Music: Lucio Demare – Lyrics: Homero Manzi (1941)

Malena | Tango song by Demare spacer_small

This tango simply is mythical. There are so many hypotheses as to who Malena was that it’s hard to tell if she really existed.


The story

One version is that Manzi was inspired by Malena de Toledo, who he saw perform in Brazil. However, it is said the song actually refers to the voice of Nelly Omar, his lover of many years, to whom he dedicated Ninguna: “Maybe, back in her childhood, her lark voice took that dark back-alley tone”

This tango, written in 1941, marks the era from the 1940’s during which women were often portrayed as idealised, slightly ethereal beings, free from any of the faults usually attributed to women in earlier tangos, as shown by this verse: “With the murmur of your tangos, Malena, I feel you are better, much better than me.”

Very nostalgic, Malena also contains poetic references to Buenos Aires suburbs, where tango originally came from. The verse “Her voice smells of slum weed” is marked by the longing for the old times.


Malena has been translated by Tanguito, Argentine Tango Academy in London with the help of a wonderful milonguera friend. If you have any comment or other interpretations of the lyrics, please feel free to share your opinion, we’d love to hear from you. 🙂

Nathalie, Tanguito


The music


The lyrics

Malena canta el tango como ninguna
y en cada verso pone su corazón.
A yuyo del suburbio su voz perfuma,
Malena tiene pena de bandoneón.
Tal vez allá en la infancia su voz de alondra
tomó ese tono oscuro de callejón,
o acaso aquel romance que sólo nombra
cuando se pone triste con el alcohol.
Malena canta el tango con voz de sombra,
Malena tiene pena de bandoneón.
Malena sings the tango as no other
Pouring out her heart in every verse.
Her voice, a scent of slum weeds,
Her sorrow, that of the bandoneón.
Perhaps, back as a child, her lark’s voice
Took on the tinge of dark back-alleys,
Or yet the love affair she never mentions
Unless she’s being maudlin from drink.
Malena sings the tango with the voice of a shadow,
Malena’s sorrow is that of the bandoneón.
Tu canción
tiene el frío del último encuentro.
Tu canción
se hace amarga en la sal del recuerdo.
Yo no sé
si tu voz es la flor de una pena,
só1o sé que al rumor de tus tangos, Malena,
te siento más buena,
más buena que yo.
Your song
Holds the chill of a final meeting.
Your song
Made bitter from the ashes of remembrance.
I don’t know
If your voice is the bloom of sorrow,
I only know that in the murmur of your tangos, Malena,
I sense you are better,
So much better than me.
Tus ojos son oscuros como el olvido,
tus labios apretados como el rencor,
tus manos dos palomas que sienten frío,
tus venas tienen sangre de bandoneón.
Tus tangos son criaturas abandonadas
que cruzan sobre el barro del callejón,
cuando todas las puertas están cerradas
y ladran los fantasmas de la canción.
Malena canta el tango con voz quebrada,
Malena tiene pena de bandoneón.
Your eyes are dark as oblivion,
Your lips, pursed with bitterness,
Your hands, two doves feeling the cold
And in your veins, bandoneón blood.
Your tangos are lonely strays
Who pace through grimy alleys
When all doors are locked
and howl away the phantoms of each song.
Malena sings the tango with a cracked voice,
Malena’s pain is that of the bandoneón.