Mi noche triste (1917)

“Mi noche triste” is regarded as the first tango canción or tango song. It was recorded by Carlos Gardel in 1917 with the lyrics of Pascual Contursi and the music of “Lita” by Samuel Castriota.

The story features a man talking in his imagination to the woman who left him. He tells her how he misses her in little details of everyday life and describes familiar domestic objects which have gone missing or became useless; the guitar isn’t making any sound, the lamp doesn’t produce anymore light and yet he leaves the door open at night in case she comes back.

The style is simple but sets a new standard for tango lyrics in terms of conveying intimate emotions and developing into a complete story line. Before “Mi noche triste“, tango lyrics had been composed by performers of the guardia vieja such as Ángel Villoldo and Alfredo Gobbi but they were infrequently used and often limited to a refrain which did not allow for  such a deep exploration of the characters and their story.

“Mi noche triste” was first interpreted by Contursi himself in the cabarets of Montevideo where he used to perform at the beginning of his career. It was originally entitled “Pecanta que me amuraste” which in lunfardo means “woman (lover) who isolated (abandoned) me” and corresponds to the now famous first line of the song.

Percanta que ma amuraste en lo mejor de mi vida, 

dejandome el alma herida y espinas en el corazon

When Carlos Gardel came to Montevideo in 1917 he discovered “Percanta que me amuraste” and recorded it in 1917 under the title of “Mi noche triste.” This was the first tango he ever included in his repertoire. Gardel also recommended the song be included in a theatrical piece, a sainete entitled “Los dientes del perro” which was performed at the Teatro Esmeralda with the orchestra of Roberto Firpo. The success of the new tango was such that other authors quickly began composing in that style and Carlos Gardel became the voice of the new  tango canción.  

“Mi noche triste” was not the first tango written by Contursi but is known as the first tango song because of its popularity and the profound impact it had on the evolution of tango. Its success is the first of a chain of events that led to the renovation of tango and the creation of the guardia nueva.

There is a 1952 movie by Lucas Demare entitled “Mi noche triste” based on the life of Pascual Contursi. π

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[1] Del Priore, Oscar, and Irene Amachástegui. Cien tangos fundamentales. Buenos Aires: Aguilar, 1998.

[2] Gobelle, José. Mujeres y hombres que hicieron el tango. Librerias Libertador, 2002. Print.

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