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 a 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” as in 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 met Pascual Contursi and accepted to include this very peculiar tango to his repertoire and in 1917 he recorded it under the title of “Mi noche triste.” This was the first tango Carlos Gardel ever included in his repertoire. Back in Buenos Aires it was presented as a part of the sainete “Los dientes del perro” and performed at the Teatro Esmeralda by the orchestra of Roberto Firpo.

The success of “Mi noche triste” was such that many other other tangos were composed in that style. A new genre of tango song quickly emerged and gained popularity through other sainetes and through the voice of Carlos Gardel.  

Though “Mi noche triste” was not the first tango to be written by Pascual Contursi, it is known as the first tango song because of its popularity and the profound impact it had on the evolution of tango. The success of Mi noche triste” is a part of a chain of events that led to the renovation of tango and the emergence 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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