Lorenzo Tango
Raúl Castelli
| Francisco García Jiménez

Old codes of the Buenos Aires night: Taka Taka and Rodríguez Peña

#171;Five years had elapsed since the beginning of the century and the end of the world announced by the prophets of doom had not taken place. Figueroa Alcorta was the president of a country of skinny cows that caused to abort some skinny conspiracies. Tango in Buenos Aires, disregarding a circumspect life, was no longer only an exclusive affair for our feet but then was looking for venues for the sole pleasure of our ears.

«It came from Corrales Viejos (Old corrals) (later neighborhood of Parque de los Patricios) and there it was danced by men and women who shared the outskirts and the countryside by halves. Those men wore on their upper part tall hats and neckerchiefs like townsmen; below they were gauchos with a knife tucked up under their waists, baggy trousers and boots. Townsgirls and country girls were mixed in the outlook of their partners in “dancing”, between the hairdo of curls and the starched dragging skirts.

«Surrounded by alleys on one side and on the other by the bridge of Puente Alsina, that tango found its audience at the cheap cafes on the banks of the Riachuelo —which their owners, with a naïve pompous attitude, called cafés-concert—, where people of all races backed by ships of all flags, used to meet. There the Buenos Aires tango became universal.

«The names of the cheap cafes were included in the familiar mentioning of the regular customers. Many of them lost what was written on the notice at the entrance door and were simply called by the origin or some feature of their owners. So Vicente Greco played at the “Turk’s place”, Agustín Bardi at “the Greek’s café”, Ángel Villoldo at the “Marseillais’s” and Gardel-Razzano, at “the Baldy’s place”.

«Roberto Firpo, years before, told a journalist that he was the first musician that by 1910 brought tango to Avenida de Mayo, playing a duo with the bandoneon player Bachicha Deambroggio: “It was a tearoom located in front of what now is the Pasaje Barolo. Its customers were families, rather Spaniards than Argentines like the avenue itself. Firstly, I went to play piano solos, romanzas, sonatas, waltzes. One day I persuaded the owner so I could play tangos as a duo. The news soon were spread and the patrons called the waiters with noisy clapping. They requested by shouting the tangos of their choice, with forward allusions. The familiar audiences fled and the owner told us to leave the place to play somewhere else”. “-What was the name of the tearoom?”, the journalist asked Firpo. “Taka Taka”, he replied.

«When I checked some writings I was unable to find it, nobody mentioned it. But the address given by Firpo was coincident, instead, with a tearoom named “El Centenario”. When I asked Firpo about it, Firpo, then an old man, exclaimed: “Certainly, man, now I remember the true name! But as there was a Japanese waiter whose speaking was hardly understood and whose words sounded like “taka taka” people who liked tango began to call him and the place that way. Then when they were asked where they were going to or where they had been, they replied: at the Taka Taka. That onomatopoeic sound replaced the true name”.

«The nearness of Corrientes street with its theaters and its milieus with artists and intellectuals contributed with attendants of a greater hierarchy and public notoriety to dancehalls. “I’ll wait for you at Rodríguez Peña” was a straightforward phrase of the Buenos Aires night scene. And if the category was firstly given by the renowned bandoneon played by Vicente Greco, his successful inspiration as composer did the rest with his melodic and famous tango that bears as title the name of the street.»

Here’s the ending of the note written by García Jiménez which was published by the La Prensa journal in 1972.

In the “Antología del tango rioplatense” directed by Raúl Castelli —published in January 1983— is said that there were three venues located a few meters from the above mentioned corner.

The Salón La Argentina had the same name of the benefit society to which it belonged and which had been created by the end of the ninetieth century.

The Salón San Martín was located on the opposite side of the street with the number 344, and which the patrons used to call “Rodríguez Peña”, which thereafter was occupied by the Sociedad Francesa de Socorros Mutuos and later by the so-called “Teatro del Arte”. A few meters from it there is still the Casa Suiza (Swiss House) where tango groups also used to appear. All these possible venues where to listen to our music led those who were interested in that to make an appointment on Rodríguez Peña Street to later decide where to go.

«At the San Martín the dancing dates were organizad by Enrique “El Oriental”, “El lecherito Aín” or “El Pardo Santillán”, supported by “El pesado Cardillo", a tough guy. On Mondays there were dancing and dressing contests. The best female dancers were “La Chata” and “La Parda Loreto" (a veteran professional who already was famous in the whorehouses of the Temple area, an old name of Viamonte Street by 1880). On Saturdays and Sundays these dancehalls reunited the best dancers of the time.

«Vicente Greco and his orchestra used to play there. He dedicated his tango Rodríguez Peña to the boys of the “Salón”, and another one entitled “María Angélica” to the female dancer with that name. He was accompanied by “Garrote”, his brother Domingo Greco (guitar) Francisco Canaro and “Palito” Abatte (violins) and “El Tano” Vicente Pecci (flute). At the same time, with the addition of the bandoneonist Lorenzo Labissier (according to some researchers) they appeared from Monday to Friday at the café “El Estribo”. For others, Labissier, joined the group in both places. Greco regarded him as his alumnus and to him he dedicated his tango “Lorenzo”.