Like an unsinkable gigantic vessel steaming across the waters of an inexorable destiny, some people’s lives proceed night after night with a certain degree of complacency, trusting that the sun will rise again and another day will soon be past.
Suddenly those lives unexpectedly take a hit and a flood of shivering emotions begins to inundate their innermost feelings. Dumbfounded by the experience, they begin to sink into a gorge of sounds and silence. The next day someone may notice that these people have been hit by the tango and have sunk into a deep ocean, their bodies held in close embrace, sort of a dancing ritual done to the sound of wailing instruments. And that tango was just the tip of an iceberg, the visual experience projected perhaps from a stage or from a movie screen.
Below the surface, the Argentine tango’s massive structure widens into an enormous density of musical, poetic and traditional values that only those, who sink deeper below the surface than the dance presents, can appreciate and enjoy.
Take for example the tango lyrics. They have chronicled periods of time along the base line of evolution of a city and its inhabitants. In general, the Tango lyrics as a whole, have roots in a medieval Christian concept where the female of the species is seen as a demon-sent emissary whose purpose is to incite the men to sin in sexual ways. This resulted in an antagonistic conception of the human roles where the immoral female disdained and disregarded the male efforts and betrayed him through infidelity.
After 1910, the lyrics began to show some tolerance, comprehension and even justification for the shortcomings of the females. Gradually, as the medieval roots began to disappear, the males began to accept the sexual activities of the females as a result of their need to participate in them on demand, especially if their need was strictly physiological.
By 1920, the male writers and singers were reflecting a certain lack of interest in spiritual and material self-improvement as a result of an economical, social and political set of conditions established by a capitalistic society where the distribution of wealth was limited to a privileged few, who in the Tango sense, used their power to lure decent women from their humble abodes into a life of sin and excesses.
Along the way, the tango lyrics have casually been labeled sad and summarily dismissed as interfering with our dancing joy. Perhaps, remembering that one can only see the tip of an iceberg, we could acknowledge what most historians have said, and that is, that the tango lyrics as a whole, are a condemnation by the working class, of the ethical, judicial, religious, cultural and political norms and canons of a bourgeoisie society.
Fortunately, a renewed effort is underway to disseminate and publicize the contents of tango lyrics as a way to understand more and more that flood of shivering emotions that inundates our innermost feelings when we dance a tango.