Ojos maulas (Cowardly eyes)

(Fantastic) Photo: Pugliese signing a contract with his band. The singer in the flamboyant white suit is Roberto Chanel, who is featured in this post. The tall fellow in the middle is Alberto Morán.


Tango is often seen as the urban musical culture of Buenos Aires, in contrast with the more folkloric-sounding genres from the countryside, like chamamé, chacarera and zamba. However, there are also many tangos about the pampas and gaucho life. The following lyric is one of the best among them.

Ojos maulas (Cowardly eyes), lyrics by Alfredo Faustino Roldán.

Lloran las guitarras con suaves acordes
arden los fogones con luz de ilusión,
y hay dos ojos maulas que ingrato se esconden,
de un mozo tostado más lindo que el sol.
Él sabe el secreto
que guarda en su pecho
la infiel paisanita
que lo trastornó
y canta empañando de pena sus versos,
los tristes recuerdos de un día de amor.

The guitars are crying with soft chords,
the campfire burns with illusory light,
and two cowardly, ungrateful eyes hide
from a tanned lad, handsome like the sun.*
He knows the secret
she keeps inside her chest,
the cheating peasant girl
who drove him mad,
and he starts singing,
clouding his verses with grief,
the sad memories of a day of love.

“Fue una mañanita te acordás mi china,
cuando la puntita del sol asomó
te encontré solita, allá en las glicinas.
Vos me diste un beso y mil te di yo.
Te acordás mi china que amor nos juramos
y nos abrazamos con honda pasión,
y después que pronto se hicieron cenizas
las dulces caricias de aquella ilusión?”

“One morning, you remember my girl?**
When the sun began to come up,
I found you all alone, in the wisterias.
You gave me a kiss, and I gave you a thousand.
Do you remember that we swore to love each other,
and that we hugged with deep passion?
And then, how soon the sweet caresses of that love turned to ashes?”

(“Escuchá mis quejas y luego decime,
si han habido causas pa’ hacerme traición
y dejar que sufra y así me resigne
maneando los gritos de mi corazón.
Pero que voy a hacerle si se marchitaron
las lindas violetas que un día te di
y al dirse las pobres en mi alma dejaron
un puñao de angustias que gimen así.”)

(“Listen to my grudge and then tell me,
what was your reason to cheat on me,
and make me suffer and give up,
hobbling with the screams of my heart?
But what can I do, now that the beautiful violets I gave you one day have withered and as they died, the poor flowers left inside my soul a handful of sorrows that moan like this.”)

YouTube link (Pugliese-Chanel)

*I have kept this Spanish expression intact. A sun tan seems appropriate for the hard life of a gaucho.
**Mi china, literally: my Chinese/Asian girl. This was a gaucho way of calling a woman. I don’t think it had anything to do with China, but it might have to do with the shape of someone’s eyes. In that sense it’s also an affective nickname in Argentina more generally for someone with slightly East Asian-looking eyes.

Soñé con un amor

Photo: Jorge Omar


Tango music is often melancholic, sad, desperate, full of loneliness, bitter. Even if the music sounds really cheerful, like Donato’s Sinsabor, the words aren’t. There are also other subjects than heartbreak, like life on the Pampas, tough guys in the old neighbourhood, nostalgia for Buenos Aires, crime and the “old country” (the immigrant’s longing) etc. Such lyrics are not always sad, but not especially cheerful either. There is a tiny minority of very positive tangos. I am glad to present you one today.

Soñé con un amor (I dreamt about a love), lyrics by Jesús Fernández Blanco.

En la mañana fragante
cuando la vida se llena de esplendor,
surgió anhelante la flor de mis pasiones
y tejiendo ilusiones, soñé con un amor.

On that fragrant morning
when life was filled with splendour,
the eager flower of my passions
sprang up, and I dreamt about a love,
weaving together my hopes and desire.

Todas las aves canoras
y las estrellas del cielo al asomar,
y las auroras, mis ansias comprendían
y con fe me decían, tus sueños ve a alcanzar.

All the melodious songbirds,
and the shining stars of the sky
and the beautiful daybreak
understood my yearning
and assured me that I would
fullfil my dreams.

Soñé con un amor, en el vergel,
soñe con un amor, eterno y fiel,
y ese sueño amado, que al cielo le pedí
hoy lo veo logrado, y mi vida es feliz.
Soñé con un amor de juventud,
soñé con un amor de plenitud,
con un amor sincero, que nunca morirá
fulgurante lucero que sin fin brillará.

I dreamt about a love, in the orchard,
I dreamt about an eternal, faithful love,
and this beloved dream I asked God for
is now realised, and my life is happy.
I dreamt about a love of youth,
I dreamt about a love of abundance,
about a true love, that will never die,
a shining star that will sparkle forever.

YouTube link (Lomuto-Omar)

Llorarás, llorarás

Photo: Floreal Ruiz


I have slowly become more and more interested in Troilo’s recordings with Ruiz. It’s still not my favourite voice, but perhaps I am learning to appreciate his style and skill better. I will translate several of his songs, and today we will start with this lovely-sounding but rather resentful vals.

Llorarás, llorarás
(You shall cry, you shall cry)
Lyrics by Homero Manzi

Al escuchar este vals,
bien lo sé que en mi amor pensarás
y en el vaivén del compás,
sin querer llorarás.

The day you will hear this vals,
I am sure that you will think of my love,
and on the swaying of its rhythm,
you shall cry, against your will.

Me verás otra vez junto a ti
y recién te dirás
que hice bien al partir.
Y al renovar tu emoción,
sentirás el dolor de mi adiós.

You will, once more, see us together
and only now you will admit
that I was right to leave you.
And with your renewed emotion,
you will feel the grief of my farewell.

Lo escucharás en los pianos
y violines más lejanos.
Te lo dirán con sus sones
los nocturnos bandoneones.
Se trepará por tu reja
con sus penas, con sus quejas.

You will hear my sorrow in the most distant pianos and violins.
The nighttime bandoneons
will tell you about it with their tones.
It will climb up to your window
with its sadness, with its grudge.

Y no podrás ignorar
que compuse este vals
recordando tu amor
y aunque trates de olvidar,
al oír su emoción,
¡llorarás, llorarás!…

And you will not be able to deny
that I wrote this vals
to remember your love
and however hard you try to forget,
whenever you hear its emotion,
you shall cry, you shall cry!

YouTube link (Troilo-Ruiz)


Photo: Alberto Morán


Some tangos are so sad and bitter that it’s hard to not be emotionally influenced when hearing them. The following lyric is very bitter in itself, and apart from that, the dramatic effect is also strenghtened by Pugliese’s dark style and Morán’s emphatic, heart-wrenching voice. I recommend you to listen to some D’Arienzo or cheerful Donato right afterwards to make up for the emotional impact.

Desilusión, lyrics by Lito Bayardo

Los años venturosos ya pasaron
igual que una bandada de ilusión.
Te dí la primavera de mi vida
mis dulces alegrías
mi joven corazón.
Quería que el mundo te admirara,
quería que brillaras como el sol,
y ciego en el afán de ver tus triunfos
fui dando cuanto pude por nuestro amor.

The happy years are long gone,
like a flock of illusions.
I gave you the spring of my life,
my sweet happiness
and young heart.
I wanted the world to admire you,
I wanted you to shine like the sun,
and blinded by my eagerness
to see you succeed,
I devoted my entire life
to our love.

Cuánto luché para que fueras a mi lado
el amor ambicionado
que tanto acaricié.
Cuánto dolor tuve que ahogar
dentro del pecho,
cuánta amargura,
cuánta humillación.
Y ya sobre el final de tu mentido amor,
más honda es esta cruel desilusión.

I struggled so much
to have you by my side,
the deeply desired love
that I cherished greatly.
I had to overcome so much
sorrow inside my chest,
so much bitterness,
so much humiliation.
And with the end
of your deceiving “love”,
my disillusion is greater still.

YouTube link (Pugliese-Morán)



Photo: Homero Expósito

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The lyrics of Homero Expósito are often full of cryptic language and complex metaphors. He is said to have refined and retuned his poetic language without end. In this case, too,  I spent a lot of time thinking about the (like often, ambiguous) meaning of several lines, but fortunately some obstacles were clarified by an old Argentine friend. I think Margo is an underrated song in general, and the particularly fantastic Troilo recording of this song deserves more attention. This is as Golden Age as it gets.

Margo, lyrics by Homero Expósito

Margo ha vuelto a la ciudad
con el tango más amargo,
su cansancio fue tan largo
que el cansancio pudo más.
Varias noches el ayer
se hizo grillo hasta la aurora,
pero nunca como ahora
tanto y tanto hasta volver.
¿Qué pretende? ¿A dónde va
con el tango más amargo?
¡Si ha llorado tanto Margo
que dan ganas de llorar!

Margo has returned to town
with a most bitter tango.
Her weariness is so profound
that the weariness got the best of her.
In the past, night after night,
she sang like a cricket until dawn
but never as much as now
was she forced to give up.
What is she up to? Where is she going
with that most bitter tango?
Margo has wept so much
that she moves you to tears.

Ayer pensó que hoy… y hoy no es posible…
La vida puede más que la esperanza…
era oscura y cantaba su tango feliz,
sin pensar, pobrecita
que el viejo París
se alimenta con el breve
fin brutal de la magnolia
entre la nieve…
otra vez Buenos Aires
y Margo otra vez
sin canción y sin fe…

Yesterday, she thought, “I will succeed today”. And today is impossible.
Life defeated her hope.
was dark and she sang her happy tango,
without realising, poor girl…
that Paris feeds itself with the short,
brutal end of a magnolia
covered by snow.
And then,
once more Buenos Aires,
and Margo, once more,
without song or faith.

(Hoy me hablaron de rodar
y yo dije a las alturas:
Margo siempre fue más pura
que la luna sobre el mar.)
Ella tuvo que llorar
sin un llanto lo que llora,
pero nunca como ahora
sin un llanto hasta sangrar.
Los amigos que no están
son el son del tango amargo…
¡Si ha llorado tanto Margo
que dan ganas de llorar!

(“She went down the wrong path”,
they told me today,
but in my prayer I told God:
Margo has always been purer
than the moon above the sea.)
She has had to cry so much
that she was left without tears,
but unlike ever before,
the tears are replaced by blood.
Her friends, who are no longer there,
are the sound of the bitter tango.
Margo has wept so much
that she moves you to tears.

YouTube link (Troilo-Marino)

YouTube link (Caló-Iriarte)