Archive for the ‘Lyrics of tango’ Category

First Tango Congress of the National Academy of Tango in Buenos Aires

September 11, 2015

I read about the First Tango Congress of the Academia Nacional del Tango in a tango magazine shortly before it took place on August 27-29,2015, with time to register.  The purpose was to celebrate 25 years of the Academia, founded in 1990 by the late Horacio Ferrer and housed in the Palacio Carlos Gardel in three floors above Café Tortoni on Avenida de Mayo, inaugurated in 1858.  The venue was the Salon de Los Angelitos on the first floor of the Palacio Carlos Gardel, adjacent to the Museo Nacional del Tango.



There were three panel discussions on two days.  The first panel was TANGO DANCE: its history and evolution with Milena Plebs, Gloria Dinzel, and Eduardo Arquimbau, followed by questions from the audience.  They spoke about their personal experiences in the show Tango Argentino in the 1980s that contributed to tango’s popularity world-wide.

Gloria Dinzel talked about how boring it must be for women to dance a tanda with the same partner who does the same steps over and over, and she added “it’s the same with a man in the bedroom.”  She couldn’t come up with the word “tanda” and Milena helped her out; that’s because Gloria only performed tango with her late husband Rodolfo Dinzel.  Gloria’s comment drew applause from some women in the audience, but I held mine.  Gloria likes flash and showing off, and their videos prove it.  That’s fine in choreography.  Tango for the milonga is improvised in the moment to a specific tune and orchestra, with a different partner each tanda, and the feeling is never the same.  I know that Gloria hasn’t felt what I have from the milongueros who give all they have to every tango with every woman they take in their arms.  They don’t perform for anyone; they share an intimate dance with the woman in their embrace.  If that’s boring, then why do the milongas still exist today after 70 years and welcome so many visiting dancers from around the world?

Friday’s program began with Tango and Lunfardo by Oscar Conde, Otilia da Veiga, Oscar del Priore and Alberto Romero.

Did you know that in 1943, about 80% of Carlos Gardel’s recordings could not be broadcast on the radio because they contained lyrics in lunfardo? Oscar del Priore commented on how difficult Edmundo Rivero songs with lunfardo are for him to understand; not for the milongueros viejos. He said that the 1920s and 1930s had an avalanche of tangos in lunfardo. By 1943, there was a total prohibition of tango with lyrics in lunfardo. The law prohibiting the use of lunfardo was made in 1933, ten years earlier and finally enforced.  La Maleva was changed to La Mala.  Grela was changed to mujer.  Only a small part of lunfardo originated in jails, and most of it came from daily life among the immigrants.  If you want to understand tango, you have to learn lunfardo.

Coleccionismo: Records, Movies & Documents was presented by Enrique Binda, Carlos Puente and Gabriel Soria (president of the Academia) and moderated by Ricardo Garcia Blaya, who I’ve wanted to meet for years to thank him personally for creating Todo Tango, an invaluable website for tango.

The 78 rpm recordings of tango began in 1943, after almost 40 years with other speeds. ODEON recorded tango from 1907-1951, and then turned to folk, jazz and other popular music. Tango wasn’t profitable. Alfredo De Angeles was the first to make 33 rpm recordings with six tunes on each side. Carlos Di Sarli recorded in Peru because it was less costly to import the recordings than make them in Argentina.


Every inch of space in the Salon de Los Angelitos has something related to tango. The display cases are filled with memorabilia from dancers and collectors.


Carlos Puente is the force behind Euro Records.  He meticulously digitized only the best recordings of his record collection for CD compilations. His was a labor of love, not to make money.  The record producers aren’t interested in tango, even though the demand is world-wide today.  You get an idea of how little they thought of tango when all the masters were destroyed without giving it a second thought.


The Congreso was filmed and projected simultaneously in an overflow room nearby.


I took a selfie with Anibal Troilo.


This statue is a tribute to the most notable bandoneonista in the history of tango.


The carved borders of the ceiling have angelic figures, for which the salon is named.


This diagram on the wall is my favorite piece in the museum.  It tracks the evolution of tango orchestras by decade.  It’s an amazing chart for study.


This is the main room of the museum with the history of tango’s development in text with photos and lots of memorabilia.



This is the bandoneon played by Pedro Maffia.


Only one tango orquesta used a xylophone for its distinct style.   This is the instrument played in Fresedo’s orquesta.





The Congreso included the first Tango Book Fair on the third floor of Palacio Carlos Gardel.



Along the stairway are framed posters of tango greats, and I stopped to take this one of Carlos Di Sarli.


The original elevator functions in the palace.  They don’t make them like they used to.


The original tile floors are works of art.


Participants of the Congreso received a portfolio with program, a copy of their quarterly magazine Pichuco (No. 2) and a CD compilation of 20 songs from various record productions by the Academia.


The Museo del Tango “Horacio Ferrer” is open to the public Monday through Friday from 14,30-19,30 hs.  Contributions are accepted.  The Library is open to the public from 18-20hs Monday through Friday.


Horacio Ferrer welcomes all to the Academia Nacional del Tango.


August 6, 2012

Last night in Lo de Celia Tango Club, I danced the Angel D’Agostino/Angel Vargas tanda with Aníbal Serena.  The second tango was No aflojés.  I’ve heard this tango many times.  The word that stands out most to me in the lyrics is churrasca.  I know that churrasco is lunfardo for a steak, but I didn’t know the meaning of churrasca.

Aníbal read my mind.  He whispered in my ear while we were dancing, do you know what a churrasca is?  I replied, no.  A churrasca is a beautiful and young woman, the complete package.   Anibal didn’t know how curious I was about this lunfardo word, but I always forgot to look it up in the dictionary.  At the end of the tango, I told him that he answered my question without having to ask it.  He said, you’ll learn lots more from me.  This is one of the special benefits of dancing with the milongueros viejos.

Vos fuiste el rey del bailongo 
en lo de Laura y la Vasca
¡Había que ver las churrascas
cómo soñaban tras tuyo!
¡Alzaba cada murmullo
tu taconear compadrón
que era como flor de yuyo
que embrujaba el corazón!

You were the king of the dance hall
at Laura and the Basque …
You should have seen las churrascas
how they dreamt behind you!
He raised every murmur
that heel-tapping bully
who was like a herb flower
that haunted the heart!


June 3, 2011

The Obelisk, the monument on Nueve de Julio and Corrientes, turned 75 on May 23, 2011.  There was a concert to mark the occasion with several tangos from 1936, including Nostalgias, one of the most beloved and recorded tangos.

A tanda at a Sunday milonga began with Lomuto’s recording of NostalgiasI thanked the deejay for playing this treasure.

Adios, pampa mia

November 14, 2009

Tango is the music of Buenos Aires.   It’s almost impossible to walk the streets of the city without hearing tango.  I’ve loved tango since I was a child growing up in Chicago. 

I recently attended a concert by Leopoldo Federico and his orchestra.  Federico recently won the Latin Grammy award for best tango album of 2009– Mi Fueye Querido (my beloved bandoneon).  Their concert program included one particular tango which struck a strong chord in me — Adios, pampa mia.   It almost brought me to tears while I listened to their performance that evening.

The tango is so familiar to me, although it is rarely played in the milongas.  It’s a tango I heard during my childhood in Chicago.  My parents had a collection of tango records, and this tango was one of my favorites.  I didn’t know at the time that the lyrics of this tango described a path I would take in my life–I said goodbye to my homeland for strange lands, never to return. 

You can follow the score while listening to this recording by Quinteto José Libertella on Todo Tango  and read the original lyrics with English translation.

Quien tiene tu amor

January 17, 2009

This is a tango  by Leopoldo Díaz Vélez.  I discovered it on the Todo Tango site while reading about Juan Carlos Godoy, a tango singer who recorded with Alfredo De Angelis and Ricardo Tanturi.  A friend called to tell me that Godoy (86) will be performing at La Casa del Tango on January 24.  His 1958 interpretation of Quien tiene tu amor  is so beautiful that I had to translate the lyrics.  This is an example of the poetic richness of tangos and how they mean more to us when we understand them.

Who has your love

I had received your note
where you tell me goodbye, without soul…
I ask myself how I can
continue living if you don’t love me…

Who has your love
now that I don’t have it?
Tell me who it is
and who has carried off your kisses
Where will I rule
the sweet look that I now can’t feel?
I don’t know
because I lost you without wanting it.
Today I have before my eyes
a photo where you are
smiling at me, the last alms that you gave me
Who has your love
now that I don’t have it?
Tell me whose it is
your life that yesterday was mine.

Among other things your good-byes insist
on reminding me of your distant love
I ask myself if this doesn’t exist
why do you pledge so much hurt?

El Choclo

January 4, 2009
This tango is as well known as “La Cumparsita” and “Jalousie.” Every once in a while the Dos por Cuatro radio station plays “Kiss of Fire” recorded in 1952 by Louis Armstrong, his version of El Choclo with lyrics by American songwriters Lester Allen and Robert Hill adapted to the music of Angel Gregorio Villoldo composed in 1903.

I touch your lips and all at once the sparks go flying
Those devil lips that know so well the art of lying
And though I see the danger, still the flame grows higher
I know I must surrender to your kiss of fire.

Just like a torch, you set the soul within me burning
I must go on, I’m on this road of no returning
And though it burns me and it turns me into ashes
My whole world crashes without your kiss of fire.

I can’t resist you, what good is there in trying?
What good is there denying you’re all that I desire?
Since first I kissed you my heart was yours completely
If I’m a slave, then it’s a slave I want to be
Don’t pity me, don’t pity me.

Give me your lips, the lips you only let me borrow
Love me tonight and let the devil take tomorrow
I know that I must have your kiss although it dooms me
Though it consumes me, your kiss of fire.

Tango Jalousie

December 4, 2008
Tango Jalousie, composed by Jacob Gade of Denmark, is one of the most popular tunes in the world. He premiered the work during a silent movie in Copenhagen. The lyrics written and published in 1940 by Vera Bloom contributed to its popularity in the USA during World War II. I remember hearing Frankie Laine’s recording of Jealousy when I was growing up in Chicago. It has been performed by the orchestra of “Forever Tango.”  

Jealousy, night and day you torture me.
I sometimes wonder if this spell that I’m under,
Can only be a melody for I know no one but me,
Has won your heart but when the music starts:

My peace departs,
From the moment they play that lovely strain
And we surrender to all its charm again.
This jealousy that tortures me is ecstasy, mystery, pain.

We dance to a tango of love.
Your heart beats with mine as we sway.
Your eyes give the answer I’m dreaming of:
That soft word your cruel lips will never say.

Well, I fear that the music will end,
and shatter the spell it may lend.
To make me believe when your eyes just deceive,
It’s only a tango you love.

I fear that the music will end,
and shatter the spell it may lend.
To make me believe when your eyes just deceive,
It’s only a tango you love.
It’s only a tango that you love.

Bailarina de tango

November 16, 2008

This tango is probably best known for the 1951 recording by Rodolfo Biaggi’s orchestra with singer Hugo Duval. The music was composed by Oscar de la Fuente with lyrics by Horacio Sanguinetti. The Todo Tango site includes the 1973 recording by Hugo Duval. My English translation is written below the original lyrics. When I listen or dance to this tango, I can think of only one milonguera — Amanda Lucero.

De satén y color negro, la pollera.
De charol y tacos altos, los zapatos.
Dibujando garabatos,
del ritmo que se adueña
tu estampa de porteña.

Tu conoces el secreto de los tangos
y es por eso que los bailas como nadie.
Y en los brazos que te abrazas,
que mística que pasas,
danzando en el salón.

Sacerdotisa del tango,
sacerdotisa sentida.
Rito es la danza en tu vida
y el tango que tu amas
te quema en su llama.

Sacerdotisa del tango,
que en los salones de rango,
bailas en brazos de un hombre
que luce el renombre
de gran bailarín.

Of satin and color black, the skirt.
Of patent leather and high heels, the shoes.
Drawing scribbles,
to the rhythm which you take possession
your stamp as a port city woman.

You know the secret of the tangos
and that’s why you dance as no one else.
And in the arms that you embrace,
what mystical things happen,
dancing in the ballroom.

Priestess of the tango,
Priestess sense.
Ceremony is the dance in your life
and the tango that you love
that burns you in its flame.

Priestess of the tango,
that in the ballroom of status,
you dance in the arms of a man
who shows the fame
of a great dancer.

Si soy asi

September 14, 2008
si-soy-asi-sheet-musicI keep my clock radio tuned to 92.7FM Dos Por Cuatro so I wake to tango music and listen throughout the day while at my desk. One evening I heard this tango that caught my attention with its cheerful lyrics. I made a note of the title and then researched it on the Internet at where I found the lyrics and listened to the 1964 recording by Charlo. There are those who believe that all tangos have sad lyrics. Nothing could be further from the truth. Tangos for the milonga are three-minute poems about life, love, etc. You don’t have to know lunfardo* to understand them, although they include metaphors for life. This particular tango isn’t for dancing, but it expresses the true sentiments of many men. The following is my translation of the first stanza of Si soy así. You can read the lyrics while listening to the 1933 recording by Carlos Gardel with two stanzas.
If I am so
What am I going to do?
I was born handsome
And in a hurry to love
If I am so
What am I going to do?
With women I can’t restrain myself.
For this reason I have
the hope that someday
I will play a symphony
in which your illusion dies.

If I am so
What am I going to do?
It is my destiny
that sexual attraction makes me unfaithful.
Where I see skirts
I don’t focus on their color
married, widowed or single
For me all women are pears
In the tree of love
And if I see you flirting in the street
With your porteno eyes and swiveling hips
I dress you in the camouflage of my compliment of my flower.


*lunfardo: street slang that originated in the conventillos and developed in prisons so that the guards didn’t understand what the inmates were talking about. Today it is an integral part of the porteño dialect. The Academia Porteña del Lunfardo was established December 21, 1962.

Academia Portena del Lunfardo, Estados Unidos 1379

Academia Portena del Lunfardo, Estados Unidos 1379

Cosas de Tango

July 11, 2008

The milonga is where I go to dance and to listen to tango. I finally understand why milongueros went where the best recordings were played for dancing. They could listen while waiting for the recordings of their favorite orchestras that inspired them to dance. They wanted to hear different recordings every night of the week.

About a month ago I heard Cosas de Tango for the first time. On my way back to my table, I asked the deejay for the title. I made a note of it, and later I went online to find the lyrics at TodoTango. Cosas de Tango was recorded January 31, 1946, with Carlos Di Sarli and Jorge Duran. The author is Rodolfo Manuel Taboada; the composer is Tito Ribero. Here is the original poem with my English translation.

La cosa fue como un tango
que nos hace entristecer,
como un tango a la deriva
que se silba sin querer.

La cosa fue como un tango,
como un tango nada mas,
el amor le dio unos versos
y el desamor el compas.

Una calle de barrio, en cualquier barrio,
una noche, una luna, un corazon.
Un tango desvelado que rezonga
su nocturno dolor de milonga.

Un maduro perfume de malvones,
dos centavos de luna en un rincon.
Un beso que se muerde, un juramento
y a los lejos el gemir de un bandoneon.

Mi pena no es mas que un tango
que ya cantan los demas,
el amor le dio unos versos
y el desamor el compas.

The thing was like a tango
that makes us sad
like a tango adrift
that whistles without desire.

The thing was like a tango,
like a tango nothing more,
the love gave it some verses
and the coldness the beat.

A street in a neighborhood, in any neighborhood
a night, a moon, a heart.
A tango kept awake which grumbles
its nightly milonga pain.

A mature perfume of geraniums,
two cents of moon in a corner.
A kiss that bites itself an oath
and far from the wail of a bandoneon.

My pain isn’t more than a tango
that the others already sing,
the love gave it some verses
and the coldness the beat.