The educated Tanguero

Essential Tango Knowledge

Dirk van Esbroek (Sexteto Tango al Sur)

Dirk van Esbroek was a flemish composer, guitar player and poet, born in Argentina in 1946, who moved back to Belgium in 1964. In the 70ies, he met the Argentinean guitar player Juan Masondo and concentrated on south American music. Together with bandoneon player Alfredo Marcucci they formed a Trio, which later grew into the Sexteto Tango al Sur. Later, he also played in the production of Maria de Buenos Aires, a tango opera from Astor Piazzolla and Horacio Ferrer [1].

Van Esbroek is interesting, because he played traditional Tangos and his own compositions which he sung partly in flemish language. Today I would like to look at his Milonga Rookgordijnen, which can be heard in many European and American milongas. The reason here is, as a German, I can superficially understand some words of the lyrics, but the full text was always hidden to me and not available on the internet. Recently (being in the Netherlands), a couple of Dutch and Flemish Tango friends helped to write down the lyrics and to translate the song into English (thanks and abrazos to Marieke, Marynthe and the two Flemish friends who joined me in a long conversation during TABOE tango camp).

Here is the music of this exceptional Milonga:



The original Flemish text is as follows. All my friends from Flandern and Netherlands told me, that the text can be read the same in both languages. In the song, the first two verses are repeated at the end:


Grijze gordijnen, spiegels op een bol
rook aan de muur en de tierelantijnen
schimmen verdwijnen, draaien als een tol
over en weer door de rookgordijnen

de jagende wolf op zijn eigen terrein
zijn ogen gewend aan de magere schijn
in zijn vizier ‘n gewillige prooi
hij wacht om ‘n gooi, om ‘n gooi te wagen

Zij schiet met haar ogen de brand aan het vuur
ze vangt wie ze wil, wie komt haar stelen
zo brandt het maar door, ‘t is net een oude film
een oude film die ze nog altijd spelen

“wij zijn als de hoop die in leegte verzinkt
we leven gejaagd door de brandende wind”
de jagende wolf en het laaiende vuur
het laaiende vuur in rookgordijnen


This is our translation (we actually started with a first version created by Google translator):


Gray curtains, mirrors on a sphere
smoke on the wall and the frills
shadows disappear, turning like a top
over and over again through the curtain of smoke

the wolf hunting on his own ground
his eyes accustomed to the dim light
in his sight a willing prey
he waits for one throw, to challenge his luck.

She shoots with her eyes the fire to the fire
she captures who she wants, who will steal her
so it continues burning in this way, it’s like an old movie
an old movie they still play

“We’re like the hope that sinks into emptiness
we live hunted by the scorching wind ”
the hunting wolf and the blazing fire
the blazing fire in curtains of smoke


Our interpretation is that this is an allegory for the game of seduction. A man (the hunting wolf) is hunting his prey (she) which is willing and lights up the desire (fire) with her eyes. Alas, she captures whoever she wants, so the hope of the hunting wolf can vanish into emptiness. An old game, still played like a movie.

The song has the features of typical Tango lyrics, describing deep emotions which can lead to blazing fire or emptiness. Above that, the rhythm is a pure Milonga, which is very well danceable.

Dirk van Esbroek died in 2007.

Other beautiful songs in Flemish and Spanish are:





This is originally a song from Alfredo Zitarrosa.  







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