Luis Grandona


There are probably around two thousand recorded tangos that are suitable for dancing… so if you could play only one piece of music for a friend who had no idea at all about tango, which would you select? Well, I suppose you should pick a tango that in some ways represents all the others… and of course, you’d want to choose one of your favorites. So here’s my first pick. Most people probably wouldn’t put this orchestra or this singer at the top of the list of all time greats. In fact, many would consider this tango to be from the middle of the pack… but for me it’s a diamond. And it contains most of the things every great tango should have:

GLORIA, De Angelis orchestra, Carlos Dante singing


CHAN CHAN!  ...two sharp chords from a single bandoneon. Then rest of the orchestra quickly marches in with the dos por cuatro… there’s a pause… and Dante begins in his classic tango voice:

Tenes vento sos un gran señor…pero a nadie ya vas a engrupir

It makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up every time! A couple of years ago I began to take language classes in BsAs just to help me with the maddening task of translating tango lyrics. My professor doesn’t have much interest in tango, but when I played this tango for her, and she heard that line for the first time, she just said “Wow!” ...and then she began to laugh. The phrase means, “You have money… you’re a great man... but you're not fooling anybody!” The line, however, contains a lot more information than that. Just from that one line, someone with a good knowledge of the Spanish speaking world could place the speaker’s location. First, the use of the verb “sos” points toward Argentina. Second, the use of the Italian word “vento” for money (it actually means “wind” in Italian) is part of the peculiar street slang of Buenos Aires. And finally, the snarling, nasal voice of Dante clinches it. He is singing in the accent of the BsAs neighborhoods. The words and sound of this single sentence can mean only one thing: Argentine Spanish, Lunfardo slang, and the accent of the barrios of Buenos Aires. In short, Tango.

I suggest listening through casually a few times to become familiar with the rhythms and the phrasing of this tango. This is music that absolutely pulls you onto the floor, and demands all the tools of tango dancing. It marches, pauses, builds, fades, and then dramatically builds again… while Dante’s voice works in and around the compás. It’s impossible for me to sit when this music is played. Good DJs usually don’t begin a tanda with it—they wait for the floor to fill up first.

I once found myself sitting across the table from Elba Biscay, and I happened to mention how much I liked “Gloria”. She just looked at me and said: “Tenes vento sos un gran señor, pero nadie ya vas a engrupir...”, and she continued all the way through, reciting every single word! She’s not a tango singer—she had just picked it up from years of listening and dancing in the milongas.

So what's this tango about? If you don’t speak Spanish, it may surprise you. “Gloria” is not a woman’s name. It means “glory”, and although the singer is a man, he is singing the words of a woman. Also, this story puts a twist on a traditional tango theme. Because there were so few women in old BsAs, many tango songs are about a poor man in the barrio whose woman has left him for someone with more status. But here, the woman (in the unlikely voice of Carlos Dante), is telling a rich playboy to go away. I don’t plan to do literal and complete translations of most tangos in this section, but I want to do it here, because this one’s worth it. Stick with me on this one. The rest will be easier. Dante sings:


You have money—you’re a great man,
but you're not fooling anyone
with your phony words of love.
You’re wasting time—you need to move on.

From the start, old friend,
I was wise to your playboy act.
But I know you too well,
so go knock on another door!

Old-timer, I wish you well, but you must go!
My beauty is not a flower for your lapel;
the glorious things you offer
need to be saved for your old age.

Young women aren't love toys...
you need to understand that they have feelings.
You need to see that the cane of a rich man
doesn’t bring pleasure...
so don’t make a fool of yourself!

I don’t aspire to fun and champagne,
nor to live in a fancy hotel,
nor to the sports car you offer me...
this is a story I know too well.

To end to this discussion,
here's some healthy advice:
Go buy a comb,
and comb these silly dreams out of your attic!

Tenés vento, sos un gran señor...
pero a nadie ya vas a engrupir
con tus frases de mentido amor.
Perdés tiempo, ya podés seguir.

Desde el pique, viejo, te juné
la intención de hacerte el gigolo.
¡Pero yo que te conozco bien,
a otra lado golpeá al porton!

¡Viejito, salud, podés espiantar!
que mi juventud no es flor pa' tu ojal;
la gloria que vos querés ofrecer
guardala mejor, vivi tu vejez.

Las chicas no son juguetes de amor...
pero has de saber tienen corazón.
Asi ya que ves, el baston de bacán
piantale al placer...
no hagas papelón.

No pretendo farras ni champán,
ni vivir en un petit hotel,
ni la vuaturé que vos le das….
ese cuento lo conozco bien.

Y un consejo sano te daré
pa' ponerle al dialoguito fin:
¡Que comprés un peine
y te saqués del altillo el berretín!


Wow. These are lyrics that walk a fine line between aggression and sympathy. To me, the sympathy in this tango (and in many others as well) is an expression of the basic gentleness of the Argentines. This song could drip with meanness and contempt—which is probably what would happen in the harder culture of the U.S. We would rip this pompous rich guy (“Hey Mr. Big Stuff, who do you think you are?”). But this tango isn’t a rant—the woman shows restraint, and gives some sincere advice. Look at the line “viejo, te june”. Literally, it means, “old man, I’m on to you.” But I don't think “viejo” is used here as an insult. The use of “viejo” (old) or “gordo” (fat) in Argentina is a term of endearment between friends. But the second use of the term, (“Viejito, salud, podes espiantar!”) is more sarcastic. In this case she’s not using “viejito” as “old friend”, but probably more like “old timer”—an insult to an older man.

This tango has some nice metaphors. She says she won’t be a “flower for the lapel”, where today, we might use the term “arm candy”. When she says “desde el pique”, it means from the first bounce, as in the first bounce of a soccer ball at the beginning of a match: “From the first bounce, old friend, I was wise to you”. And the best of all is the last line. I can actually remember people laughing and repeating it in the milongas before I knew what it meant: “You need to go buy a comb, and comb these stupid ideas out of your hair!” Hence, the title, “Glory”. Of course, it’s not real glory. It’s about the illusion of glory that this ridiculous ladies' man is carrying around in his head.


Well, that took a bit of work. Like many tangos, it contains a mix of languages (in this case, castellano, Italian, lunfardo, and even a French word), and it has some street slang that probably went out of common usage 50 years ago. What should you do with it? Whatever you want, of course. After my profesora first helped me unravel these lyrics, I left the class and began walking down Suipacha on the way to the subway. It was a cold afternoon, and I was casually holding the translated page and reading as I walked along the crowded sidewalk. Then I began to hum the words and the music, and suddenly I was feeling this tango in new way. This unpretentious piece of music suddenly began coming through in vivid colors. I was transported. I walked along through the crowds, moving to the notes and the words—and I ended up walking two blocks past the entrance to the subte without even noticing it! Then I realized something: I was finally experiencing this music the way that the milongueros and milongueras feel it.

By the way, there is an earlier version of Gloria that they also play in the milongas. It has a very different feel, and no lyrics—but if you get to know the De Angelis version, this other version may become quite a bit more interesting. I find myself dancing to it with the same passion, but in a different way. It begins in the older marching style of the guardia vieja, but notice how toward the end, the music takes on a plaintive tone—almost a note of sadness—maybe for the way men waste so much time chasing delusions of glory. (Alej doesn’t seem to mind that sometimes I supply a few of the words as we dance.) If you get to know Dante’s lyrics first, you may find it interesting to see how it affects the way you hear Francisco Canaro’s version. Here it is (Canaro wrote the music of this tango, and his first orchestra, Quinteto Don Pancho, plays this version):


Francisco Canaro

GLORIA, Quinteto Don Pancho

(Note: If you want to see how a great milonguero uses the cadences of this tango, there's a
short clip of Roberto Noli and Adriana dancing to it in Chapter 6.)