Letra de José Horacio Staffolani
Música de Pedro Maffia
Lyrics by José Horacio Staffolani, trans. J. Osburn
Music by Pedro Maffia
Por su fama, por su estampa.
Sos el malevo mentado del hampa;
Sos el más taura entre todo los tauras,
Sos el mismo Ventarrón.
For your swagger, macho and streetwise,
You are the bad guy imagined by bad guys;
You are the bravest among all of the bravest,
You’re that self-same Ventarrón.
¿Quién te iguala por tu rango
En las canyengues quebradas del tango,
En la conquista de los corazones,
Sí se da la ocasión?
Who plays the game as well as you do
In the earthy deep bends of the tango,
In the great conquest of love and heartbreaking,
When opportunities arise?
Entre el malevaje,
Ventarrón a vos te llaman…
Ventarrón, por tu coraje,
Por tus hazañas todos te aclaman…
Among the toughs of your age,
Ventarrón’s the name they give you…
For your wind blows hot with courage,
And they say that your deeds will long outlive you…
A pesar de todo,
Ventarrón dejó Pompeya
Y se fue tras de la estrella
Que su destino le señaló.
In spite of all that fame,
Ventarrón then left Pompeya
And set himself a course behind the
Wandering star that called out his name.
Muchos años han pasado
Y sus guapezas y sus berretines
Los fue dejando por los cafetines
Como un castigo de Dios.
Many years have now passed by him
And all the pretensions his name arouses
Are batted about in the coffee houses
As though God above had condemned them.
Solo y triste, casí enfermo,
Con sus derrotas mordiédole el alma,
Volvió el malevo buscando su fama
Que otro ya conquistó.
Alone and brooding, and nearly broken,
All his defeats and failures gnawing at his soul,
Ventarrón, he has come back to reclaim his role,
Whose fame another’s taken.
Ya no sos el mismo,
Ventarrón, de aquellos tiempos.
Sos cartón para el amigo
Y para el maula un pobre cristo.
But you’re not the same now,
Ventarrón, as in those years ago.
As a friend, you’re a cardboard cutout,
You’re weak and faint-hearted with nothing to flout.
Y al sentir un tango
Compadrón y retobado,
Recordás aquel pasado,
Las glorias guapas de Ventarrón.
When a favorite tango plays,
Pretentious and full of malaise,
You’ll remember the good old days,
The beautiful glories of Ventarrón.
Carlos Gardel interpreted word of José Horacio Staffolani's letra in a version of great clarity, choosing, brilliantly, to just tell the story.
In dance versions of tango song, it is common to cut down on the number of stanzas, to emphasize the instrumental, comport with recording lengths, and (in my view) as an artistic choice. This version by Francisco Canaro, sung by Ernesto Fáma, elides most of the lyrics, emphasizing the legend of the character, without the downfall:
Juan D'arienzo's version also spotlights the early "glories," but contrasted with the pathos of the hero's decline, a truer and more satisfying dramatic shape:
More than one woman has sung Ventarrón, including the herself legendary Ada Falcón, interpreting every stanza. It is perhaps over-determined to sense an attitudinal difference toward the male swagger of the lyrics, but it is at least there implicitly:
The composer Pedro Maffia was no stranger to the theme of Staffolani's lyrics. He fled an abusive upbringing to make it as a composer and bandoneón player. As such, he was honored by no less a master of the instrument than Anibal Troilo with A Pedro Maffia ("To Pedro Maffia"):
Ventarrón, the eponymous hero’s nickname, means “strong
wind,” which Spanish speakers would know immediately. “Hurricane Carter” is an
English equivalent. To hint at this meaning, I reference a hot wind in the
third stanza, rather than repeat the moniker as in the original. Similarly, I render cayengue in the second stanza, which refers to
an early style of dancing regarded by some as the most culturally
rooted, as “earthy.” The colloquialism, lunfardo or
otherwise, is less obscure than in other songs of the period (or at
least it seems to me). There is an unusually clear rhyme scheme,
which it was important to reflect. The meter is just as clear but harder
to translate; it helps that emphasis can fill in for stress in accord with the emotion of the delivery. But what is perhaps most striking in this tango is the variation in who is spoken to and when. The first three stanzas are addressed to Ventarrón in his glory. Then, the address shifts to the listener in the present, the story of the hero's departure and return; then, still in the present, to Ventarrón again, pitying his fallen state. I am not sure that even the greatest recorded versions capture these shifts, but it is something to be aware of and listen for.