Antonio Pardellas