Mano a mano (1923)

“Mano a mano” is one of the most famous tangos of Carlos Gardel‘s repertoire. It was originally written by Celedonio Flores with the music of Gardel and Jose Razzano. It was recorded for the first time in 1923.

Like many other tangos of the early 1920’s, “Mano a mano” is a sentimental song about a man who lost a woman. It is based on the personal story of a young singer named Nunciatta who told Celedonio Flores about his last love affair before he died of tuberculosis. Celedonio was moved and turned Nuciatta’s story into a poem which Carlos turned into a tango in the style of  Mi noche triste.

Carlos Gardel was not yet fully associated with tango at the time but “Mano a mano” became one of the highlights of his repertoire. The 1923 acoustic recording by Gardel was followed by another one in 1928 with microphone and electrical technologies.

“Mano a mano” was featured in the series of short films by Carlos Gardel in 1930, turning it one of the first video clips ever produced. [3] Other artists who recorded “Mano a mano” in the 1930’s include Charlo (1934), Francisco Canaro with Roberto Maida (1938) and Hugo del Carril (1939).

Following the prohibition of lunfardo in 1943, Celedonio Flores wrote an alternative version of “Mano a mano” whitout the controversial lunfardo terms. “Rechiflado en mi tristeza” was replaced by “Te recuerdo en mi tristeza” and so on. [2] This new version entitled “Con gomina” was hardly ever used by anyone but it was recorded by Francisco Lomuto with Alberto Rivera in 1944.

Since the prohibition was lifted in the 1950’s, “Mano a mano” has been interpreted by various prominent signers including Ranko Fujisawa (1955), Edmundo Rivero (1962), Julio Sosa (1961) and Roberto Goyeneche (1978). Recent recordings include pop, rock and ranchera versions by Julio Iglesias (1996), Andres Calamaro (2006) and Vicente Fernandez (2014).

Two alternative lyrics have been published to this day, one by Humberto Correa where the woman exposes her point of view and reveals the protagonist of “Mano a mano” was abandoned in the first place. The second is by Chilean Pepe Aguirre who depicts the protagonist as a man who neglected his  woman and got only what he deserved. [1] π

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

[2] Taboada, Pablo. La otra letra de Mano a mano. Investigación tango, 2013. Online http://www.investigaciontango.com/inicio/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=181:mano-a-mano-y-la-censura-lunfarda&catid=41:lunfardo&Itemid=61

[3] Rasore, Alberto. Gardel en los cortometrajes de 1930. Buenos Aires Antiguo, 2006. Online. http://www.buenosairesantiguo.com.ar/carlosgardel22.html

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