Gustavo Cirigliano

No, there are no larks

ith tango lyrics, and even with tango titles when the former were inexistent, we can draw a historiographical map of our country and, especially, of Buenos Aires. Everything can be found. Names and family names of characters that stood out, civilians or military, writers, some of their fictional characters, names of flowers, women, race horses, sportsmen, colors, birds and a never- ending list of situations that took place in our country.

A philosophy professor, who used to introduce the subject tango in his classes, once asked his students if anyone knew the name of a songbird of the family Alaudidae, 17 to 20 cm in length, with hind claws almost straight, long and sharp in each leg. As nobody answered, he added: it sings in flight the higher the louder. Of streaked brown plumage with mixed browns and grays above and light underparts. It builds nests on the ground, dwells in warm areas and all of us who listen to tango know it by name because it frequently appears in lyrics. Finally somebody uttered «the lark».

We may say it is the bird chosen by certain tango fantasy. Possibly, its name is a poetic appeal, a memory of some French and Spanish places because in those countries its name was used as sobriquet by show business women.

When we read lyrics we can find numerous names of bird: sparrows, doves, thrushes, calandra larks, horneros and many more. «Alouette», as it is named in France, is also a sweet and poetic word.

One of the students asked the awaited question: «Everything is quite instructive but what is the connection of lark with tango?» And the teacher answered: «Neither in Buenos Aires nor in the other areas of the country there are larks».

What happened, what did the songwriters think, who was the first one in mentioning it so that others would follow him? It’s impossible to know it as it is impossible to read all the existing lyrics and find some information to clear this out.

Below there are quotations of some stanzas of the few tangos that we remember. For example:

Barrio viejo” by Eugenio Cárdenas.
First stanza: Calles donde mi lindo barrio se alzó, / Calles que guardan mis recuerdos de ayer. / Vuelvo lo mismo que una alondra, / Trayendo en mis canciones / Los ecos de las frondas.

Malena” by Homero Manzi.
First stanza: Malena canta el tango como ninguna / Y en cada verso pone su corazón. / A yuyo del suburbio su voz perfuma, / Malena tiene pena de bandoneón. / Tal vez allá en la infancia / su voz de alondra / tomó ese tono oscuro de callejón.

Balada para un loco” by Horacio Ferrer.
First quatrain after the recited section: Quereme así piantao, piantao, piantao... / Trépate a esta ternura de locos que hay en mi, / Ponete esta peluca de alondras y ¡volá!, / volá conmigo ya, ¡vení, volá, vení!

Madame Ivonne” by Enrique Cadícamo.
Second stanza: Madame Ivonne, / la cruz del sur fue como el signo. / Madame Ivonne, / fue como el signo de tu suerte. / Alondra gris tu dolor me conmueve, / tu pena es de nieve... / Madamme Ivonne.

La vi llegar” by Julián Centeya.
First stanza: La vi llegar... / ¡Caricia de su mano breve! / La vi llegar... / Alondra que azotó la nieve. Amor, pude decirte / se funde en el misterio / de un tango acariciante / que gime por los dos.

Mamboretá” by Francisco García Jiménez.
Third stanza: Por el milagro la copa quiero alzar, / hoy es alondra / quien fue mamboretá. / Nada pregunto ni sospecho. / No sé lo que habrás hecho, / cansada de llorar.

Canto de ausencia” by Homero Manzi.
First quatrain: Tu ausencia me ha encerrado entre las sombras. / Oscura realidad de mi abandono. / Me llaman desde el alba las alondras, / y hundido en mi dolor ya no las oigo.

Eras como la flor” by Mario César Arrieta.
Final stanza: Así, / así te conocí / con tu pasado gris / desnudo en el teclado. / Y el corazón, / alondra volandera, / abierto en flor / al filo de las penas. / Y así, / desde que te perdí / desentrañando tu destino en notas. / Te recuerdo y te llevo en cada tango.

Here we have eight examples and in two of them the lark is connected with snow which produces an image with greater poetical strength or deeper drama. It is not the same to mention the bird in warm lands of the country fields of Spain or in certain areas of Africa which, in fact, are its customary habitat.

Lastly, below there are five numbers with the name of the inspirational bird: “Alondra”, under this title there are two tangos: the most often recorded has music by Nerón Ferrazzano and lyrics by Francisco García Jiménez; the other one belongs to Roberto Rufino with words by Andrés Falgas who, also, committed it to disc; “Alondras” by Alberto Soifer and José María Contursi; it has several recordings; “Mi alondra” by Oscar de la Fuente, recorded by Rodolfo Biagi with Hugo Duval and, lastly, “Una alondra en el Japón” by Rosaura Silvestre and Irma Lacroix which was recorded by the composer.