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Well-known Tangos sung by Carlos Gardel: A Media Luz and Yira... Yira (English Lyrics).

Updated on May 10, 2014

The 1930s, Years of Economic Depression

Even in years of hardship, the porteño will adorn his prized objects with fileteado art.
Even in years of hardship, the porteño will adorn his prized objects with fileteado art. | Source

Meaningful Tango

The Tango as part of the life and history of Buenos Aires
The Tango as part of the life and history of Buenos Aires | Source

My Tango series. Introduction to Part 7.

In this seventh part of my Tango Series, I refer to two internationally well known Tangos: A Media Luz and Yira, Yira. Both correspond to the Guardia Nueva Period, and were interpreted by Carlos Gardel, a sure sign of their value.

Their lyrics are somewhat less refined than the love songs normally presented by Gardel, as the topics are of a cruder nature, more typically “taken from the street”. In this sense, I find they portray the social and economic background of life in Buenos Aires at that time, and therefore can realistically be called folk-music.

In the case of these two compositions, Carlos Gardel did not write the music or the lyrics, but his interpretations are by far the most famous.

As in the previous parts of this series, I include historical aspects, details of the musical scores, free translations of the lyrics, and reproductions of the fileteado art, typical of Buenos Aires, also a product of the Tango periods. This art is used frequently in Buenos Aires to decorate houses, stores, street corners, subway stations, vehicles of all sorts, and anything that the porteño holds dear.

A review of the musical structures of the Tango as a genre is included in Part 2 of this series, and the significance of the historical periods on the evolution of the Tango, is included in Part 4.

(For my previous articles on the Tango, Part 6 will take you back through the series).

Well-known Tangos: A MEDIA LUZ and YIRA...YIRA

A much loved tricycle, with a picture of Carlos Gardel included in the fileteado art.
A much loved tricycle, with a picture of Carlos Gardel included in the fileteado art. | Source

Audio and Spanish lyrics for A MEDIA LUZ.

To introduce an authentic recording of this Tango, sung by Carlos Gardel, I will use some of the material compiled by This is by kind permision from the Director, and I freely attribute the collection that has been gathered there, it is very extensive, and has demanded a lot of work on the part of the organizers.

The version of A Media Luz, sung by Carlos Gardel and accompanied by the guitarists Barbieri and Ricardo, is well worth a visit, although with the considerations about the recording that have been explained on the left.

1.- A MEDIA LUZ (Guardia Nueva)

This Tango dates from 1925-1926, at the very beginning of the Guardia Nueva period. The lyrics appeared first, written by Carlos Cesar Lenzi. The music followed, composed by Edgardo Donato.

The words refer to an intimate bachelor’s residence (garçonniere), provided with soft lighting. There are two addresses cited in the lyrics (both are considered fictitious).

This song is so famous, that tourists have come from all over the world to visit the first address, Corrientes 348 (Corrientes is the name of a street). To satisfy this pressure in some degree, a fileteado sign was put up, depicting the words of the song, and providing the address. Officially, this place does not correspond to the words of the Tango, but it is a tribute to the genius that contributed to its creation. The people of Buenos Aires do love and revere their Tango music!

As to the music, all the elements of Tango structures are present, the most significant being the change in key from the verse (minor key), to the chorus (mayor key). There is ample use of arpeggios, and short scales which are repeated by moving a couple of notes up or down the keyboard. The chromatics are there, but few in number compared to other Tango music. The rhythm is very marked, with plenty of staccato, more in the style of the milonga than the Tango-cancion. This is probably due to the date it was composed. Another feature of the interpretation by Gardel, which is favored in my article over the many other versions, is the stark polyphony achieved by the two guitarists. Here there is no mellow violin wending in and out with a counter-tune, but the polyphony is there, nonetheless. All in all, an interesting example of this genre, and a tune which has traveled the world over.

My very free translation of the lyrics.

Verse 1.

-Corrientes three four eight,

take the elevator to the second floor.

-There are neither doormen nor neighbors,

only cocktails and love.

-Quarters installed by Maple,

a piano, a rug and a night-table…

a telephone that answers,

a phonograph that weeps,

and a porcelain cat

that won’t let love wail!


-And all in a half-light,

-With love bewitching…

-Kisses in the gloom,

-Two persons in the dimness

-The dusky interior,

-So like velvet,

-The half-light of love.

Verse 2.

Juncal twelve twenty-four,

Don’t be afraid to phone.

Of an afternoon, tea and pasties,

At night, tango and love;

On Sundays, thé danzante,

On Mondays, desolation.

The little place has everything,

Cushions and divans,

Store bought drinks,

Carpets that muffle sound,

And a table set for romance….

About the audio, by Carlos Gardel

On the right of this paragraph are the details for the audio version in the Todotango archive, with the corresponding link. However, I find the sound is not too good, as the guitars tend to overpower the voice. Nonetheless, it is a good opportunity for appreciating the counter-melody and the rhythmic beat interpreted by the instruments. For a clearer recording of the singer’s voice, I have chosen a video from Youtube. In spite of the fact that it is not really a video of Gardel in action, the recording is better and the still photos do show a varied and valuable selection of his very expressive face.

Carlos Gardel singing A Media Luz

"Street Sign" for the addres in A MEDIA LUZ

This is the sign placed on the fictitious address, an important tourist attraction in the Buenos Aires of today.
This is the sign placed on the fictitious address, an important tourist attraction in the Buenos Aires of today. | Source

Audio and Spanish lyrics for YIRA...YIRA...

Also from Todotango,, I am including the recording sung by Carlos Gardel, accompanied by the guitarists Aguilar, Barbieri and Riverol.

The recording dates from 1930, and corresponds to the Odeon company in Buenos Aires.

I am really grateful to the Director of this web page, for permitting the use of this material.

I hope you will take the time to listen to this version of Yira...Yira.

2.- YIRA ... YIRA... (Guardia Nueva).

This extremely well known and melodious Tango was composed in 1930 by Enrique Santos Discepolo, who also wrote the lyrics. It is a sad and melancholy tune, thereby reflecting the state of mind of the “man in the street” after the Wall Street crash of 1929. The effects of the collapse of the New York Stock Market were felt world-wide, and impacted heavily on Argentine economy, which at that time was based on the exportation of agricultural commodities, principally meat and flour.

The lyrics are harsh in their description of the pessimism and frustration that invades men’s lives, and the loss of faith in their fellow man. In a filmed dialogue with Carlos Gardel, the most famous interpreter, Discepolo describes his composition as a “song of loneliness and hopelessness”

Another characteristic of the lyrics is that they rely heavily on “Lunfardo” words and expressions. By using elements of the special argot of Buenos Aires, the writer associates this Tango even more closely to the “working-class man”. An interesting detail is that the various military dictatorships that frequently controlled Argentine in the subsequent years, invariably censored Discepolo’s work. They saw him as an anarchist and therefore, potentially dangerous.

The music is closer to the milonga in its characteristics, and it is definitely not a love song, as is more usually the case in the Tango-cancion. The usual elements of Tango structure are all there: the repeating notes, the short sections of melody that repeat either further up or further down the board, the polyphony represented by the second melody carried by the guitars, the sudden leaping intervals, the use of chromatics, especially in the verse. There is also a change of key, from the minor key of the verse, to the major key of the chorus, and then back to the minor for the second verse. The variety in the notes that are used throughout, is small, but is more than enough to produce this internationally famous melody. All in all, a masterpiece of the period.

My very free translation of the lyrics.

Note: mate* refers to the tea-like herb that the Argentine people consume at all hours of the day.

Verse 1.

-When Lady Luck is fickle,

and by weaving all over, leaves you at a standstill,

when you’re well on the way to despair, and aimless.

-When you’re without faith

and have no mate*

drying in the sun…

Verse 2.

-When you split your dancing shoes,

hoping for coins

that will allow you to eat…

The indifference of the world,

that is deaf and dumb,

you will now begin to feel.


-You’ll see that all is lies,

you’ll see there is no love,

that the world doesn’t care,


-Even if life breaks you,

even if you’re gripped by pain,

never expect any help,

nor a hand… nor a favor.

Verse 3.

-When the batteries

on all the bells you ring,

have run dry…

while you look for a brotherly chest

on which to die…. In an embrace….

Verse 4.

-When they discard you, penniless,

after exploiting you,

The same as myself,

-When you notice that next to you,

they’re trying on the clothes you’ll be leaving,

you’ll remember this fool,

who fed up, one day

started to howl…


-Even if life breaks you,

even if you’re gripped by pain,

never expect any help,

nor a hand… nor a favor.

About the video by Carlos Gardel, included bellow.

This is an authentic video of the period, and it starts off with a dialogue between Gardel and the composer, Discepolo. Gardel is sideways to the camera, and the composer is facing forwards. This small interlude was actually recorded in this fashion, when this film made its debut in Buenos Aires. The quality is not too good, but is an excellent sample of the development of filming in Buenos Aires at that time (1930).

Carlos Gardel singing Yira...Yira

Concluding Remarks.

These two Tangos, A Media Luz, and Yira,..Yira, are both excellent examples of a genuine portrait of the prevailing conditions in Buenos Aires at that time. The first one projects a feeling for the comfortable life of the well-to-do classes, and the second one is true to the sentiments of the “man in the street”. This is the essence of the Tango, it is an art that is very much “of the people”, a veritable urban folklore. That is probably the main clue to its long and healthy life as a musical genre. Long may it last!

© 2012 joanveronica (Joan Robertson)

The Art of Fileteado, another urban genre

Many loving hours were spent decorating this truck. This is the essence of the fileteado art of Buenos Aires
Many loving hours were spent decorating this truck. This is the essence of the fileteado art of Buenos Aires | Source


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    • joanveronica profile imageAUTHOR

      Joan Veronica Robertson 

      8 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

      Hi, scarytaff, nice to hear from you! I obviously love Tango music, and I would suggest you review the other articles in that series, there are 8 in all so far. You will enjoy the music and the lyrics, I think. The whole genre of the Tango is one huge structure, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Glad you like the hub and thanks for the visit!

    • scarytaff profile image

      Derek James 

      8 years ago from South Wales

      Great hub, joanveronica. I love this music. Twanging guitars always get me going. One of my favourite tenors is Placido Domingo.

    • joanveronica profile imageAUTHOR

      Joan Veronica Robertson 

      8 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

      Hi Claudio, nice of you to visit and it's good to hear from you. You are doing well, I imagine! Thank you for your comment!

    • profile image

      Claudio Muller 

      8 years ago

      Excellent article like the previous ones. I'm glad to see how you get a lot of fun doing this new "job". Regards from Bmore as people say here...

    • joanveronica profile imageAUTHOR

      Joan Veronica Robertson 

      8 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

      Hi Cesar, I'm glad you like the articles, all of them are written from the heart, as the Tango merits! The Tango is an art that is very full of feeling. Glad to hear from you again. Have a good day

    • profile image

      Cesar Alvial 

      8 years ago

      Excellent articles, thanks for provide more information about this wonderful art.


      César Alvial

    • joanveronica profile imageAUTHOR

      Joan Veronica Robertson 

      8 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

      Thank you Susana, glad you liked it! The lyrics are not easy to translate, first you have to really grasp the intention of the creator and then try to maintain the same level of beautiful expression. Tango lyrics are usually very rich in feeling and beauty.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      You never let me down Joan! What a wonderful new article. Really well written and the lyrics very well translated.

    • joanveronica profile imageAUTHOR

      Joan Veronica Robertson 

      8 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

      Wow, thanks Marcelo! Glad to hear from you too, how are you doing! Still reviewing your English, I hope! Best wishres and have a good day.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Dear Joan,

      I´m happy to know about you! with your great tango articles. Your vision and experience about this rhythm is amazing. I consider that your point of view stories is worthy of an experienced columnist of a renowned magazine.

      Best Regards,

      Marcelo Aqueveque


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