Posts Tagged ‘Lunfardo’

Tango historians

September 11, 2009

As I’ve become more interested in learning about the history of tango, its composers and poets, the orchestras and singers, etc., I have discovered people whose knowledge of tango would fill an encyclopedia.  They share their love and knowledge by presenting talks.  Finally, after gaining confidence with the language, my comprehension is sufficient to understand their presentations.  When I have a question, I turn to one of these experts.  

Dr. Emilio Santabaya

A friend from the milongas told me about the monthly tango talks she attends and invited me to join her in May.  That is where I became acquainted with Dr. Emilio Santabaya who  speaks for 90 minutes without notes and provides recordings from his extensive collection. 


Nelida Rouchetto

Several years ago I began attending the “Peña de los Cantores y Poetas” in La Casa del Tango where a friend went to sing tango.  This is a world most dancers don’t know exists in Buenos Aires. My attendance has given me a greater  appreciation for the poets of tango.  I especially enjoy hearing tangos which I know from the milongas.  The peña group will be celebrating 25 years this weekend at La Casa del Tango.

Nélida Rouchetto, general secretary of the Fundación La Casa del Tango, is the one who takes care of everything from her office on the first floor.  She is there all day, seven days a week.   She has a poster in her office from a singing competition held in November 23, 1982, at La Casa del Tango with judges Osvaldo Pugliese, Emilio Balcarce, Alberto Podestá, Reynaldo Martin, and Carlos Garcia.

A friend and I were discussing whether Piazzolla’s music was tango.  I was convinced that most of it is not because of the musical structure.  My friend suggested we arrange an appointment to hear what Nélida Rouchetto, a respected tango journalist, had to say on the subject.  I remember hearing Luis Tarantino say on 2×4 radio that “Nélida knows more about tango than anyone.”  We sat in her office listening to LP recordings as she presented a historical sketch of the evolution of tango from De Caro to Piazzolla.  My friend was prepared with an audio recorder for our three-hour chat with Nélida.  She lost her full vocal capacity after surgery or she would be giving talks publicly.  This soft-spoken authority on tango has a wealth of knowledge that she cheerfully shares with all. 

A few months ago, I wanted to know if the majority of tangos with lyrics were written in lunfardo.  I approached Nélida one night during the break at the peña to ask the question.  I expected a simple answer, but she gave me a fifteen-minute explanation.  I have translated tangos with beautiful poetry without one word of lunfardo.  I wanted confirmation from an expert.

Luis Feldman

Luis Feldman and I happened to be in the same place at the same time the other day when I dropped off a cassette for transfer to DVD.  I had the pleasure of meeting Luis five years ago when a friend introduced us.  Luis has been a life-long fan of Carlos Gardel and has spent many years researching his life.  Luis, who has a degree in Economics from the University of Buenos Aires, dedicates himself to running his video shop Tango Beverly Hills in El Once where he sells the films of Gardel and Argentine tango films.  My friend and I chatted for three hours with Luis when he invited us to see his personal collection of Gardel photos and documents.   I was pleased to know that Luis continues with his passion and presents talks at the museum which was once Gardel’s home in the Abasto neighborhood.  Luis is the authority on tango in the movies. 

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