Skip to main content

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 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.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Se dice de mí

Although written for the Uruguayan singer Carlos Roldán in 1943, Tita Merello made Se dice de mí  her own in 1954, and it has been sung by women ever since. At Milonga Falucho at Café Argentino in Brooklyn, Renée mimed the lyrics as John recited his English translation of the version made famous by Merello. It was the first milonga in this series. Live music for the evening was provided by Emiliano Messiez (piano) and Adolfo Trepiana (bandoneón).

Se dice de mí (1943) Milona
Letra de Ivo Pelay Música de Francisco Canaro

They Say This of Me (1943) Milonga
Lyrics by Ivo Pelay, trans. J. Osburn Music by Francisco Canaro
Se dice de mí... se dice de mí... se dice de mí... Se dice que soy fiera, que camino a lo malevo, que soy chueca y que me muevo con un aire compadrón, que parezco Leguisamo, mi nariz es puntiaguda, la figura no me ayuda y mi boca es un buzón.
They say this of me… They say this of me… They say this of me… They say that I’m a beast, that I swagger like a tough, that I strut like I’m hot stuff wit…

Gitana rusa

This is a different sort of tango. Although the themes of love and loss are familiar, the Slavic style and setting are unusual and the narrator's relationship to the woman he addresses is enigmatic. The music and the lyric have a murky provenance; it may originally have been composed under the title "Tus ojos" ("Your Eyes") by Severio Sadán in the Ukraine in honor of his unseen daughter-in-law in Buenos Aires, then modified by orchestra leader Juan Sánchez Gorio, who registered it in his name and asked Horacio Sanguimetti to write the words with which we are familiar. More of this tenuous history may be read here. In the event, Renée and José Luis Lavayen taught the pre-milonga class, and live music was enjoyed from Maricio Najt (piano) and Javier Sánchez (bandoneón).

Gitana rusa (1942) Letra de Horacio Sanguimetti Música de Juan Sánchez Gorio
Russian Gypsy (1942) Lyrics by Horacio Sanguimetti, trans. J. Osburn Music by Juan Sánchez Gorio
Pintó tus ojos
el azabach…

Que nadie sepa mi sufrir

This vals criollo or Peruvian waltz is so-called because it refers to the waltz form created by European immigrants (criollos) in the Viceroyalty of Perú, the Spanish colony which traced a serpentine route from today's Panama, through Perú, to the mouth of the Rio del Plata. That part included Buenos Aires and became its own viceroyalty in 1776. Vals evolved as an important genre in the tango repertory, and both the composer, Angél Cabral, and the lyricist, Enrique Dizeo, were from Buenos Aires. John presented his translation at Falucho Chelsea; then the Spanish lyrics were sung by Carmen Currasco as a birthday vals for several attendees. Currasco also deejayed.

Que nadie sepa mi sufrir
(Amor de mis amores) Vals criollo (1936) Letra de Enrique Dizeo Música de Ángel Cabral
That Nobody Knows of My Suffering
(Love of My Loves) Peruvian waltz (1936) Lyrics by Enrique Dizeo, trans. J. Osburn Music by Ángel Cabral No te asombres si te digo lo que fuiste, una ingrata con mi pobre cor…