"Pensalo Bien"
"Think Carefully"

PENSALO BIEN                                


Can you identify the orchestra? For me, there are two clues. The first is the sharp, unique sound of the piano, which points to Biaggi. But if you listen to the old-fashioned, wavering violin (about 50 seconds in), you’ll find another hint. This is my personal way of quickly identifying D’Arienzo. He put the sound into some of his best tangos from the 1930s (when Biaggi was with him). As far as the singer, I’m a little embarrassed to say I didn’t recognize Echagüe at first. I guess I’m more used to his snarling tough-guy sound in El Nene del Abasto ("The Kid from Abasto") and Cartón Junado ("Well-Known Hoodlum"), instead of the pensive, “give me another chance” voice he uses here:


Think carefully
before taking this step...
because tomorrow,
you may not be able to step back.

Think carefully …
because I have loved you so much.
And now, you have thrown it away...
perhaps for another love.

Pensalo bien
antes de dar ese paso...
que tal vez mañana acaso
no puedas retroceder

Pensalo bien...
ya que tanto te he querido.
Y lo has echado al olvido...
tal vez por otro querer.


Nice! This is a great example one of the most interesting things in tango: Contradiction. The story is sad, but the music has an almost cheerful energy that can fool you. Obviously, you need to understand the lyrics in order to dance to it the right way—but there's more than that. Somehow, this combination of upbeat music and sad words, sung in Echagüe's hard, arrabal voice, makes the message even more poignant.


Music Identification Tip: D'Arienzo

The easiest way to identify D’Arienzo’s music from the mid-thirties is to listen for the bright sound of Biaggi’s piano, and that distinctive, wavering violin. We've already heard D’Arienzo use it to accent the music in Pensalo Bien, and El Cencerro. I think the way he uses it to offset the relentless bandoneon compás of Cencerro raises an average tango to the level of a masterpiece (at least for dancers).

This tango isn't a Cencerro, but it's still a very nice one that provides a clear example of Biaggi’s bright piano, and it also has that unforgettable violin, with D'Arienzo's bandoneons chunking away in the background. I included a few lines of Hector Mauré’s voice at the end (we’ll listen to him more later):

TIERRITA, D'Arienzo, Biaggi piano, Hector Mauré singing


Once your ear learns the old-fashioned sound of this violin and Biaggi's piano, you shouldn’t have any trouble identifying the D’Arienzo-Biaggi tangos... but the lyrics can fool you. Up until today, I thought Tierrita was about something nice. Mauré's voice sounds friendly enough, and Tierrita normally means "a nice little bit of land", so I figured he was probably singing about somebody's garden in Buenos Aires. But when I translated it, I found the tierrita in this tango actually refers to the selfishness inside the head of a young woman. And now that I know what the tango is about, I suddenly hear Mauré's words dripping with sarcasm instead of friendliness. We'll translate a few lines, but instead of using the unpleasant literal translation of "dirt in the head", I'll use "vain illusions ":

Why keep lying?
Go and look for someone, my little girl,
who can remove the vain illusions
you have inside your head...

Para qué seguir mintiendo?
Andá y buscate, mi hijita,
quién te saque la tierrita
que tenés en la cabeza...


Porteños love shrinks. BsAs has the highest ratio of psychiatrists to patients in the world, and it's funny that even in this very barrio, 70-year-old tango, this man is telling the girl she's a head-case, and needs psychiatric help! We're rolling with D'Arienzo, so let's do one more. On the next page we'll listen to how he and Mauré sounded ten years later.