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January 2013
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Bits and Pieces from Buenos Aires

Translated tango 3

January 14, 2013

Time for another wonderfully translated tango by Coby Lubliner. This time it’s a real classic, “Cambalache” (Junk Shop), hailed as a social x-ray of all times – it was written in 1934!  Try singing it with one of the great tango singers of all time, Julio Sosa (the words in English fit perfectly). Not advisable if you’re on a bad day.


Music and lyrics by Enrique Santos Discépolo – Translation by Coby Lubliner (used with permission)

The world’s a filthy place and always will be, that I knew…
(In fourteen-ninety-two
And in two thousand, too!)
There always have been thieves and
Machiavellians and their marks,
Embittered or like larks,
Some worthy and some not…
But that the present century’s a riot
Of audacious evil,
No one can deny it..
We’re wallowing in ooze that is primeval
And in one same mudflat all together parked!…

But today it doesn’t matter
If you’re honest or a crook!
Wise man, ignoramus, swindler,
Cheating, living by the book!
It’s all the same! Now up is down!
An ass is like a scholar of renown!
No one’s ahead, no ones behind,
Those with no morals have caught up with us..
One lives as a phony creature
And another robs us blind,
It’s the same if he’s a preacher,
Mattress dealer, king of diamonds,
Or a cheat of any kind!…

What disrespect, what disregard for reason past belief!
Now anyone’s a chief!
And anyone’s a thief!
Mixed up with old Stavisky,
Come Don Bosco and the Tart,
Don Chicho, Bonaparte,
Carnera, San Martin…
Yes, just as in the junk-shop windows that show
No respect for order,
Life is in confusion,
And you’ll see, wounded by a rusty sword, a
Bible crying right up ’gainst a shopping cart!

Yes, our age is like a junk shop,
Hectic, without any rules…
Those who don’t squeak get no grease and
Those who will not steal are fools.
Go on and then go on some more!
We’ll meet in hell ‘cause that’s what lies in store!
Don’t think too much, take someone’s part!
No one cares if you’ve got an honest heart!
One who day and night is slaving
Like an ox is just the same
As the one who lives off others,
As one killing, as one saving
Lives or in a life of shame.


by bitsandpieces. Find out more about bitsandpieces here.

Categories: Tango