Header image header image 2  

Bloomington, Indiana

  || HOME || Resources || Lyrics

The lyrics of the Argentine Tango have chronicled periods of time along the base line of evolution of the city of Buenos Aires and its inhabitants. Before it became a city, Buenos Aires was a large village where the descendants of the Spanish settlers lived with their eyes facing Europe and their backs to the vast continent of which Buenos Aires was a port of call for merchant ships. From around 1880 and on, a massive wave of immigration swelled the population of the city with a vast majority of lonely men. These men who came lured by the promise of land and jobs, found themselves stranded around the outskirts of the city and faced with the reality of having to survive. The contrast between the well to do and the destitute was highlighted by the flourishing prostitution business that catered to the mostly male population. To have the means to live well became a major goal. Holding a menial job was not a way to meet those goals. Owning a woman capable of earning a good living at a brothel became a status symbol of sorts. In general, the Tango lyrics as a whole, have roots in a medieval religious concept that had considered women as diabolical creatures whose purpose was to incite the men to sin in sexual ways.
This belief resulted in an antagonistic conception of the human roles where immoral women disdained and disregarded men's efforts and betrayed them through infidelity. After 1910, the contents of the lyrics began to show a sign of tolerance, comprehension and even justification for the perceived flaws of the women. Gradually, as the medieval roots began to disappear, the protagonists of the Tango lyrics, mostly flesh peddlers in love, began to accept the very awful misfortunes caused by woman's infidelity. That led to the stage where they also accepted the versatility of the sexual activities of women, because of their own need to satisfy a physiological and psychological need for possession.
By 1920, the male writers and singers had begun to reflect a certain lack of interest in spiritual and material self-improvement. This was the result of an economical, social and political set of conditions established by a ruling elite on a society where the distribution of wealth was limited to a privileged few. In the context of the Tango world, the rich and powerful used their status to lure decent women from their humble abodes into a life of sin and excesses. Along the way, the Tango lyrics have casually been labeled sad and summarily dismissed as interfering with our dancing joy. This has mainly come from outside Buenos Aires where there are major cultural and linguistic differences that only allow people to see just the tip of the iceberg.
Most historians agree that the Tango lyrics as a whole, reflect a condemnation by the working class, of the ethical, judicial, religious, cultural and political norms and canons of a bourgeoisie society. A fact not too uncommon around the world.


(courtesy planet-tango.com)