Making sense of the lyrics...
A few days ago (July 11th) we celebrated the birthday of Aníbal Troilo, possibly the most ‘tango’ of all tango musicians. It’s hard to talk about Troilo’s compositions without mentioning the lyricist Homero Manzi, Troilo’s great friend and confidant, and one of tango’s most excellent poets. Manzi had a the ability to conjour up vivid images, like his descriptions of neighborhoods and coming of age (‘Sur,’ ‘Barrio de tango,’) and he was also a master of classical devices, like the personification he uses in ‘Che bandoneón.’ The narrator addresses, confides in, and pours his heart out to the bandoneon as if it were his best friend.
A couple of notes: ‘Esthercita, Mimi and Ninón’ are protagonists in the fanciful tango lyrics of the 1930’s. Percale is the plain grey material typically worn by working-class women, and mentioned in many tangos to signify the social status. In many tangos the character has ditched the humble percale when moving up (or trying to move up) the social ladder, as these three have done at their own funerals.
‘Orsai’ is a transliteration of the English ‘Offside,’ a term derived from soccer. It was adopted into lunfardo (slang) and used literally: to be in ‘orsai’ means to be in the wrong place. I love it.
Music: Aníbal Troilo
Lyrics: Homero Manzi