NOSTALGIA, CORE THEME OF THE ARGENTINE TANGO

The following song  is taken from my book “Love songs in Spanish for Enjoyment and Learning.” which I published in 2017.   

You can listen to the music of this song as you follow the words below.  Google “Youtube and Mi Buenos Aires Querido”.

In the tango Mi Buenos Aires querido (number 20 in my book)the narrator reminisces tenderly on the city (partic­ularly the barrio of Arrabal), the young ladies whom he pursued in his youth, and the pleasures of dancing the tango to the accompaniment of a bandoneon. The theme of nostalgia dominates the song. Here are the first few verses:

1. Mi Buenos Aires querido

   My Buenos Aires beloved

2. cuándo yo te vuelva a ver

When I see you again

3. no habrá más penas ni olvido.

    There will no longer be sorrow(s) or forgetting.

FIRST VERSE

4. El farolito de la calle en que nací

The little street lamp in the street where I was born

5. fue el centinela de mis promesas de amor.

Was the sentinel for my promises of love.

6. Bajo su inquieta lucecita yo la vi

Under its restless (i.e. flickering) light I saw her,

7. a mi pebeta luminosa como un sol.

My little babe, luminous as a sun.

8. Hoy que la suerte quiere que te vuelva a ver,

     Today, now that fortune wants me to see you again,

             9. ciudad porteña de mi único querer,

Port city of my one and only love,

10. oigo la queja de un bandoneón

      I hear the lament of a bandoneon

11. dentro de mi pecho pide rienda el corazón.

     In my breast my heart asks for some slack.

12. Mi Buenos Aires, tierra florida

      My Buenos Aires, flowery land

13. dónde mi vida ter minaré.

       Where I will end my days.

14. Bajo tu amparo no hay desengaño.

       Under your shelter there is no disappointment.

15. Vuelan los años, se olvida el dolor.

      The years fly by, pain is forgotten.

16. En caravana los recuerdos pasan

        In caravan formation memories pass by

17. como una estela dulce de emoción.

                 Like a sweet trail of emotion.

               18. Quiero que sepas que al evocarte

      I want you (Buenos Aires) to know that when I evoke you

           19. se van las penas del corazón.

       The aches of the heart go away.

                     SECOND VERSE

           20. Las ventanitas de mis calles de Arrabal

        The little windows of my streets of Arrabal

           21. dónde sonríe una muchachita en flor,

       Where a little girl in the flower of youth (paraphrase) smiles,

           22. quiero de nuevo yo volver a contemplar

         I want to gaze at once again

           23. aquellos ojos que acarician al mirar.

       Those eyes that caress you when they look at you.

           24. En la cortada más maleva una canción

                   In the roughest alley a song

 25. dice su ruego de coraje y de pasión.

         Says its prayer for courage and passion;

 26. Una promesa y un suspirar,

         (It is both) a promise and a sigh,

 27. borró una lágrima de pena aquel cantar.

         Wiped away a tear of sorrow that singing.

[26-27: That singing, which is both a promise and a sigh, wiped away a tear of sorrow.]

Repeat 1-3.

If you visit the Museo dell’emigrazione (formerly in Rome’s Vittorio Emmanuele monument but recently relocated to Genoa) you will see many vintage photos (ca 1870-1914) of Italians who are about to leave their beautiful, poverty-stricken land. Thousands of them are bound for Buenos Aires. Their faces are haunting in their grim sadness; do they know at some obscure level that they will forever keep Italy close to their hearts? They will, and the bitter-sweetness of nostalgia will tor­ment many of them for the rest of their lives. When the tango composers among them or their offspring come to write tan­gos in Buenos Aires it is almost inevitable that nostalgia will be one of the dominant themes: it is a theme which they have known well for a long time and is prob­ably hard-wired to them like a family script.

On the day I visited the Museum they were playing music on the loudspeak­ers. One of the songs was Addio a Napoli, as sung by Enrico Caruso, himself a Neapolitan. It was a brilliant choice of background music because this song con­veys so well the heart-wrenching feelings of being forced to leave one’s country.

In one of my next blogs I will post the original Italian words and an English translation of Addio a Napoli.

Around six million people emigrated to Argentina between 1880 and 1930. About 50 per cent of these people were Italian and many of these were from Genoa.

According to Asher Benatar in his elo­quent and beautifully illustrated book, Tango (Buenos Aires, Ars editors, 1992) in its formative stages tango was influenced by the typical melodies of the Cuban habanera and the strong beat of the can­dombe, an African dance.

(If you scroll down you will find other blogs I have posted on Love Songs in Spanish: Jan. 28, 2021; April 17, 2018; August 25, 2016, and nine others.)

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