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Merengue is a type of music and dance from Haitimarker and Dominican Republicmarker. It is popular in the Dominican Republic and all over Latin America. Its name is Spanish, taken from the Spanish name of the meringue, a dessert made from whipped egg whites and sugar. It is unclear as to why this name became the name of the music. Perhaps, it can trace its meaning from the movement on the dance floor that could remind one of an egg beater in action.

This style of music was created by Ñico Lora, a Dominican of Spanish descent, in the 1920s. In the Dominican Republic it was promoted by Rafael Trujillo, the dictator from the 1930s through the early 1960s, and became the country’s national music and dance style, while in the United Statesmarker it was popularized by Angel Viloria and his band Conjunto Típico Cibaeño. It was during the Trujillo era that the popular merengue song, "Compadre Pedro Juan", by Luis Alberti, became an international hit.

Internationally known merengue singers and groups include Miriam Cruz & Las Chicas Del Can, Joseito Mateo, the aforementioned Angel Viloria, El Ciego de Nagua, Juan Luis Guerra, Los Hermanos Rosario, Wilfrido Vargas, Sergio Vargas, Johnny Ventura, Bonny Cepeda, Kinito Mendez, Ravel, Jossie Esteban y la Patrulla 15, Pochy y su Cocoband, Fernando Villalona, Cuco Valoy, The Freddie Kenton Orquestra, Ramon Orlando, Sandy Reyes, Rasputin, Peter Cruz, Alex Bueno, Aramis Camilo, Jochy Hernandez, El Zafiro, Dioni Fernandez, The New York Band, Anibal Bravo, Los Toros Band, Conjunto Quisqueya, Olga Tañón, Gisselle, and Grupomanía.

Other artists popular in the Dominican Republic as of 2006 include Omega y su Mambo Violento, Julian, Cherito, El Jeffrey, Toño Rosario, Aguakate, and Amarfis. Milly Quezada is known as the Queen of Merengue. The popularity of Merengue is growing fast in Venezuelamarker. Venezuelan merengueros include Roberto Antonio, Miguel Moly, Natusha, Los Melodicos. The merengue produced in New Yorkmarker has become very popular among the lovers of this rhythm. Some of the New Yorkers who produce this new merengue sound are Malafe, Henry Jimenez, and Aybar.

Musical style

Merengues are fast arrangements with a 2/4 beat. The traditional instrumentation for a conjunto típico (traditional band), the usual performing group of folk merengue, is a diatonic accordion, a two–sided drum, called a tambora, held on the lap, and a güira. A güira is a percussion instrument that sounds like a maraca. It is a sheet of metal with small bumps on it (created with hammer and nail), shaped into a cylinder, and played with a stiff brush. The güira is brushed steadily on the downbeat with a "and-a" thrown in at certain points, or played in more complex patterns that generally mark the time. "Caballito" rhythm, or a quarter and two eighths, is also common. The double headed drum is played on one side with a stick syncopation and on the other side with the palm of the hand.

The traditional (some say fundamental) signature rhythm figure of merengue is the quintillo, which is essentially a syncopated motif whose pattern is broken by five successive drumhead hits at the transition between every second and third beat, alternating between the hand and the stick. To purists, a merengue without quintillo is not truly a merengue, a viewpoint that has gradually disappeared as other alternate figures are used more frequently (as the one traditionally called "jaleo", also known as "merengue bomba", wrongly identified as a mixture of merengue and Puerto Rican bomba music, and which actually also has its roots in traditional merengue).

Three main types of merengue are played in the Dominican Republic today. Perico ripiao, which is usually called merengue típico, is the oldest style commonly played. In English "perico ripiao" means "ripped parrot", which suggests controversy but which is said to be the name of a brothel where the music was originally played. The other two types are merengue de orquesta (big band merengue) and merengue de guitarra (guitar merengue).

Típico groups play a variety of rhythms, but most common are the merengue and the pambiche. In the 1930s–50s a bass instrument was also often used. Called marimba, it resembles the Cuban marímbula, and is a large box-shaped thumb piano with 3-6 metal keys.

In more urban settings, merengue is played with all manner of instrumentation, but the tambora and the güira are signatures. Today, merengue de orquesta is most popular. It uses a large horn section with paired saxophones, piano, timbales, hi-hat, backup singers, and conga, in addition to tambora, güira, and bass. In modern merengue típico a saxophone is an addition to the accordion, along with electric bass guitar. A proof of the great adaptability of the music can be found in the Dominican National Symphony's presentation in 2003 of a concert series entitled "Symphonic Merengue", in which the Symphonic Orchestra consisting of woodwinds, brass, string, and the like played popular tunes.

Mainstream popularity

Merengue music went into mainstream popularity in Latin America in the 1980s and made its peak in the 1990s. In the Southern Cone, Argentinamarker, Chilemarker and Uruguaymarker it lost the characterisc of being danced close together, being instead danced separately moving the arms.

See also



References

  1. Luis Vitale. Música pupular e identidad Latinoamericana.


Films

  • 1984 - Caribbean Crucible. From Repercussions: A Celebration of African-American Music series, program 6. Directed by Dennis Marks and Geoffrey Haydon.


External links




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