Trasnochador:  someone who goes to bed late or not at all.

Calavera: a skull; (slang) someone who lives it up.



Each of the tangos I’ve included in this section has memories attached to it. There was a time when I was staying up very late and hanging out with the milongueros—and this tango seemed to be talking to me personally. I didn’t really know the words, but I absorbed its message from a couple of phrases: “Trasnochando… como todo calavera, que no ve lo que espera” and, “mis mejores companeros, los muchachos milongueros.” So now, every time I hear the plaintive notes at the beginning of this tango, the memories of my first two years in BsAs come flooding back: “Out all night like all the lost people who can’t see what awaits them… my best pals, my buddies the milongueros.”

Buenos Aires is home now, but at that time it seemed very exotic and far away. And in retrospect, I think it was a time in my life when I must have been feeling a little anxiety… because for me this tango has an ominous undercurrent that triggers the kind of nagging uneasiness I used to feel in school when I was screwing around and not going to classes. Or maybe the feeling you get when you wake up late with a hangover and know you probably did some pretty stupid things the night before. My first year down here, I really should have been back home in the States, doing healthy things and working—but I wasn’t. I was halfway around the world, playing around all night in the cigarette smoke. And time was passing. 

“Out all night like all those ‘skulls’ that can’t see what awaits them!”  Yikes! Did you ever get that cold shiver that says, someday my friend, you really will be just a skull? For me this tango is like “La Cumparsita”. It seems to trigger those feelings of mortality that we all deal with—those scary feelings of things slipping away. But then, it also evokes images of the colors in the Buenos Aires streets late at night… that sort of hazy yellow color from the streetlights that you see when you leave a milonga. And if I hear it when we are back in the U.S., I instantly begin to miss Buenos Aires. Here it is:


TRASNOCHANDO, Miguel Calo con Raul Berón


Out all night...
like all skulls,
that can’t see what awaits them...
who don’t know where to go.

I rejected
your advice, my good friend…
we were almost enemies
because you told me the truth.

They were always…
my best companions…
my buddies the milongueros…
gamblers—and something more. 

And with them,
night after wasted night,
with drinks, dancing, and fun…
this is a life that is gone.

The nightlife I knew...
and the woman that you know.
I don’t want repeat
what I told you last night.

All… I lost it all.
The only thing of hers I kept
is that photo,
and now I don’t want to see it.

You, my friend, who knows it all,
tomorrow when you come,
you can keep that photo,
or throw it away, or tear it up. 

For me, it’s all the same.
Do what you want.
I don’t want to see her anymore,
nor to think about what she was to me.

como todo calavera,
que no ve lo que le espera,
…que no sabe donde va.

tus consejos, buen amigo…
casi fuimos enemigos
por decirme la verdad.

Siempre fueron…
mis mejores compañeros…
los muchachos milongueros…
jugadores y algo mas.

Y con ellos…
noche a noche derrochaba,
entre copas baile y farras…
esta vida que se va.

Trasnochando conoci,
la mujer que vos sabes.
No quisiera repetir
lo que anoche te conte

Todo... todo lo perdi.
Solo de ella conserve
esa foto que hay alli,
y que ya no quiero ver.

Vos que todo lo sabes
mañana cuando venis,
esa foto la guardas
a tiras o la rompes.

Para mi lo mismo da.
Vos hace lo que queres.
No la quiero más mirar,
ni pensar lo que ella fue.



This really is a beautiful tango, and Calo is one of Alej’s favorite orchestras. His music is probably more in the De Caro camp (De Caro is more orchestral and smooth; D’Arienzo is more picado and rhythmic), and she likes to dance to it with some of the really smooth milongueros like Nestor or Miguelito. 

These discussions always seem to return to the duality of tango. No matter how soft and sweet the Golden Age tangos get, they never throw away the sharp compás. It may rest, or hide, but it always comes back. This is one of the things that makes tango what it is. Listen to the first 10 seconds of “Trasnochando”. It’s mostly orchestra… but Calo’s piano lurks in the background, softly marking the dos por cuatro, before it bursts out. Throughout the piece, the piano leaves, and then returns. The orchestra soars at 0:00, 0:20, 0:39, 1:30, 1:50, wherever... but the piano and the bandoneon always sneak back with their sharp tango cadence.