|LYRICS by: Enrique Santos Discepolo
|MUSIC by: Enrique Santos Discepolo
|TRANSLATION by: Alberto Paz
|Last updated on: 12/25/11|
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Sing along with JULIO SOSA
Several times in the twentieth century, self-appointed monitors of good taste and manners have used censorship to silence the people’s voice in Argentina. In one notorious instance of taking intolerance to their maximum degree, military rulers waged a “dirty war” against the people of Argentina silencing the dissenting voices of the people by making them “disappear” from the face of the earth. The infamous Secretaria de Prensa y Radiodifusion has been in the past the hideout of coward footmen of the military regimes that held Argentina hostage for many years at a time. Safely protected by the forces of repression, these individuals found no better things to do than attempting to “cleanse” the language of the popular music of Buenos Aires, a.k.a. the Tango. In other words they pretended to legislate culture by the use of power.
The Tango lore is full of anecdotes referring to the periods in which it felt the wrath of the censors, the castrators of the social expression of the people at large who in many instances where inhabitants of the south part of the city. One may only guess where the censors lived or aspired to move to.
During the presidency of Gen. Juan Peron (1940-50’s), the forces behind SADAIC, the Society of Authors and Composers, finally decided to bring the issue of censorship directly to Peron. Led by Homero Manzi, the group began to arrive to Casa Rosada, the presidential office. Alberto Vacarezza, a well known playwright had been mugged on the bus on his way to the meeting. Alerted to this fact, Peron using a very graphic lunfardo expression greeted Vacarezza saying, “me entere que lo afanaron en el bondi.” Everybody knew at that moment, with Peron using the street language to refer to Vacarezza’s being mugged on the bus, that the long period of Tango censorship had ended.
It is a common mistake to assume that the lyrics of the Tangos were written by uneducated pimps and compadritos. To the contrary, from Pascual Contursi to Homero Manzi, most celebrated authors were very well educated and consummated poets. The fact that they choose to use the language of the people to write poetry to Tango music earned them the respect of all of us who love the Tango with a passion, but most of them, were seldom given the proper recognition by the ruling intellectual elite.
Today, the Tango snobs of the world quote Borges or Marechal, who finally caved in to the pressure of their European fellow socialites who appreciating the Tango could not understand why they despised it so much. Even, today, the injustice continues, very few people acknowledge the gigantic work of Manzi, Contursi, and Discepolo and many others.
Let’s talk about Discepolin. In the fundamental poetic line of Discepolo we see the moralist observing the social context and complaining bitterly about the depravity that surrounds him. He desperately searches for God and painfully denounces the lack of values.
Discepolo contributed to a more instinctive and metaphysical vision of the Tango. In many ways he called for ethical parameters for a sociopolitical scene lacking moral attributes. His first fundamental work was “Que vachache” written in 1925 but the subject of this commentary is “Cambalache” which he wrote about ten years later.
An interpretation of his lyrics may help understand why the military rulers that came into power in 1976 “recommended” that it not be broadcast on radio and television.
Of particular interest are the verses,
“Mixed with Stavinsky (a notorious swindler), you have Don Bosco (catholic priest founder of the Salesian Order) and La Mignon (a well kept lover), don Chicho (the nickname of the infamous head of the Buenos Aires mafia) and Napoleon, Carnera (a popular Italian boxer) and San Martin (Argentina’s general who led the forces of liberation from Argentina to Chile and Peru).
Que el mundo fue y sera una porqueria,
ya lo se…
En el quinientos seis
y en el dos mil también!
Que siempre ha habido chorros,
maquiavelos y estafaos,
contentos y amargaos,
valores y dublés…
Pero que el siglo veinte
es un despliegue
de maldad insolente
ya no hay quien lo niegue.
Vivimos revolcaos en un merengue
y en un mismo lodo
Hoy resulta que es lo mismo
Que falta de respeto,
Siglo veinte, cambalache
That the world was and always be filth,
I already know…
In the year five hundred and six
and in the year two thousand too!
There always have been thieves,
traitors and victims of fraud,
happy and bitter people,
valuables and imitations
But, that the twentieth century
is a display
of insolent malice,
nobody can deny it anymore.
We lived sunk in a fuzz
and in the same mud
Today it happens it is the same
What a lack of respect,
Twentieth century, bazaar
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