Should you know the lyrics?

Post date: Feb 16, 2015 9:00:25 PM

Cupid cries over a bag of gold;a man pines over his tragic loss. 

Sharing this post from the Tango Therapist about the importance for tango dancers to understand the lyrics of what they are dancing to.

A Tango DJ and dancer friend of mine Nelson Mastrodomenico has been urging me to learn the lyrics of tango songs. He says that he can't understand why dancers would not want to understand the lyrics which are so rich in poetry. Knowing the lyrics also helps to understand the appropriate mood in which to dance the song. Although the melody should give some indication of this knowing what the song actually means helps. Smiling through a tragic song (as I have seen in some tango performances) seems disrespectful to the song and just plain wrong! I know one non Spanish speaking tango teacher who refuses to perform any song with lyrics for this reason.

This is one of the reasons I am learning Spanish, but a knowledge of Lunfardo is also required to fully grasp the meaning of tango songs from the Golden Era. 

Tango lyrics: Dangers in not knowing a few songs

Perhaps there is some beauty in just listening to the music when you don't speak Spanish. But I am sure that you will be convinced by this post that knowing the lyrics of at least a few tangos can be very important, especially the lyrics for a song you might want to perform or use for a special occasion, such as a wedding.

Biagi's interpretation of "La Marcha Nupcial" (the Wedding March) is an excellent example! I know. I just was married, and the majority of guests were from the tango community. Sure, it was tempting to play "La Marcha Nupcial" at our milonga/reception after exiting a wedding palace in Strasbourg, France. However, this tango's lyrics would have created an ironic backdrop--once you know the meaning of the words (given in English below).

The story in "La Marcha Nupcial" is the painful drama of man of humble means, watching his lover marry a rich man. He hears the Wedding March as she leaves in a regal procession out of the cathedral. The whole scene is his love-tragedy, the first chapter in his book of painful, unrequited love. Perhaps this is not the best thing to play at your wedding? My translation follows:

La Marcha Nupcial (The Wedding March)

by Venancio Clausio – Armando Tagini (1932)

'I watched as you left the cathedral with your flamboyant husband,

enveloped by the strains of the Wedding March.

An aura of joy emanated from your countenance,

carrying yourself as if in a royal procession ...

Voices surrounded me with affirmations of your beauty.

I feel my emotions stabbing into my heart ...

my head--swept up in a whirlwind,

my heart--pounding in its distress!

Dear Precious Times, you're in the distance!

So many dreams! So many oaths!

I hear echoes of her voice, her laughter,

I still sense her fragrance...

Mere sandcastles, all windswept before me!

I was poor ... inebriated by the romantic moon above us ...

All I could offer you was my feather-light tenderness.

But tenderness could not balance out on the scale your beauty.

His money could! The perfect counterweight.

The painful drama still plays its verse in my head,

my ears still hear the strains of the Wedding March,

as I watch Cupid, crying over a bag of gold,

and my soul watches as my sentimental faith fades away.'

Note: I recommend this resource for translated lyrics: Poesía de gotán: The Poetry of the Tango. Since Derrick del Pilar, the tango lyric translator on this blog has not yet translated "La Marcha Nupcial," I was forced to do it myself for this post.