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Esquinas porteñas (1933)

Corners of Buenos Aires (vals)
lyrics by Homero Manzi
music by Sebastián Piana

Corner of a neighborhood in Buenos Aires,
the sun and the moon paint your walls.
The winter rains weep for you
in the watercolors of my memories.
Thirty evenings (moons) know my wounds
and a hundred little streets saw us pass by.
Our lives touched once upon a time,
but you took the path that never returns.

Streets where my tame life
lost all its hopes,
its passion, and its faith.
Streets, if I know that she’s already dead,
why do I knock on every door
searching for her?
Little streets, shadowed with poetry
saw the two of us go by
so happy that day.
My starry, sunny companion,
she left that evening
to go be with God.

The winds murmur my pain,
the shadows tell me that she’s gone,
and in my obsession I see her name
written over every calm night.
Little corner of a neighborhood in Buenos Aires,
with walls painted by moon and by sun
when I cry with your winter rains
you stain every landscape in my memory.

Orquesta Ángel D’Agostino, singer Ángel Vargas (1941)

Orquesta Francisco Lomuto, singer Fernando Díaz (1934)


(Spanish original after the jump)
Esquinas porteñas

Esquina de barrio porteño
te pintan los muros la luna y el sol.
Te lloran las lluvias de invierno
en las acuarelas de mi evocación.
Treinta tardes (lunas) conocen mi herida
y cien callecitas nos vieron pasar.
Se cruzaron tu vida y mi vida,
tomaste la senda que no vuelve más.

Calles, donde la vida mansa
perdió las esperanzas,
la pasión y la fe.
Calles, si sé que ya está muerta,
golpeando en cada puerta
¿por qué la buscaré?
Callecitas, sombreadas de poesía,
nos vieron ir un día
felices los dos.
Compañera del sol y las estrellas,
se fue la tarde aquella
camino de Dios.

Los vientos murmuran mi pena,
las sombras me dicen que ya se marchó,
y escrito en las noches serenas
encuentro su nombre como una obsesión.
Esquinita de barrio porteño,
con muros pintados de luna y de sol,
que al llorar con tus lluvias de invierno
manchás el paisaje de mi evocación.

About Derrick Del Pilar

Born and raised in Chicago, I came to the tango while studying at the Universidad de Belgrano in Buenos Aires in 2006. In 2008 I earned my B.A. with majors in Creative Writing and Spanish & Portuguese from the University of Arizona, and in 2009 I earned an M.A. in Latin American Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. My specialty is the history & literature of early 20th century Argentina.

Discussion

5 thoughts on “Esquinas porteñas (1933)

  1. Hi Derrick –
    This is very cool, and although my spanish is not fluent, I’ve spent several years researching tango music and translating lyrics, so I appreciate the effort this takes. One thing that is interesting to me is that the singers of tango often replaced words from the original poem, and that is the case here in the 5th line, where Vargas replaces “lunas” with “tardes”. It rarely changes the flavor of the poem, but it would be interesting to note somewhere on your site.

    And finally, a challenge: The most challenging lyric I’ve come across is the milonga “Con Alma y Vida” by Di Sarli/Duran. It went through a dozen Argentines over a couple years to get it sorted out…it’s an amazing poem that you’ll probably love!

    Posted by Dan Boccia | 04.20.2009, 3:34 AM
    • Hi Dan,
      Thanks for commenting, and for the astute observation on how singers change words. That’s actually a problem I’ve come upon in writing academic works on tango lyrics—oftentimes, the recordings will vary in minor ways from the versions published in lyrics collections or on TodoTango. One of the most obvious is in “Farol,” where Francisco Fiorentino sings “con el tango en el bolsillo,” where Roberto Chanel sings “con olor a cigarrillo.” Academics, of course, want precise citations—but it’s probably impossible to tell whether Expósito wrote Fiorentino’s or Chanel’s line, without going to an archive somewhere in Argentina and taking a look at the original score.
      I’m working on adding a few more pages explaining little things like this.
      I’ll take a look at “Con Alma y Vida,” and I’d love to compare notes on any translations you have. I’m not the be-all, end-all authority after all—far from it.
      Abrazos,
      Derrick

      Posted by poesiadegotan | 04.20.2009, 8:03 PM
  2. I was going to ask about “lunas” to “tardes” as well, and then found Dan had already asked the question.

    I have danced to this vals so many times, but I don’t understand the lyrics in the milonga as I did while listening to the recording you included. It seemed much clearer.

    Thanks for posting another favorite of mine.

    I have learned through articles on TodoTango.com that occasionally words had to be substituted for some which were not permitted, i.e., cabaret, included with Lunfardo words.

    Posted by jantango | 05.01.2009, 4:10 AM
  3. It is very common among singers to substitute words for various reasons. In the jazz age of which tango was a part this was and is considered a matter of interpretation of the song by the singer. The original lyrics by Manzi may differ from both of these versions. In jazz notes are even more commonly changed by singers. Remember that the key of the entire song is changed to accommodate the singer’s voice. This matter of individual style is carried over into the individual styles we find among tango dancers as well.

    Posted by Allen Klus | 09.22.2009, 5:57 AM

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Disclaimer

The sound files on this site are included for illustrative purposes only. Those wishing to obtain high quality versions for their personal collections should purchase commercially available copies. If you can't get to a record store in Buenos Aires, a great many tangos are available, song by song, from http://www.tangotunes.com/ and others can be found on iTunes (transfer quality varies widely). Many CDs are available through online retailers such as Michael Lavocah's superb http://milonga.co.uk/.

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