Monday, September 2, 2019

Tango and drugs: snow between its verses

Translation from Revista Ñ (Clarín), with media research by Luigi Seta


Throughout the 20s, the use of cocaine is reflected in tango, being this a topic maybe little known outside of the Rio de la Plata. Drugs at the time (and its addiction) where almost the exclusive field of the “Niños Bien” ("rich kids", sons of the oligarchs, livestocks ranchers and the related upper middle class) that fueled for the exorbitant surplus of their families, went to Paris to study, discovered the ascendent tango, to then comeback and mix the dance with their unprejudiced habits.  Let’s take a look at how tango transpired this... LS.

The night as territory of excesses also rhymed sometimes with tango. The link between tango and cocaine is a veiled relationship. In the murmur of the tango world, it is said, it is suspected, but nobody puts the matter down in black and white. Now, why is the question not asked in other environments, such as cinema industry, horse races, or medicine?
The cabaret in the 1920s
Cocaine has more than one expression in the Lunfardo jargon (merlusa, chabona, camerusa, falopa, etc.). One of them, the best known in our country and in those years, is the word “merca”. There are two hypotheses about its origin: the first is the writing by Oscar Conde, a member of the Buenos Aires Lunfardo Academy and author of several books on the subject. He argues that "merca" is a apocopated form of "merchandise." The other version is the one that maintains that it is a derivative of the American laboratory "Merck", at the same time the last name of the owner of the company.

The lunfardo word "merca" derived from "Merck"
In the 20s, when tango splendor began, the use of cocaine was banned. Actually in 1919, with Mr. Hipolito Yrigoyen as president, only pharmacies and drug stores could import opium, morphine, hemp and cocaine; but nobody paid attention to him. In that same decade, before and after its definitive ban, cocaine, morphine and opium were a recurring habit.

In the magazines of the time, the use of drugs was a motive for journalistic notes. In Caras y Caretas, (faces and masks, an immensely popular topical magazine of the time), it is denounced that the drug is expanded and that it is easily achieved: "It goes without saying that the cabarets are the indicated centers for the trade of this kind of “joys”".

The cabaret, where drugs were distributed, was one of the tango’s environment. Cannot be found anywhere who consumed, although there was no persecution and the use of cocaine was not a public issue for authorities. However, throughout the 20s, the use of drugs is reflected in the lyrics of the tango canción.

The song where this is most eloquently presented is "Los Dopados" (the doped), with lyrics by Raúl Doblas and Alberto Weisbach and music by Juan Carlos Cobián (later it will be "Los Mareados", with lyrics by Enrique Cadícamo). Before being a tango, it was a sainete (popular opera piece, consisting in a one-act dramatic vignette, with tango music) written by Weisbach where the subject was drug use.

The action of the "Los Dopados" sainete transcurre in a cabaret, where the high society “boys” get their grams and in the background, drama is developed over an excess of stimulants that translates into an atmosphere of sneer and violence.

Javier and Geraldine dancing to "Los Mareados" (Los Dopados)
Maestro Pugliese instrumental version
Please note how the dancers interpreted the drama

The following are tangos, among others, where these type of lyrics are heard

"El Taita del Arrabal" (the outskirts goon) by Manuel Romero, 1922: "Poor goon, many nights, fully doped with morphine, sleeping in a corner, under a cop’s vigilance."

"Milonga Fina" (flapper girl) by Celedonio Flores, 1924: "You declared yourself as flapper girl when you left the barrio with that little-clever guy, who fool you with cocaine and took you to Armenonville (the most famous and upscale cabaret in the 20s).

 "Griseta" (factory girl, tango explanation on the precedent link) by J. González Castillo, 1924: "And one night of champagne and snow, at the funeral's whisper of a bandoneon, poor dear, she felt asleep...". 

"Fanfarrón" (braggart) by E. Cadícamo, 1928: "Those are lies... pure fantasy, that you dope with cocaine and when being bored you “go for a walk” in a Citroén".

All these verses are from the Roaring Twenties in Buenos Aires. The tango canción is incorporated into that cloud of foreignness and consumption... of a walk on Florida Street and of love affairs in the downtown's Madame houses.

Modernity at this time becomes unbearable for those who foreshadow an entourage from the previous times. For others: the young people of a restless and quarrelsome middle class, with clenched teeth and glassy eyes, modernity is the fun of the cabaret with its ritual. What followed.. it remained silent.

Perfume based on cocaine - 1930s

In the cluster of conjectures, it was said that, from the 40s onwards, the mountains of the Córdoba province were the most suitable place to cure addiction. Beyond the rumors, what is true is that the relationship of tango with coke and heroine has been a matter since the late 1880s. 

Tango and tanguer@s are little to nothing interested in that.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Los Carnavales Bailables / The Carnival Dancings

Hola, los invito a un interesante viaje de investigación y descubrimiento del tango... / Hi, I invite you to an interesting journey of tango research and discovery…

En el Archivo de Internet encontré esta foto sin ninguna etiqueta, pero, por supuesto, podemos ver  al Maestro Juan D'Arienzo tocando con su orquesta, sin créditos ni comentarios.

Internet Archive ® 

On the Internet Archive I found this photo without any label, but of course depicting Maestro Juan D'Arienzo playing with his orchestra, without any credits or comments.

Entonces, decidido, quise hacer el ejercicio de querer descubrir dónde se tomó la foto y tambien adivinar el año. ¿Y…  qué tango se tocó también?

So, determined, I went to the exercise of discovering where the picture was taken and guess about the year. What tango was played also?

Descubrir el año fue fácil, porque en el verano de 1940, en los meses previos al los Carnavales, el pianista de la orquesta, Juan Polito, lideró una rebelión y se llevó a todos los músicos, incluido el cantante Alberto Echagüe, en pos de contratos más suculentos en los carnavales que se aproximaban.

The year was the easy part, because in the summer of 1940, on the months previous to the “Carnavales” the orchestra’s pianist, Juan Polito, led a rebellion and took all the musicians with him, including singer Alberto Echague, following succulent contracts for the upcoming carnivals.

En la foto vemos a un joven D’Arienzo y sus músicos en impecables trajes blancos (señal de un verano tórrido, recordemos que no había disponible aire acondicionado en esos días), así que realmente eran en los bailes de carnaval. Y lo podemos decir al ver los disfraces que se muestran en la parte inferior de la imagen, pero no en 1940, ya que D’Arienzo creó su completamente nueva orquesta en abril de ese año, con la ayuda de Héctor Varela (sí, el mismo Varela de la luego famosa orquesta, el cual fue un gran amigo de El Maestro).

On the photo we are seeing a young D’Arienzo and his musicians in impecable white suits (signal of a torrid summer, remember no air conditioned was available on those days), so it was really at the carnival dances. We can say that, because the costumes shown on the lower portion of the picture, but not of 1940 since he created a whole new band by April of that year, with the help of Héctor Varela (yes, the same Varela of the later quite famous orchestra, which was a great friend of El Maestro).

But, what is the place? / Pero, ¿cuál es el lugar?

El lugar no es tan difícil, porque todos los porteños estamos familiarizados con el Luna Park, donde la Avenida Corrientes comienza, en la esquina de la calle Bouchard, cerca del puerto. El Luna Park es aquel mítico estadio, donde muchos ídolos del boxeo atrajeron a multitudes, comparable solo al Madison Square Garden de Nueva York.

The place is not that hard, because we all porteños are familiar with the Luna Park, where the Avenida Corrientes starts at the corner of Bouchard St, in the vicinity to the port (today Puerto Madero). Luna Park is a mythical stadium, were many boxing idols attracted multitudes, only comparable to the New York’s Madison Square Garden.

Se pueden ver tribunas a la izquierda, pero definitivamente no es un estadio de fútbol, ​​porque a diferencia de Europa, los campos de juego de Argentina tienen un alambrado perimetral para separar al público de los jugadores. Se organizaron muchos bailes de carnaval en los campos de fútbol, ​​que congregaron a más de 20,000 asistentes por noche, como ejemplos me remito a los bailes de los clubes San Lorenzo de Almagro, Ferrocarril Oeste, Independiente y muchos otros.

You can see the bleaches to the left, but definitely  is not a football stadium, because unlike Europe, Argentina fields have a perimetral security wiring to separate the public from the players. Many carnival dances were organized on the soccer fields, congregating more than 20,000 party goers, good examples are the clubs San Lorenzo de Almagro, Ferrocarril Oeste, Independiente and many others).
What tango is being played? / ¿Qué tango se está tocando?

No es difícil... por supuesto, La Cumparista, por varias razones, primero porque  a pedido del público fue siempre el último tango de la orquesta y los bailarines dejan de bailar para escuchar mejor y disfrutar la frutilla del postre. Y no se ven miles de personas, porque es seguro de madrugada, como las  3 o 4 de la mañana. Más sobre La Cumparsita, aquí.

Not difficult... of course La Cumparista, for various reasons, first, it was always the last tango of the orchestra by popular clamor and the dancers always stopped dancing for better listening and enjoyment, the real icing on the cake. Also, you don't see thousands of people, because was for sure an early morning, 3 to 4 AM. More about the Cumparsita here.

El otro detalle es que podemos ver adelante el impecable solo del primer violín de la orquesta, Cayetano Puglisi, quien se integró en abril de 1940, en la famosa variación del final del tango.

The other detail is that we can see the on the front the impeccable solo of the first violin of the orchestra, Cayetano Puglisi, which started on April 1940, in the famous variation of the end of the tango.

Como pueden ver, el tango no es solo su música o sus pasos, sino que también es una mezcla de pasión, sufrimiento, traiciones y también, tal vez con menos frecuencia, de alegría. Eso lo llamamos "tangueidad".

La Cumparsita - Famous version of 1951

As you can see, tango is not only its music or its tango steps, si also filled with a mix of passion, hardness, betrayals and also less frequently, joy. It is called “tangueidad”.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Extra Extra!! Argentine Tango Pronounced Dead

Not my headline, as you can see!

This comes from the Washington Post of 1920, it seems the 'middle-aged dancers' had taken over the dance floor... young dancers, please be notified! Speed is not allowed and it seems men had to be told
where to put their hands! This is a future, in-advance warning for you D'Arienzo! 😃

"Los muertos que vos matáis is gozan de buena salud!" The dead that you kill are in good health! (Spanish saying from the 16th Century)

The full story reads...

London, Aug 28, 1920. — The Argentine tango, which has been dying since 1914, got its last jolt today, when Maj. Cecil Taylor, president of the Imperial Society of Dance Teachers Congress, pronounced it dead.

Fashionable dances next season will be a new and thoroughly reconstructed tango, the fox-trot, the one-step l’Italienne and the Spanish slow polka. Simplicity in movement is the basis of these dances. The ‘hip hold’ is barred.

“The tendency of the modern dance is for simplicity in movement,” said Maj Taylor. “There must be quietness in style. No stunts are wanted. L’Italienne is a waltz in a new theme and the Spanish slow polka resembles a fox trot, but it is slower. One of the reasons for the slower tendency in dancing is that the middle aged dancer has come to stay.”

The congress rules that in dancing the man should place his hand in the middle of his partner’s back. She is guided in this way, instead of by her partner placing his right hand on her left hip.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Las "Barras" del Tango (The Tango Orchestras' "Hooligans")

By Luigi Seta

Tango is not only its music or its dance steps… there is also something else… encompasses its poetry, its history, its sentiment, its  relationship with politics and how tango changed people’s everyday life… in other words, to understand tango is necessary to understand its culture.

El tango no es solo su música o sus pasos de baile... incluye también su poesía, su historia, su sentimiento, su relación con la política y cómo el tango cambió la vida cotidiana de las personas... en otras palabras, para entender el tango es necesario entender su cultura.

A good example is the passion that tango aroused on people in the Golden Age, similar to the one that we can found today in football (soccer) teams in the Argentina of today.

Un buen ejemplo es la pasión que despertó el tango en el pueblo en la Época de Oro, similar a la que podemos encontrar hoy en los equipos de fútbol en la Argentina.

The 1944 tango “Domingo a la Noche” by Juan José Guichandut and Oscar Rubinstein, recorded by Caló / Berón and Tanturi / Campos in the same year, is describing in first person, the typical and religious Sunday night friends’ get together at the usual barrio's café, to comment on their news and happenings.

El tango de 1944 "Domingo a la Noche" de Juan José Guichandut y Oscar Rubinstein, grabado por Caló / Berón y Tanturi / Campos en el mismo año, describe en primera persona, las típicas y casi religiosas reuniones de amigos en las noches del domingo, quienes se reunían en el café del barrio, para comentar sobre sus novedades y acontecimientos.

Let’s find out in this lyrics that the tango orchestras was one of the preferred topics of discussion. /
Descubramos en esta letra que las orquestas de tango fueron uno de los temas preferidos de discusión.

"Domingo a la Noche "(Sunday's Night)
Tango - 1944

Café de un barrio porteño
En la noche de domingo...
Sexta edición, cubiletes,
El tema: fútbol y pingos.
Cuatro muchachos charlando
En la mesa de rigor,
José, Ricardo y Anselmo
Y el cuarto: un servidor.
Y mientras van discutiendo
Si es mejor River o Boca,
Si es mejor Legui que Antúnez
O qué orquesta es superior.
Anselmo cuenta sus penas,
Ricardo su mala suerte,
Y José, muy tristemente,
Que sus cosas van peor.

Café at a Buenos Aires neighborhood
On Sunday night ...
Sixth newspaper edition, goblets,
The topic: soccer and horse races.
Four boys chatting
At the usual table,
José, Ricardo and Anselmo
And the fourth: myself.
And while they are arguing
If it is better River or Boca,
If Legui is better than Antúnez
Or which orchestra is superior.
Anselmo tells his sorrows,
Ricardo his bad luck,
And José, very sadly,
That his things go worse.

Version Miguel Caló Orchestra 
Singer Raúl Berón - Recorded Aug-16-1944

Also, there are some urban stories about the different groups of followers of the tango orchestras, telling us that they were so passionate about their idols that the discussions were so heated that fights were quite frequent.
For instance the Pugliese followers identified themselves wearing a Band-Aid in the face, so if you were in a milonga where Troilo was performed and you saw a bunch of guys with Band-Aids, you knew that trouble was about to start!

Además, hay algunas historias urbanas sobre los diferentes grupos de seguidores de las orquestas de tango, que nos dicen que estaban tan apasionados con sus ídolos que las discusiones fueron tan acaloradas que las peleas fueron bastante frecuentes.
Por ejemplo, los seguidores de Pugliese se identificaban aplicándose una curita en la cara, así que si estuviste en una milonga donde tocaba Troilo y viste a un grupo de tipos con curitas, ¡sabías que el lío estaba por comenzar!

About this, let’s watch this interesant excerpt from a Pugliese’s documentary / Miremos este interesante fragmento de un documental de Pugliese sobre esto.

Excerpt from Pulgiese's documentary
"Soy del Pueblo" - Encuentro TV channel

In closing, let’s give us the opportunity to explore more an more about the tango culture, called “Tangueidad” to place ourselves a little bit closer to its sentiment.

Para finalizar, démonos la oportunidad de explorar más y más sobre la cultura del tango, llamada "Tangueidad", para estar más cerca a su sentimiento.

© Luigi Seta

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Ilegal Milongas in Paris

While the fever for tango gradually returns to Parisian streets, a group of young people organize several times a week and without the authorization of the authorities of Paris illegal "milongas" in the open air in which dozens of couples participate.

Article translated by DJ Luigi from Tango City magazine.

As in its golden years, that dance is once again the rage in Paris, but not only in the cabarets but also in the streets and the most emblematic places of the French capital, like the esplanade in front of the lavish Opera Garnier, the central courtyard from the Royal Palace and even the docks facing the Seine River. 

To these luxury backdrops is added a pinch of mischief, given that these milongas do not have the approval of the city authorities and therefore are "milegales", as the organizers call them using a play on words. 

Hundreds of people are inscribed on these mailing lists coordinated by the French Fabrice Ballion and Tonton Jojo (as they call themselves), who send a message the day before or just hours before announcing the place and time where the next call will be made. 

"When it began, about two years ago, there was a small group of about ten or fifteen people, and little by little that nucleus got bigger, people talked and then enrolled in the lists and then the rumor circulated for everyone. sides and quickly was aware, "he told Efe Ballion. 

In each milonga about 50 couples of all ages participate, who sneak in from all corners of Paris and who are always attentive to leave quickly when the police threaten to seize the music equipment they use to dance. 

"In general, the police are very understanding, we do not come to fight, we come to dance and have a good time," says an Italian tango girl of about 70, who prefers not to identify herself but confesses with mischief that when the agents arrive to cancel the dance "they run away" quickly from the place. 

Young people are also present, attracted by tango for different reasons, such as the one given by a young Algerian who lives in Paris and who knew the River Plate dance through the film "Perfume de mujer", when Al Pacino danced to the sound of " Por Una Cabeza". 

"I am a guitarist and for a long time I was interested in Argentine folklore, like the chacarera, and then I wanted to play tangos, but in order to do that I first had to learn to dance, and now that I dance it I do not play it anymore," the young man told Efe. 

Another tango player, about 40 years old, who participates in these milongas from the beginning and approaches several times each week, confesses that illegality adds a "spicy element" and "rekindles interest" in dance. 

For this man, of French nationality, tango is an addiction: "It has a great emotional charge, with the couple and with the music, and it transforms our lives". 

Such is the success of the illegal milongas that the organizers no longer seek the permission of the authorities, but prefer to keep this transgressive aspect and organize them in the places that occur spontaneously. 

"It must stay that way, wild, pirate and improvised, we do not want to ask for the necessary authorization from anyone," says Ballion, who adds the benefit of making them in the open air because they are free: "We do not want anyone to have to pay to come to dance tango. " 

When choosing the best place in Paris to dance, opinions agree that there is nothing better than the floor of the Opera Garnier esplanade, in the heart of the city, and also the Trocadero marble surface, which makes it possible to glide more easily and under the watchful eye of the Eiffel Tower. EFE

Hidden Milonga Miami Beach
a clandestine milonga 
every 2nd Saturday
organized by Lorena & Luigi

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Why the Tango lyrics are so important (Porqué las letras del Tango son tan importantes)

El Tango y la importancia de sus letras. Esta esa una cuestión que siempre se ha soslayado o minimizado. Muchas veces he escuchado a bailarines decir que la letra los distrae o les hace perder el ritmo musical. Pero están obviando algo crucial: la Cultura Tanguera o "Tangueidad".

Tango and the importance of its lyrics. This is an issue that has always been overlooked or minimized. Many times I have heard dancers to say that the lyrics distract them or make them lose the musical rhythm. But they are obviating something crucial: the Tango Culture or "Tangueidad"

El tango en sus letras representa gran parte de la identidad argentina porteña y uruguaya con cuyos elementos se sigue construyendo hasta la actualidad y con su poesía, el amor y el sufrimiento, la experiencia de vida transcurrida en cafés y bares, el vino, el puerto, la música popular, etc.

Tango in its lyrics represents a great part of the Argentine identity of Buenos Aires and of the Uruguay, whose elements continue to be constructed until today with its poetry,  love and suffering, the experience of life spent in cafes and bars, wine, the popular music, etc.

Por eso, tengamos muy en cuenta los que nos dicen estos grandes Maestros Sara Grdan e Iván Terrazas / Therefore, let us keep in mind what have to say these great Maestros Sara Grdan and Ivan Terrazas:

Superb Dancers and Maestros 
Sara Grdan and Iván Terrazas

Para acceder a muchos tangos traducidos, puedes visitar / For many translated tangos and more, please visit: 

© Luigi Seta

Moneda de Cobre (Copper Coin) - Tango 1942

Music: Carlos Viván / Lyrics: Horacio Sanguinetti
Ricardo Tanturi Orchestra / Singer Alberto Castillo 
Dec 4,1942 - Buenos Aires RCA-Victor 39807 84093


Tu padre era rubio, borracho y malevo,
tu madre era negra con labios malvón.
Mulata naciste con ojos de cielo
y mota en el pelo de negro carbón.
Creciste entre el lodo de un barrio muy pobre,
cumpliste veinte años en un cabaret.
Y ahora te llaman moneda de cobre
porque vieja y triste muy poco valés.

Moneda de cobre,
yo sé que ayer fuiste hermosa;
yo con tus alas de rosa
te vi volar mariposa
y después te vi caer...
Moneda de fango,
¡Qué bien bailabas el tango!...
Qué linda estabas entonces,
como una reina de bronce,
allá en el "Folies Berger".

*Aquel barrio triste de barro y de latas
igual que tu vida desapareció...
Pasaron veinte años, querida mulata,
no existen tus padres, no existe el farol.

Quizás en la esquina te quedes perdida
buscando la casa que te vio nacer;
seguí, no te pares, no muestres la herida...
No llores mulata, total, ¡para qué!*

Your father was blond, drunk and malevolent,
your mother was black with crimson lips.
You was born mulatta, with sky eyes
and specks in the carbon black hair.
You grew up in the mud of a very poor neighborhood,
you celebrated twenty years old in a cabaret.
And now they call you Copper Coin
because old and sad your value is very little.

Copper Coin,
I know that yesterday you were beautiful;
I saw you fly butterfly
with your rose wings,
and then I saw you fall...
Coin of mud,
How well you danced tango!...
How beautiful you were then,
like a bronze queen,
there at the "Folies Berger".

*That sad neighborhood of mud and cans
just as your life, disappeared...
Twenty years passed, my dear mulatta,
your parents do not exist, the street lantern
does not exist.

Maybe you will be lost in the street corner,
looking for the house where you born;
keep going, do not stop, do not show the wound...
Do not cry mulatta, so, for what!*
* Note: this part was not sung in the Tanturi's version, but illustrates the message of the tango.
* Nota: esta parte no está cantada en la versión de Tanturi, pero ilustr el mensaje del tango.

Homage to Alberto Castillo, Milonga Chanta 4, Buenos Aires, dancing to Moneda de Cobre, as the porteños do:
Singer Juan Villarreal / Piano Maestro Jorge Dragone
Dancers Eric Dinzel & Flavia Kohut and 
Laura Murphi & Fransley Marcel

Now, Moneda de Cobre in an open milonga, "Milonga Callejera" Providencia, Chile. Cheers!

Singer Natacha Traiman, Guitars Federico Wolf,
Bandoneon Rodolfo Jorquera

© Luigi Seta