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Friday, 28 May 2010

Que tangazo!

Ever wondered what makes a great tango?

A local ex-porteño ( … mm, I’m not sure if you can ever stop being a porteño) was recently commenting on some tango music. Like many natives of Buenos Aires, he grew up listening to tangos, but he never learned to dance it. Anyway, I digress.

On hearing D’Arienzo’s interpretation of Pensaló bien, he commented, “My mother would have said: Que tangazo!” I got his drift, but didn’t know exactly what he meant by tangazo. So he dutifully emailed me a grammatical explanation of augmentative suffixes in Spanish. Still, a question remained for me: What makes a good tango a tangazo? Does it simply come down to individual preference?

Later I pressed him further. He thought there would be some common denominators of tangazos. But what were they? He consulted a Uruguayan tangophile who lives interstate, and after some lengthy discussion, this is what they came up with:
  1. Lyrics which scratch below the skin because they 'say something'
  2. Music which is good to dance or listen to
  3. Longevity - people listen to those tangos over the years, the 'guardia vieja' and the new generation alike enjoy them. They never die.
  4. A fan of Troilo (bandoneon as the lead instrument) as compared to a fan of D'Arienzo (piano as the lead instrument) would have different lists of tangazos

So that made me wonder whether some instrumental tangos make the grade?

What about great valses and milongas? I’ve only heard the diminuitive term: valsecito, rather than an augmented version. Could there be a reason for this?

Anyway, here are a few pieces (links to lyrics, music and translations) which I consider tangazos. Of course, you may have a different view altogether about whether these could be considered tangazos. Indeed, there may well be other definitions of tangazos. If so, I’d love to hear from you.


Gloria (De Angelis/Dante)

Adiós Arrabal (D’Agostino/Vargas)

El Adiós (Donato/Lagos)

Mandria (D’Arienzo/Echagüe)

Tristezas de la Calle Corrientes (Troilo/Fiorentino)

Poema (Canaro/Maida)


  1. In the US tango community, 'tangazo' has been used to indicate a tango abrazo as in the closing of a note or posting.


  2. That's an interesting application of the word, Nancy. Had I not read your comment, I would have assumed that the sender was wishing me some fabulous tangos at future milongas.

    Best wishes,

  3. Hi Pat!
    From a latin mentality and point of view, I think that the word 'tangazo', as you say, expresses more a personal taste for a particular tango. Many times I've herad in a milonga "Que tangazo hermano !" for a tango I didn't like very much. Other times I agreed with the term.
    The feeling is the same when you refer to a vals or a milonga but not the word which only applies to a tango.
    Do you think that Biagi's La maleva, Pura clase; Di Sarli's Milonguero viejo, Mañana zarpa un barco; Malerba's Embrujamiento, La piba de los jazmines; Tanturi's & Castillos Ya sale el tren, Que me quiten lo bailao; Pugliese's La tupungatina, Muchachos comienza la ronda, are (as many others) included in the term ? I really do! and I start to shivershake when I hear those first beats.

  4. Absolutely! Thanks for reminding me of some great pieces, Constantino. I had overlooked those two Tanturi /Castillo tangos.
    Di Sarli/Rufino's Esta noche de luna, Calo/Podesta's Que falta que me haces, Tanturi/Campos' Esta noche al pasar (as well as the Laurenz version) also have that effect on me. I could go on ...

  5. Declaring a tango a ‘tangazo’ is probably a very personal judgment, but we all hope that our choices will be seen universally as ‘tangazos”. Here are a couple of my first choices:
    Bailarin compradito De Angelis/Larocca (http://www.planet-tango.com/lyrics/Empeethree/BAILARIN%20COMPADRITO_Larroca.mp3)
    Necesito olvidar Di Sarli (http://www.tangocd.com/Tango_Music/prodView.asp?idproduct=576)
    Others I love dancing to that are also within my collection of tangazos:
    Dos Fracasos Calo/Podesta
    Tierra querida Pugliese
    La abandone y no sabía Tanturi/Campas ( just ahead of the Calo/Beron version)
    Un lamento Di Sarli
    Ataniche D’Arienzo
    Llorar por una mujer Rodriguez/Moreno
    Pobre yo Di Sarli
    … just from a quick scan of part of our collection; by tomorrow, probably more ‘tangazos will pop up – and that doesn’t take into account the valses and milongas that capture us.

  6. Thanks for linking to my translations!
    My personal list of "tangazos" changes with time--I used to really enjoy "Así se baila el tango" by Tanturi/Castillo...these days it just doesn't move me like before.
    "Telón," by Demare, on the other hand...gives me shivers nowadays!

  7. I definitely agree with you, Derrick. Our preferences change for a number of reasons. Sometimes a tango which I'd previously dismissed as uninteresting, suddenly speaks to me. Troilo was quite right when he said 'El tango te espera'.

    Thanks for the care you put into the translations of those lyrics on your website. It's obviously a labour of love.

    Best wishes,


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