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Bailarín compadrito

In the human comedy of tango, the compradito is a mythic figure, a sort of urban gaucho with a swaggering attitude, done up in a looped scarf and a slouched hat that mimicks upper class style and taunts its values. He's a stock character in tango shows and artistic depictions, and perhaps he resembles some types we see on our own dance floors. In dancing the song, one might take on or resist the persona. The composer-lyricist Miguel Eusebio Bucino was himself a dancer and bandoneón player who debuted at Teatro Maipu and performed internationally. DJ Carlos Quiroga played de Angelis's rousing version at Falucho/Chelsea following John and Renée's recitation.

Bailarín compadrito (1929)
Letra y música de Miguel Eusebio Bucino

Upstart Dancer (1929)
Lyrics & Music by Miguel Eusebio Bucino, trans. J. Osburn
Vestido como un dandy, peinao a la gomina
y dueño de una mina más linda que una flor,
bailas en la milonga con aire de importancia,
luciendo la elegancia y haciendo exhibición.

You’re gussed up like a dandy, slickin’ ’n’ combin’ your hair…
y’ act like y’ own her, a fair young thing, pretty as a flower,
dancin’ in the milonga with an air of self-importance,
y’ perfect the look of elegance in a show that’s fit t’ stage.
Cualquiera iba a decirte, che, reo de otros tiempos,
que un día llegarias a rey de cabaret,
que pa’ enseñar tu corte pondrias academia…
Al taura siempre premia la suerte, que es mujer.

Anybody coulda told y’, che, when they let y’ out of jail,
that a day would come when you’d be the king o’ the cabaret,
that t’ teach your subjects the way, you’d need t’ start a school…
she always rewards the cool guy, that lady luck.
Bailarin compadrito,
que floriaste tu corte primero,
en el viejo bailongo orillero
de Barracas al sur.

Boastful upstart from the slums,
how your very first figure impressed us,
in that hall by the shore in Barracas
on the south side of town.

Bailarin compadrito,
que quisiste probar otra vida
y al lucir tu famosa corrida
te viniste al Maipu.

Boastful upstart from the slums,
how y’ wanted to be more than just talk,
and by polishing your famous tango walk,
you made it to Maipu.
Araca, cuando a veces ois la Cumparsita
yo se como palpita tu cuore al recordar
que un día lo bailaste de lengue y sin un mango
y ahora el mismo tango bailas hecho un bacan.

By God!—there are times y’ hear ’em play the cumparsita
that I know your heart beats a little faster to recall
how once y’ danced it in a scarf without a penny to your name…
and now, though the tango is the same, it makes y’ a classy guy.

Pero algo vos darias por ser, solo un ratito
el mismo compadrito del tiempo que se fue,
pues cansa tanta gloria y un poco triste y viejo
te ves en el espejo del viejo cabaret.
But there must be something that you’d give, if only on the fly,
to be that boastful street guy, returned to times gone by,
but tired of so much glory, sorta sad, ’n’ older,
y’ see yourself in the mirror of that old cabaret.

Listen to the most played dance version of the song here:

Compadrito can be defined in a glossary but is untranslatable in a single noun, even with an adjective attached. It denotes a social and theatrical type specific to a time and place, characterized by certain behaviors and modes of dress, to which a personality type is imputed, macho, boastful, and full-of-itself. I played with hotshot, braggart, wise guy, and tough guy before settling on the short description boastful upstart from the slums, which interacts with the larger details of the verse to convey something of the persona in English. Renée was greatly helpful in working out what best suggested the Argentine sense of the type. Poetically, the original has an unusual rhyme scheme, stair stepping between the ends and middles of successive lines, which I've retained throughout. Cabaret, it should be noted, is pronounced in the French way, without sounding the t, meaning that it rhymes with both decirte and corte in the letra, and, as a bonus in the same lines, with che and rey.
—John Osburn


  1. The music has that swagger & matches the lyrics very well. Now I realise why, while I like De Angelis & I like to listen to this track I've never particularly enjoyed dancing it. Thanks.


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