Oscar Del Priore
| Irene Amuchástegui

Chiqué - Story of the tango “Chiqué”

ccording to what José Gobello found (Etimologías, Ediciones Corregidor), the Ricardo Brignolo’s tango is the first literary record of the lunfardo word chiqué. About its origin and use, Gobello explains: «Chiqué «pretending», give chiqué, make chiqué do not come to the Buenos Aires language in the beginnings of lunfardo. They appeared lately from the technology of the angry life, which must have taken chiqué from the argot du milieu (the pimps’ jargon). Chiquer is, in argot, abbreviation of chiquer contre and the latter, a deviation from chiquer comte, which is also deviated from chiquer comtois. Chiquer comtois, chiquer comte, chiquer contre is “to lie and pretend” (to conceal and play the fool, as we say here)».

The expression appears in several tango lyrics. Let us mention some examples: “Che papusa oí”, («Doll, little doll that pronounces with “th”/and that gracefully says mishé/and with your gestures like a tambourine/you’re the little girl with more chiqué»); “Pobre milonga”, («Milonga, you have to keep on singing/even though pain hurts you/because if they see you’re crying,/Milonga, everybody says it’s chiqué»); “Noches de Montmartre”, («Expensive doll, lips with rouge/silhouette designed with great chiqué»). Finally, let us mention the most special case of the tango “No me hagás chiqué”, by Rodolfo Sciammarella and Juan Fernández: «Don’t play chiqué to me/everybody will tell you/and even though you’d enjoy it/you’ll never believe it».

According to the narration of Héctor Bates and Luis Bates in La historia del tango —collected later from different versions about the birth of the piece—, Brignolo heard the expression chiqué from the lips of a female dancer and decided to use it in his tango, after the time of his tenure at the La Olla Popular, dancehall on Sarmiento Street.

However, Francisco García Jiménez, in Así nacieron los tangos (Ediciones Corregidor), affirms: «Evocando en la 'olla popular', Brignolo heard this expression said by a French dancer with a translucent intention to her partner: -Don’t play chiqué. The French girl explained the term to Brignolo, and he liked it to use it as the title for a tango he had just composed. Because of what (...) he told me once with his sincere words: “I had put into the piece a fantasy that I regarded as too conceited for a danceable number. I like the sound of it but I think it was rather pretentious. And to apologize for that in advance I entitled it “Chiqué”».

It is said that in the definitive version of “Chiqué” there were other hands. There were elements presumably absent in the original, that different opinions attribute to Juan Carlos Cobián and the German (Alemán) Fritz. In a research made by the Instituto Nacional de Musicología (several authors) is stated that the tango «achieves its definitive profile when the German Fritz added an inspired counter melody to it». This seems to be the most convincing theory, if we check the old published copies of the tango. Because in them the counter melody is written for violoncello (even though later it would be transposed to violin), and Fritz was a cellist.

The two lyrics corresponding to “Chiqué” were added later, after the premiere. The one written by Ricardo Corazón de León hides, under the sobriquet, Brignolo himself. But the tango was widely known as an instrumental. The second lyric belongs to Juan Carlos Fernández Díaz.

Among the recordings cut by the time of its premiere, let us mention the ones by the orchestras led by Francisco Canaro and Roberto Firpo and the rendition by the singer Ignacio Corsini. It was also recorded by the composer himself and by the orchestras fronted by Pedro Maffia, Julio De Caro, Juan D'Arienzo. Enrique Francini and Armando Pontier recorded it when they were teaming up as leaders of their own orchestra and later they did it when they split. Among the other recordings, it’s worthwhile to highlight the ones cut by Osvaldo Pugliese, Fulvio Salamanca, Osmar Maderna, Astor Piazzolla (with his Orquesta Típica and with his Quintet), Aníbal Troilo (recorded it on two occasions), and the Orquesta del Tango de Buenos Aires conducted by Carlos García.