Enrique Santos Discepolo

Enrique Santos Discepolo was a successful poet, playwright, actor, movie director and screenwriter. He is the author of some of the most praised and deeply existentialist tango lyrics including those of Yira yira“, “Uno” and “Cambalache”.

Discepolo was born in the neighbourhood of Balvanera in 1901. His father was a musician from Napoli who died when Enrique was only 5 years old. Having lost his mother also by the age of 8, he experience the pain of becoming an orphan as a child and went to live with his older brother, Armando Discepolo, a successful young playwright who was 14 years older than him.

Following the footsteps of his brother Armando, Enrique made his debut as an actor in 1917. One year later he wrote his own play and became a renowned playwright with “El Organito” premiered at the Teatro Nacional in 1925.

Discepolo wrote his first tango in 1926 for a play by José Saldías entitled “La porota”. Since the phenomenal success of “Mi noche triste” as a part of the saineteLos dientes del perro” in 1918, it was common for tango songs of a new genre to be premiered and popularized as a part of a play. However, this first tango by Discepolo entitled “Bizcochito” didn’t have much substance to it. It never gained popularity and remains forgotten to this day.

It was not long after “Bizcochito” that Discepolo found his voice as a poet and profoundly cynical observer of social reality. Soon after he wrote “Que vachache” followed by “Esta noche me emborracho”, and by 1928 these two tangos were gaining a lot of attention through the interpretations of popular signers Azucena Maizani and Tita Merello.

Carlos Gardel recorded many of Discepolo’s first tangos including “Yira Yira(1929), which he selected to produce one of his famous video clips in 1930, contributing largely to reinforce the notoriety of Discepolo as a poet of tango.

Throughout the 1930’s Discepolo wrote various musicals and composed many more tangos including “Cambalache (1934), “Desencanto (1937) and “Alma de bandoneón (1935). He traveled to Europe and began working as an actor, movie director and screenwriter.

In the 1940’s he wrote some of his most important pieces including “Uno (1943) “Canción desesperada (1944) and “Cafetín de Buenos Aires” (1948), all while continuing his career in cinema and theater.

Censorship affected Discepolo under the military government in 1943 as “Cambalache and “Unowere banned. Discepolo was among the authors who took action to lift the prohibition under the government of Peron in 1949.

Discepolo was happily married to tango singer Tania. He died of cancer in 1951.


[1] Tango: Cien anos de historia (Vol. III). Buenos Aires: Editorial Perfil, 1992. Print.

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

[3] Peña, Alberto. Recopilación antologica para una sociología tanguera. Buenos Aires: Corregidor, 1998.

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