The last Milonga Falucho of the year celebrated the holiday season with made-on-the-spot pasta at Arte Cafe in Chelsea and live music from the Javier Sanchez Quartet (Sergio Reyes, violin; Martha Kato, piano; Andrew Rothstein, bass; and Sanchez, bandoneón). The recitation by Renée and John struck a holiday note too, followed by DJ María Valentina with the classic Caló-Podesta recording to begin the next tanda.
El bazar de los juguetes (1954)
Letra de Reinaldo Yiso
Música de Roberto Rufino
The Toy Store (1954)
Lyrics by Reinaldo Yiso, trans J. Osburn
Music by Roberto Rufino
Patrón cierre la puerta,
no me mire asombrado,
Lock up, shopkeeper, it’s not my intent to give you a scare,
Believe me, I’ll pay you for all the toys in your store.
I ‘ll buy everything in here, for I’ve money to spare;
Once I’ve bought all of this, there’ll be plenty more.
For only one night, I want to be one of the magi,
So that all the poor little children, asleep in the slum,
Wake up in the morn, see gifts by their beds, and not want to cry;
The sun of joy in their hands, that’s what I’m going to give them.
Al bazar de los juguetes,
To this little bazaar of toys,
I came many times as a boy,
Eyes wide at the things on your shelf;
I’d come close to the glass and I’d stare
At all the trinkets that I wouldn’t dare
Think I’d ever, never have myself.
Yes, my mother was so very poor,
With maybe a penny, nothing more,
To put bread on our table.
And now I’m able,
By the luck that smiles on me,
To do what I can so there’ll never be
A child without
A game or a toy to play with.
Yo sé lo que es sentirse
en una nochebuena,
I know how it feels to know that you’re poor on a Christmas Eve,
To expect no more by your bed than a stale piece of bread,
And knowing that others, just crossing the sidewalk, will leave
Their toys in the gutter, forget they are there, and walk on ahead.
I know how ’tis when a tender kiss is followed by a tear,
When it’s all she can give you, a mother so poor,
Not the cheapest or humblest of the toys you have here;
That’s why I’ll buy every one in the store.
Listen to Alberto Podesta sing El bazar de los juguetes with the great Miguel Caló orchestra:
The subject matter of this charming holiday tango reminded me of Dickens, but in fact it is in a tradition of social consciousness found frequently in tango lyrics, films, and music, especially in the ’40s and ’50s. Nonetheless, it is an atypical tango which, though tinged by nostalgia, is free of romantic bitterness. In rhyme and rhythm, I was not uninfluenced by the spirit of Clement C. Moore, who wrote “The Night before Christmas” on an estate a few blocks from the Chelsea restaurant where the translation was presented.—John Osburn