El dengue Tango
Luis Alposta

Dengue fever in tango and in other rhythms

engue is an acute infectious disease caused by a virus transmitted by Aedes egypti mosquitoes.

In our country, during the first half of the twentieth century, there were dengue fever epidemics in 1905 (Chaco), in 1911 (Corrientes) and in 1916 (Entre Ríos).

By that time we were already so familiarized with this disease that we even dedicated more than a tango to it. As example we have these three:

1º) “El dengue”, tango by Gerardo Metallo (1916).
2º) “El dengue [b]”, tango milonga by Miguel Alfieri (1917).
3º) “El dengue [c]”, tango by Dr. Arnaldo Yódice and Vicente Demarco (1921).

On the other hand, Dámaso Pérez Prado, mambo’s creator, and also the creator of dengue in the early sixties, gave rise to this new beat by using car wheel rims as percussion instruments. So, pieces like “El dengue del tartamudo”, “El dengue universitario”, “El dengue del poli”, “El dengue del bombero” and “El dengue del amor” were born.

In 1966, the zarzuela El Dengue by the composer and bandleader Rodrigo Prats, author of the well-known zarzuela Amalia Batista, was staged in Cuba.

Now, as for the origin of the word dengue (dengue disease, also known as breakbone fever or dandy fever), there are people who say it derives from the word dandy, because the English began to call this disease dandy fever in the seventeenth century because of the peculiar way of walking or swaying by those who undergo this disease.

Another theory is the one which finds its origin in the word denga, from Swahili, a language of the Bantu group of Eastern Africa. In this language, ki denga pepo names the painful convulsions caused by evil spirits or the plague (pepo).

Either dandy or denga are terms which allude to the mincing gestures made by people undergoing this fever.