Look at this man. Look into his eyes.
This is the real king of the Finnish tango, according to a website called "Virtual Finland." (So far, all of my experiences of Finland have been virtual. A friend of mine who visited told me that everyone seemed to have their own lake. I would probably love actual Finland, because I love fish, being in saunas, and being near, but never in, Russia.) This is Olavi Virta.
He was arrested for whatever a DUI is called in Finland in 1962 (rattijuopumus, according to Wikipedia), and alcohol played a major part in his overall undoing, which I think is what this drawing is trying to convey:
The head of the gramophone library of the Finnish Broadcasting Company quotes Dr. Pirjo Kukkonen as saying that "tango lyrics reflect 'the personality, mentality, and identity of the Finnish people in the same way as folk poetry does.'" Looking at tango as a genre makes me more frustrated than usual with the currency the idea of premature nostalgia seems to have at the moment, but maybe now it's happening at a volume and rate that makes it seem more obvious and worthy of analysis. Can't we use the word 'melancholy' in more self-diagnoses?
Olavi Virta says, whatever you want.
Tango lyrics deal with roughly the same set of themes across all sorts of cultural and genre boundaries: longing (longing for home, longing for a woman, longing for woman-as-metaphor for everything else), sadness, nature, one's mother. The same is true, I guess, for folk poetry, but in that case often the particulars of the situation (the specific details of the setting, the characters, the plot, if we're talking about epic or narrative poetry) take over from the overall feeling. In this respect tango is more efficient; it is all feeling, and if all this feeling is expressed in your own language then it is difficult to deny its power, even when held at a distance.
One phenomena I hope to discover in the course of my life is tangos written by unusually articulate fourteen-year-old girls. I think they would (will) be magnificent. When I know wealthy people I will do my best to convince them to create a scholarship for promising twelve-year-olds to manufacture it for me, if necessary.