A Tango Microcosm: Why You’ll Never Get Tired of ‘Fueron Tres Años’

We all have our favorite go-to tango songs, ones when are played, we feel an inexplicable urge to bobble-head like crazy to get our cabeceos and be swept off to the dance floor. Or ones that trigger the itchy-finger-syndrome to constantly hit repeat in our mp3 players and car radios. So why is that? Is it the beat? The rhythm? The lyrics? The familiarity from having listened to it a gazillion times?

Personally, I think it is a combination of all that, but most significantly this new-found fact that some operas and classical pieces are found to be perfectly in harmony with our body’s natural rhythm, thus lowering our blood pressure when we listen to them. I think it is safe to claim tango as a part of the classical music category, what with our abundance of bandoneon, violin, contrabass and piano interaction.

While studies have not been conducted yet on specific pieces of tango music and how it affects our body’s rhythm and heart rate, I believe this is the reason why some pieces of tango music are easier to ‘consume’ than others, keeping us coming back for more no matter how many times we listen to them (Café Dominguez and En Tus Brazos, anyone?). And we have hundreds of tango songs; even if just 10% of those songs have that natural sync with our body rhythm, that would explain one part of the addictiveness and health benefits of Argentine tango.

Another reason, I’ve found, is the relatability of the context. There are all sorts of reasons people are drawn to tango, but there is no mistaking its underlying tone – that constant, twisted yearning of reaching out for something and not quite getting it. And frustration. Lots of it. We as humans are conditioned to be slightly dissatisfied with our lives, and that is how we have historically achieved progression. But it’s also a source of pain for us. That is why tango is such an every-man’s dance.  In tango, dissatisfaction is amplified with words, a voice and a heartbeat.

In my last article, I wrote about how we can live and die an entire life in the microcosm of a song. To demonstrate, let’s deconstruct an all-time crowd-favorite, Fueron Tres Años [Translation: It has been three years].

No me hablas tesoro mio,
no me hablas ni me has mirado
Fueron tres años, mi vida…
tres años muy lejos de tu corazon.

Hablame, rompe el silencio…
no ves que me estoy muriendo,
y quitame este tormento
por que tu silencio ya me dice adios…

You don’t speak to me, my darling,
You haven’t spoken nor regarded me
For three years, my darling,
Three years far from your heart.

Speak to me, break this silence,
Don’t you see that I am dying?
Take away this torment,
Because your silence is already telling me goodbye.

Like the first few instrumental bars in the introduction, we start off in life a little reckless, blissfully unaware of the meaning of consequences. We are powerful, with boundless energy to take on the world and overflowing with an abundance of love to give to the first person to take it.  As we start making choices, thus defining our path with every step, we start to reflect on the direction in which we are heading. Sometimes, it is a metaphorical bed of roses. Other times, we blunder on, never knowing what we’re doing or where we’d end up. Some choices are less consequential than others. And then we make THE one choice that makes a turning point in our lives. Everyone has had, or will have that moment, whether it is through love, a tragedy, a relocation, a career move, or an interest activity. That turning point could have originated from a good decision, or the consequence of a bad one. Hence the start of the lyrics:-

A man sings a plaintive entreaty, bringing to mind all the suffering of years past. Of regret, choices made, paths not taken, opportunities wasted. Years spent trapped in a psychological cage of sorts. The frustration is palpable the minute the haunting words fill out the accompanying violin. Here is where we relate – our choices sometimes leads us down to different life paths and maybe we lose our way, but a lot of the time, it would be too late by the time we realize our mistakes. This is because we all have a pattern of realizing mistakes through hindsight. So we blunder on, and in tango we glide on, tapping, hooking and sweeping out our regret as we go.



Qué cosas que tiene la vida!
Qué cosas tener que llorar!
Qué cosas que tiene el destino,
Será mi camino sufrir y penar.
Pero deja que bese tus labios,
un solo momento, y después me voy;
y quítame este tormento,
porque tu silencio ya me dice adiós.

How life is!
Having to cry!
Circumstances that destiny has!
It will be my path to suffer and to grieve.
But let me kiss your lips,
just for a moment, and then I will go;
and take away this torment,
because your silence is already telling me goodbye.

This part of our lives is where we let the helplessness of our humanity wash over us like a tidal wave. We realize that we are powerless to do anything but to plow through the path we’ve been dealt. Here tango teaches us acceptance, and if not so, then at least to grit our teeth and endure the scratches from the twisted brambles shrouding the pathway. Because we will heal. Our capacity to heal is greater than we realize, and so after a while we learn to anticipate the things in life that draw blood, and wait for when it stops hurting. Although he sings about love, we can feel the same emotion about our destiny, careers, home lives, etc.



Aún tengo fuego en los labios,
del beso de despedida.
Cómo pensar que mentías,
si tus negros ojos lloraban por mí?
Hablame, rompé el silencio!
No ves que me estoy muriendo?
Y quítame este tormento,
porque tu silencio ya me dice adiós.

I have still that fire on my lips,
of the goodbye kiss.
How to think that you were lying,
if your dark eyes were crying for me?
Talk to me, break this silence!
Can’t you see that I’m dying?
And take away this torment,
because your silence is already telling me goodbye.

And now the curse of remembrance, of hindsight. It replays before our mental eyes like a video stuck on repeat and rewind. Questions like ‘why?’ ‘How could it be?’ and ‘What if?’ appear like an annoying voice-over to every mental replay of a situation we felt could have been done better. We get frustrated with ourselves because we didn’t have the mental capacity, or the edification to act ideally at that point in history. And so the self-torment continues, up until the day you lie on your deathbead. This is the part where we feel that we are constantly walking the path we lined by choices we made in the past. And sometimes it turns out amazingly well, sometimes ho-hum. And other times? We wish a time machine had been invented along with the bandoneon. Or perhaps the bandoneon is the time machine of the melancholy. As we dance to its trembling, vibrating notes, we are in that moment transported back to a simpler time.



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