Friday, May 9, 2008

A Street Corner in South

There is a very special place for street corners in the collective heart of Buenos Aires. They are the mythical scenery of tango songs, places for lovers to meet and depart, places for enemies to engage with knifes and places for heroes to bleed to death.

There is a street corner in Boedo district of the city, the most famours street corner of them all. The intersection of streets San Juan and Boedo. The location of the legendary Bar Sur. Immortalized in countless legends and the famous tango Sur - "South". South refers here to the working class neighbourhoods of the southern Buenos Aires, where tango originally was born and where most of it's lyrical dramas are acted out.

The famous tango was composed by the legendary bandoneonist Aníbal Troilo, also known as El Gordo ("The Fatso"). The lyrics are penned by the equally legendary poet Homero Manci. It's a nostalgic, desparate lament of lost love and downfall of the beloved barrio:

paredón y después...
una luz de almacén...
Ya nunca me verás como me vieras,
recostado en la vidriera
y esperándote.
Ya nunca me alumbraré con las estrellas
nuestra marcha sin querellas
por las noches de Pompeya...
Las calles y las lunas suburbanas,
y mi amor y tu ventana
todo ha muerto, ya lo sé.

San Juan y Boedo antiguo, cielo perdido,
Pompeya y al llegar al terraplén,
tus veinte años temblando de cariño
bajo el beso que entonces te robé.
Nostalgias de las cosas que han pasado,
arena que la vida se llevó
pesadumbre de barrios que han cambiado
y amargura del sueño que murió.

A rather crude translation would be something like this:

The South,
a wall and after...
The South,
a light of corner-store...
Never will you look at me like you looked then
leaning in the window
and waiting.
Never will I light with the stars
our march without disputes
for the nights of Pompeya...
The streets and the suburban moons,
and my love and your window
everything dead, I know.

San Juan and ancient Boedo, lost sky,
Pompeya and arriving to the embankment,
your twenty years trembling with tenderness
under the kiss that I stole.
Nostalgies of the things that have passed,
sand the life swept away
sadness of the barrios that have changed
and bitterness of the dream that died.

It's probably my famourite tango song, one that still send cold waves running down my spine. Here's three versions for your enjoyment. A fatal, bone-chilling, merciless version performed by the great contemporary tango-diva Adriana Varela - think of Diamanda Galas singing tangos. One by the famous Argentinian rock artist Andrés Calamaro. And a classic version with the composer Aníbal Troillo on bandoneon and, speaking of legends, sung by the mighty Roberto Goyeneche.

Adriana Varela: Sur (zShare)
Andrés Calamaro: Sur (zShare)
Aníbal Troilo, Roberto Goyeneche y Su Orquesta Tipica: Sur (zShare)

The myth of South was also traced in the movie El Sur, from 1983, directed and written by Fernando E. Solanas. Here´s a clip from the beginning of the film, with Goyeneche performing the song.

All that remains now in the famous corner are a few rather cheesy tango joints, and a rumour has it that barrio might indeed be on a verge of a change: Some people think that it will become the next Palermo Soho, a trendy barrio of bars, clubs and fashion boutiques. Boedo definitely has it's own rundown charm, and at least it's still cheap enough for artists and such to live in. Whether the change would be for good or bad is a matter of opinion.

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