By Randal & Marvil – 1942

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Así se baila el tango (This is how to dance tango) became immensely famous and quite a controversy with Castillo’s unique and controversial interpretation. As a song symbolising the power struggle between classes, it has a unique place in the history of tango and the Argentine society.

The story behind Así se baila el tango

“Así se baila el tango”, “This is how to dance tango” is one of the tangos from Tanturi’s orchestra which from the early 40’s, started to focus on the dancers, e.g. the “milongueros” of the time. “Al compás de un tango”, “El tango es el tango”, “Cuatro compases”, “Canción de tango” are other famous examples of this epoch. These tangos were all sung by Alberto Castillo, but “Así se baila el tango” is the one which became a hit and went down in history.

Así se baila el tango” starts with these lines:
What do they know the dandies, the trendy rich boys with their affected manners!
What do they know about tango, what do they know about rhythm!

Así se baila el tango

On one side, the lyrics can be taken literally: in this song, the popular class aims to reclaim tango as theirs. It was a common feeling amongst the people that tango belonged to Buenos Aires’ poor neighbourhoods and not to the high society who had come to discover it later.

However, this tango was written at a time when the influence and power of Argentina’s work force was growing. “Así se baila el tango” can therefore be taken more broadly as an act of defiance of the lower class to the upper class.

“Así se baila el tango” was no doubt immortalised by Castillo’s personal and controversial interpretation. Many things about Castillo were unusual and caused sensation, especially the way he had to start rows. He used to sing “What do they know the dandies, the trendy rich boys with their affected manners!” with so much passion, that some of the well-off spectators sometimes felt insulted and answered back. He would then step down from the stage, start a fist fight and then carry on singing, apparently indifferent to how messy his outfit had got.

Quite a song and quite a character, we dare say!

Nathalie, Tanguito
 

The music

The lyrics

Que saben los pitucos, lamidos y shusetas!
 
Que saben lo que es tango, que saben de compás!
Aquí esta la elegancia. Que pinta! Que silueta!
Que porte! Que arrogancia! Que clase pa’ bailar!

Así se baila el tango, mientras dibujo el ocho;
 
para estas filigranas yo soy como un pintor.
 
Ahora una corrida, una vuelta, una sentada…
Así se baila el tango, un tango de mi flor!
 

Así se baila el tango,
sintiendo en la cara
la sangre que sube
a cada compás,
mientras el brazo,
como una serpiente,
se enrosca en el talle
que se va a quebrar.
Así se baila el tango,
mezclando el aliento,
cerrando los ojos
pa’ escuchar mejor
como los violines
le cuentan a los fueyes
por que desde esa noche
Malena no cantó…

Así se baila el tango, mientras dibujo el ocho;
para estas filigranas yo soy como un pintor.
Ahora una corrida, una vuelta, una sentada…
Así se baila el tango, un tango de mi flor!

What do they know the dandies, the trendy rich boys with their affected manners!
What do they know about tango, what do they know about rhythm!
This is what elegance is. What a look! What a silhouette!
What a bearing! And arrogance! So much style to dance!

This is how to dance tango, while I draw the figure eight;
for all these intricate moves, I am like a painter.
Now some side steps, a pivot, a stop…
This is how to dance tango, a tango of my own!

This is how to dance tango,
feeling on your face,
blood that rises
at each beat,
while your arm,
like a snake,
coils itself around the waist
that is about to break.
This is how to dance tango,
breaths mix,
eyes are closed
to listen better
to the violins
asking bandoneons
why from tonight
Malena no longer sings…

This is how to dance tango, while I draw the figure eight;
for all these intricate moves, I am like a painter.
Now some side steps, a pivot, a stop…
This is how to dance tango, a tango of my own!