THE SONG OF BUENOS AIRES   Leave a comment

Many Argentine expatriates who find themselves ever so far from Buenos Aires, find a consolation of sorts when they hear the musical notes of a sweet tango crying out from the bellows of a bandoneon. Many hearts have cried longing for Buenos Aires under the sun of another sky while listening to its nostalgic song. There is something that lives and endures in the guts of this provocative song of Buenos Aires. Rowdy with a moan of bitterness, a smile of hope, a passionate sob, the poet wrote, that is the tango, the song of Buenos Aires, born in the slums and now ruler of the whole world. That is the tango rooted very deep in the hearts of many natives.

Back in 1932, playwright Manuel Romero penciled the lyrics of La cancion de Buenos Aires for the play Buenos Aires, mi tierra querida, starring Azucena Maizani, who wrote the music. The opening verses of the song capture the meaning of the song. For those fortunate enough to understand the words of the tangos, there is an entire new world to be explored. It is a world rich of human experiences expressed in the voice of the tango singer.


Tango with vocals have had a hard time being accepted among North American tango dancers. There has been a lot said about the so called Argentine blues, la tristeza that seems to be etched on the face of the inhabitants of Buenos Aires particularly. It’s not clear whether the tango is sad because of the people or the people are sad because of the tango.

Enrique Santos Discepolo, (1901-1951) is often credited with the quote “tango is a danced sad thought.” It’s not clear if anybody ever saw Discepolo at a milonga, or if the poet had any skills in the dance department. Regardless, there is an abundance of references to sadness in the lyrics of countless tangos, a consequence perhaps of the great influence that immigrants had over the configuration of the demography of Buenos Aires from 1880 to 1920. However, the porteño in particular, also inherited a dry sense of humor from the British, who were very much in control of the economy and the vast fertile land that had been promised but never made available to the hopes and dreams of the same immigrants to which a lot of the sadness is attributed to. That sense of humor, transformed into a sophisticated art form of derision and scorn, has been reflected in many satirical verses that are also part of the historical richness of the popular poetry of the tango.

This very accepted fact has escaped many natives who were on the receiving end of the meaning of the lyrics. That brings us to present time, when many expatriates who find themselves ever so far from Buenos Aires, and those who attempt to emulate the symbols but lack the substance, perpetuate the myth of passing judgment on the lyrics. This can take extreme positions: at one end of the spectrum, claims are made that listening to the lyrics takes away from the enjoyment of the dance; on the other end, some deflate the milongas playing Gardel, Julio Sosa or Roberto Goyeneche.

In recent years, more and more non-Spanish speaking folks have shown a serious interest in finding out for themselves what this fuss is all about. In ways that are difficult to explain, the tango touches every person in a very personal way. Once the initial cliches are overcome, we all search for our identity and immerse our lives into a world where there is room for all. For visitors to Buenos Aires, one aspect that becomes instantly evident is the livelihood of the tango as an everyday expression of the mood of its people. From sophisticated media such as radio and television to quaint night clubs and popular parks and fairs, the voices of the city fill the air with the unmistakable accent of the singer or cantor de tangos, who vocalize the emotions and verbalize the poetry that is inscribed on the staff of the music of Buenos Aires.

Posted December 13, 2008 by Alberto & Valorie in EL YEITE

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