El Encopao
"The Drunk "

This is one of the dark tangos. The word “copa” means “cup”, so “El Encopao” is a man who takes too many cups… a drunk. It’s about someone who has given up; someone who doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. Rodriguez’ orchestra begins with the melody, using the piano to mark the compás. The bandoneons and strings play around the piano’s strong cadence, which should help you get warmed up and solidly into the music with your partner. Then Moreno begins in a voice that sounds almost like a cry of pain—a lost man, sitting alone with his alcohol:

EL ENCOPAO, Rodriguez Orchestra, Armando Moreno singing


They say I’m the "Man of the Bottle"...
those who don’t know
what happened to me.
They look at me like I’m nobody... 
but they can say what they say.
It doesn’t matter to me!

They call me the "Man of the Bottle…
someone who has lost his honor.
They don’t think that someone who kills
his rage with drink
has his reasons.

It makes no difference to her 
that I live like this.
I’m always in this corner bar
that no longer seems nice,
since she forgot me.

It makes no difference to her
that I live like this…
dizzy from drinks and memories, night and day,
day and night, for the love of my life.

Me dicen "El Encopao"...
los que no saben
lo que me ha pasa'o.
Y me ven hecho un cualquiera...
que digan lo que digan.
¡Que ya no me hacen mella!

Me llaman "El Encopao"...
como si el que anda así pierde el honor
Y no piensan que el que mata
su rabia entre copas
tiene su razon.

Total que le importa a ella
que viva como yo vivo.
Metido siempre en el boliche de esa esquina
que ha dejao de ser tan linda
por su olvido.

Total, que le importa a ella
que viva como yo vivo...
mareao de caña y de recuerdos, noche y dia,
dia y noche, por su vida que es mi amor.


On the previous page, I translated a part of Emoción as being critical of putting bad things in tango. A more literal translation is: “Why note bad examples in each line?” I suppose it reflects a generally conservative feeling among the people of the neighborhoods, and also of tango itself, that no matter what your problems are, you should still try to fit in and be part of society. Drinking heavily, or misbehaving in boliches (bars) may be accepted in other places, but it’s frowned upon in Argentina. Almost every small confiteria and bar in Argentina seems to have liquor bottles on the wall, but people rarely drink from them. In fact, if you ask for a mixed drink in most neighborhood bars, you’ll probably cause some confusion. It can be funny to see the waiter studying the dusty bottles on the shelf, trying to figure out what the heck “rum” or “vodka” is—or if it even exists. Most of the neighborhood “bars” in BsAs are really more for drinking coffee, or for having an occasional glass of wine and a sandwich. And in the milongas most people drink water (although sometimes tables will share a bottle of champagne or beer at night). So the guy in this song, drinking heavily in a place on the corner where families can see him, is definitely a “bad example”. Most Argentines wouldn’t like to see it, and some may not even think it's a good subject for tango.

I like the Rodriguez orchestra a lot. It has a very straightforward, driving, tango picado sound. For me, it’s very easy and natural for dancing, but Rodriguez with Moreno is not really on the “A” list of Golden Age orchestras. There is, however, another version of Encopao that is by an “A” list orchestra. Here it is: 

The Maestro
Francisco Fiorentino


El Encopao, Troilo Orchestra, Francisco Fiorentino singing


What do you think? This one’s from the maestro, and to me it sounds more polished. Fiorentino (pictured above) sings more smoothly, and he pauses more. At times he draws out the words, and tends to stray from the strict cadence—which of course is part of his artistic license. Sometimes the orchestra waits for him, sometimes it goes on ahead, and sometimes the orchestra just seems to go off on its own. And at times, things get a little jumbled up. It’s subtle, but if you can listen to the interplay between Troilo and Fiorentino—how they separate, and come back together in the cadences, you can use it when you dance. Actually though, they play the Rodriguez’ version more in the milongas—and I think I prefer it. There’s nothing sweet at all about this tango, and Rodriguez provides a sort of rough rendition for a rough tango.

Rodriguez falls pretty much within the mid-range of what is called tango picado. His music allows an infinite number of ways to play with the rhythms of tango—from the simplest, to the most complex—and if you are into it, the tango should just flow right out of you. It’s great for energetic milongueros who like to play and use quick cadences—Gerard, Tete, Napo, Jorge Uzunian, or the late Ricardo Vidort, for example. On the other hand, Troilo’s version may be a bit more complex and challenging for dancing. It moves more slowly, and it takes more concentration. At times you have to just stand and wait until Troilo and Fiorentino resolve their disagreements. While most of the milongueros would probably prefer Rodriguez’ Encopao, there are also some, like Ernesto Delgado, Julio Duplaa, and El Chino, who, I suspect, would like the Troilo version because of their more relaxed, cerebral style. (By the way, Encopao was composed by Pugliese.)

A couple of notes on Troilo: Piazzolla used to play in his orchestra, and drove him crazy by making funny noises during performances. He enjoyed seeing El Gordo turn around and glare at the orchestra, looking for the culprit. He finally had to quit when Troilo threatened to fire him... only to have other orchestra members begin to make noises, and pretend it was him. There is a lot of Troilo music, but the only really danceable tangos with lyrics are the ones with Fiorentino. When other musicians laughed at the super fast cadences D’Arienzo began to play, Troilo told them to shut up. “Without him, we’d all be out of work”, he said.  And while Fiorentino may have been his lead singer for the milongas, Troilo is quoted as saying the best instrument in all of tango is… the voice of Angel Vargas!

As always, you need to have the basics down cold: posture, step, and cadence. Rodriguez lets you warm up a little up by giving you a clear, strong dos por cuatro in the intro. Feel the story as you dance. Hum along. Step sharply on the strong beats, then work into hitting the weak beats. In Troilo’s version, Fiorentino draws out words, or runs through them quickly, so you need more pausing and swaying. And sometimes you just need to stop and wait for the compás to come back… but that’s okay, because tango isn’t a race. It takes time to get familiar with these differences, and being able to express that difference on the dance floor is advanced tango dancing. But the main thing is to have the music inside… and don’t run into anybody.