MUSIC/Disc series
"Tango Varón"
Sandra Luna

"Cinders that burn again and again...tango is like life, and has to evolve," says singer Sandra Luna, paraphrasing famous tango lyricist Horacio Ferrer.

On her first international release, "Tango Varón" (Times Square Records), Luna unleashes a bolder, contemporary style of tango, while remaining true to tango’s colorful past.

On her new album she expands tango music, normally associated with dancing, to a more expansive stand-alone song form.

"Tango Varón" features re-energized versions of tango classics from legends like Homero Manzi and Astor Piazzolla, to newly created tango compositions that reflect contemporary life in Buenos Aires.

From: "Tango Varón"
Edgardo Acuña

Este es el aire de Buenos Aires/está en su gente y entre sus calles
Vive en el centro del Obelisco/va por Corrientes hasta el final
Acá está el dueño de los misterios
vino del Bajo, mirando el Centro
Creció entre luces y mate amargo...
Ese que viene de allá parece ser
el que inventó la ciudad y el bandoneón.

Trans: This is the air of Buenos Aires/It is in its people and between its streets
It lives in the centre of Obelisco/And passes by Corrientes until the end
Here it is the master of mysteries
Coming from Bajo, looking towards the Centro
It grew up between lights and bitter maté...
Everything originating from there seems to have been
Invented by the city and the accordion.


Tango -- provocative, flashy, unwavering; it's been described as a ‘vertical expression of horizontal desire.’ Born in the bars and brothels of Buenos Aires in the early 1900s, an era when men outnumbered women by 100,000 in the city of Buenos Aires, the culture of overt masculinity, prostitution, and violence opened the way for this form of dance.

Tango caught on like wildfire in the 1930s, with a new generation canoodling in tango bars, to the horror of their aristocratic parents, who feared tango’s saucy lyrics and intrinsic association with booze, knife fights and bordellos.

Tango dropped from the mainstream only a few years later; by the late 1940s and early 1950s, there were hundreds of small tango ensembles, but only a handful of professional tango orchestras playing nightspots in Buenos Aires.

From: “Ché Bandoneón/Hey, Bandoneón"
Homero Manzi/Aníbal Troilo

El duende de tu son, ché, *bandoneón,
se apiada del dolor de los demás...
Tu canto es el amor que no se dió
y el cielo que soñamos una vez,
y el fraternal amigo que se hundió
cinchando en la tormenta de un querer,
y esas ganas tremendas de llorar
que a veces nos inunda sin razón,
y el trago de licor que obliga a recordar
que el alma está en orsái,
ché, bandoneón...

[Photo/Sandra Luna: France Demarbaix]

Trans: The magic of your sound, hey, bandoneón,
Takes pity on the pain of others...
Your song is the love that is not given
And the sky we once dreamed about,
And the brotherly friend that collapsed
Strangled by the torment of love
And a tremendous desire to cry
That sometimes floods us without reason,
And drinking only makes us remember
That the soul is *offside
Hey, bandoneón...

[Ed: "Offside" is an adjective used in sports, it indicates that a ball or puck is illegally beyond a prescribed line or area. A bandoneón is an accordion.]


Tango lost the pop culture battle to rock and roll, but experienced a renaissance in the 1960s as Astor Piazzolla’s group Quienteto Tango Nuevo brought the genre back to life with a jolt.

Musician/composer Piazzolla also collaborated with lyricist Horacio Ferrer whom he'd met in 1955.

Tango fever swept through Europe; ironically, the dance form was now enthusiastically received by Argentine upper-class intellectuals.


In 1966, long after the peak of tango’s popularity, Sandra Luna was born in Buenos Aires’ slaughterhouse district of Mataderos. Luna was raised in a revitalized era of tango in Argentina. By age eleven, she was performing in local tango bars like the Boliche de Rotundo.

[Photo above/header image: Nora Lezano]

From: "Me Llaman Luna (Milonga)/They Call Me Moon" (Tale)
César Rossi/Horacio Cabarcos

Soy nueva ola de viejo estilo...
Yo soy comadre del bandoneón
Me llaman Luna y de la cuna/me arrulla el canto de mi ciudad.

Trans: I am the new wave of an old style...
I am a friend of the bandoneón
They call me Moon and from the cradle/The song of my city lulls me to sleep.

In recent years, a handful of singers have flipped the traditional gender roles of tango, putting a strong female voice at the fore of the style.

Luna's "Tango Varón" balances a strong repertoire of traditional tango standards, with newly written compositions informed by modern life in Buenos Aires.

From: “Carritos Cartoneros/Cardboard Carts”
Carlos Cereti/Carlos Buono

¿Quién te mintió, primer mundo Buenos Aires,
el de lo shopping, el bacán Puerto Madero...
que al esconderse el sol tras Catalinas,
salen a luz viejos "carritos cartoneros"

Una gran bolsa de arpillera en retaguardia
y por el medio mercancía incomprensible,
adelante manos sucias en las riendas
y en los ojitos tantos sueños imposibles?...

Yo tengo aguante y algo duro el corazón,
pero tus pibes son verdad
No son carton.

Trans: Who lied to you, first world of Buenos Aires,
The world of shopping, the posh Puerto Madero...
Saying that when the sun goes down after Catalinas,
The old "carritos cartoneros" appear

A large sackcloth bag at the rear
And incomprehensible merchandise in the middle,
Dirty hands on the reins in the front
And in their eyes, so many impossible dreams?...

I have patience and something hard in my heart,
But your boys are real
They're not made of cardboard.

From the highly percussive approach of "Me Llaman Luna" to the more traditional and ornate bandoneón and strings on "Que Nadie Sepa Mu Sufrir," Luna displays her ability to work above a wide variety of textures.

Title track "Tango Varón" details the origin of the machismo-laced ‘male tango' in Buenos Aires, but Luna's bold interpretation of the track brands it with the unique passion of a confident woman.

Official site: Sandra Luna

Read about other creative artists, in the OCT/NOV issue of "Arte Six."
Original post date: "Arte Six," MAY 2004

RELATED EXTRAS: Nuevo tango trivia, via Wikipedia:

During the period of Argentine military dictatorship from 1976 to 1983, Astor Piazzolla lived in Italy, but returned many times to Argentina, recorded there and on at least one occasion had lunch with the dictator Jorge Rafael Videla. As recounted in "Astor Piazzolla, A Manera de Memorias/"Astor Piazzolla: A Memoir":

Q: "One year before the Los Largartos issue you went to Videla's house and had lunch with him, why did you accept that invitation?"
[Piazzolla]: "What an invitation! They sent a couple of guys in black suits and a letter with my name on it that said that Videla expected me a particular day in a particular place."

RELATED EXTRAS: Additional lyrics (excerpts)

From: "A Un Semejante/To a Fellow Man"
Eladia Blazquez

Vení charlemos, sentate un poco,
la humanidad se viene encima...
Ya no podemos, hermano loco
buscar a Dios por las esquinas.

Trans: Come, let's talk, sit yourself down,
Humanity is bearing down upon us
And we, crazy brother, cannot
Search for God in corners.