Transcription: Warren Edwardes (c) 2018-04-06

Translation: Warren Edwardes (c) 2018-04-06

More Transcriptions and Translations

Note that many tango lyrics published on the internet are the officially submitted lyrics and not what was actually sung at the time of recording. These vary from recording to recording.

These are my own transcriptions and translations.


Orquesta Juan d'Arienzo c. Alberto Echagüe

Recorded on 1947-06-19

Music: Enrique Santos Discépolo 1935

Lyrics: Enrique Santos Discépolo 1935


El mundo fue y será una porquería,

Ya lo sé;

En el quinientos seis

Y en el dos mil también;

Que siempre ha habido chorros,

Maquiavelos y estafaos,

Contentos y amargaos

Valores y dubles,

Pero que el siglo veinte es un despliegue

De malda' insolente

Ya no hay quien lo niegue;

Vivimos revolcaos en un merengue

Y en un mismo lodo todos manoseaos.

Hoy resulta que es lo mismo

Ser derecho que traidor,

Ignorante, sabio, chorro,

Generoso, estafador.

Todo es igual; nada es mejor;

Lo mismo un burro que un gran profesor

No hay aplazaos, ni escalafón;

Los inmorales nos han igualao.

Si uno vive en la impostura

Y otro roba en su ambición,

Da lo mismo que si es cura,

Colchonero, rey de bastos,

Caradura o polizón.

Que falta de respeto,

Que atropello a la razón;

Cualquiera es un señor,

Cualquiera es un ladrón.

Mezcla'os con Stavinsky,

Van Don Bosco y la mignón,

Don Chicho y Napoleón,

Carnera y San Martín

Igual que en la vidriera irrespetuosa

De los cambalaches

Se ha mezcla'o la vida,

Y herida por un sable sin remaches

Ves llorar la biblia contra un calefón.

"Shambles" [Literal Translation]

The world was and always will be a mess,

I already know that;

In the year 506

And in 2000 as well

There always have been thieves,

Machiavellians and scammers,

The contented and the bitter

Values and qualms

But the twentieth century displays

An insolent evil

There is no denying it;

We live wallowed in a merengue

And in the same mud all groping around

Today it all is the same

Be straight or a traitor,

Ignorant, wise, thief,

Generous, swindler.

Everything is the same; nothing is better;

It's the same to be a donkey or a great teacher

There is no sliding down or climbing up;

Immorality has overtaken with us.

If one lives in falsehood

And another steals in his ambition,

It does not matter if he's a priest,

A mattress seller or powerful "King of Clubs",

A crook or a tramp.

What a lack of respect,

That I trample over the truth;

Anyone is a gentleman,

Anyone is a thief.

Mixing with Stavinsky [the crook]

Go Saint Don Bosco and the tart,

[Mafioso] Don Chicho and Napoleon,

Carnera [the pugilist] and [Patron] Saint Martín

As in the coarse shop window

Of the shambolic bazaar

Life has been mixed

And wounded by a hook

You see the Bible crying by a water boiler.


A question was asked at a seminar on Argentine culture:

  • What part of the lyrics of the song "Cambalache" by Enrique Santos Discépolo would you modify so that it is more in keeping with the reality that is experienced in the present?

The answer was brief:

  • I would change where it says "20th Century" and insert "21st century". Nothing else.

This song is highly politically charged. It is disillusioned, cynical and mocking it illustrates how the twentieth century is hard and unjust. But that could apply to any century.

That's powerful. So I dug deep into the song. Apparently, it is regarded as an unofficial Argentine National Anthem.

Cambalache literally means flea market or bazaar. But here it means disorder; a real mess; a shambles. It is a song about political oppression, corruption and mismanagement in Argentina and accordingly was banned by several of the military administrations.

It is rife with Lunfardo words the Italiante underclass slang of Buenos Aires and Rosario.

afana (rob), aplazaos (failures), calefón (heater), chorro (thief), dublés (false coins), gil (idiot), labura (work), maldá (evil).

Rey de Bastos = King of Clubs (literally). This is from the Tarot pack. So "work" or "power".

Stavinsky [A Buenos Aires based French origin crook and not Stravinsky the Russian composer],

Saint Don Bosco [Patron Saint of teachers]

Don Chicho [The head of the Argentine mafia] and Napoleon [the French Emperor]

Carnera [An Italian boxer]

San Martín [General José de San Martín, liberator of Argentina, Peru and Chile]

It is all about contradictions and hypocrisy in society.

"Wounded by a hook you see the Bible crying against a water boiler" is about torn pages from a Protestant evangelist issued Bible pierced by a hanging hook in toilets to be used as toilet paper.

The song Cambalache has an important position in Argentine society. President Macri recited a section of the poem in parliament.

El día en que Macri cambió a Queen por el tango Cambalache Source:

All in all quite an angry powerful song.