Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Dominican Dance and Music: Moving to the Music

Dance is a social ritual from an early age 

Dominican dance and music are intimately tied together. Below are a few common types of music and dance ranging from early to modern Dominican society.

Areíto Taíno:

An indigenous form of music and dance used to transmit Taíno history orally and visually through words, movements, and melodies. The themes of the songs varied greatly from the amorous, to bellicose, to religious. Instruments used included maracas made of gourds (higüeros), tamboras made from hollowed out trunks, and flutes made of sugar cane or bones, accompanied by the percussion of shells adorning the dancers. This art form was particularly important in the transmission of culture and history from generation to generation, as the Taínos did not have a written language.


Playing the guira
Merengue generally involves the accordion, bass guitar, güira (a metal percussion instrument resembling a cheese grater that is played by rubbing a wire comb against its jagged surface), guitar, tambora (a two-sided drum laid across the lap and played with a stick on one side and the hand on the other), and brass instruments including the saxophone and trumpet. Merengue is danced on a two-four beat, to which dancers’ hips tend to move in a fluid figure eight. This motion has also been compared to that of an eggbeater, which may have given rise to the music’s name meaning meringue, whose stiff peaks are the results of an eggbeater’s frenzied motion.

Merengue Típico or Perico Ripiao

Dance spans all age ranges in the DR
Merengue típico and perico ripiao are nearly interchangeable terms that refer to an up-tempo, more instrumental version of merengue popularized in rural communities of the Cibao in the late 19th century, as probably the oldest kind of merengue. Típico bands use a guitar, guira, tambora drum, accordion, and, more recently, saxophone, and the related dance can be similarly faster and with more movement than other slower merengue songs.


From the same influences that merengue arose came bachata, which employs a lead guitar, rhythm guitar, electric bass guitar, bongos, and güira. It has a four-count rhythm characterized by an upward flick of the hips on the fourth beat, almost as if a puppeteer’s string was plucking them in the air.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Dominican Music and Dance: Rock ‘n’ Roll

Luis “El Terror” Díaz by Jaime Guerra
Dominican rock ‘n’ roll is one of the few genres that has drawn less upon Caribbean roots, looking to the U.S. and Europe for inspiration. Dominican rock’s humble beginnings grew from such bands as The Masters in the 1970s, followed by Empiphis and Cahobazul, popular in the mid-to-late eighties. Another band formed in eighties by the undeniably influential musician, Luis “El Terror” Díaz, was Transporte Urbano, a unique product of Díaz’s return to Santo Domingo after being thrown into the mix of New York’s punk rock scene.

Toque Profundo
The 1990s were the true renaissance of the “rockeros” in the Dominican Republic. During this period, bands such as Toque Profundo, Arcangel, Tribu del Sol, and Tabu Tek came to the forefront, providing an unapologetic response to the relatively homogenous music scene dominated by merengue. Spain-based JLS (Jodio Loco Sucio or “Screwed Crazy Dirty”), a heavy metal band started up by former Toque Profundo member Leo Susana, has achieved an international following. Also popular is New York-based Aljadaqui, whose pop rock sounds are indicative of the more palatable, mainstream rock in the music scene today. However, the heavy metal of the nineties continues to be received by loyal fans in smaller Santo Domingo venues like Cinema Café and Hard Rock Café, where Toque Profundo celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2010.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Dominican Music and Dance: Mambo, Reggaeton and World Music

Singing a palos classic at La Negreta
 After merengue and bachata, mambo and reggaeton are among the more popular
genres of music.

Mambo callejero or mambo violento is merengue’s street-smart urban cousin, employing accelerated counts accompanied by the style and lyrics of rap. Artists such Omega, El Sujeto, Julian y Oro Duro, and El Jeffrey are among the better known artists winning over Dominican youth with their pelvic-thrusting rhythms.

Another brainchild of Dominican urbanity is reggaeton, Latin America’s response to hip hop, though the true pioneers of this genre hail from Puerto Rico. Dominican hip-hop, which employs a crude blend of Caribbean rhythms, is slowly taking root as well with such artists as DKano, El Lapiz Consciente, Del Patio, and Mozart La Para y Villanosam.
Dancing in the street to infectious rhythms

Even beyond these is a new genre generally called “world music,” since it draws from both domestic and international influence. Calor Urbano, formed in 2002, mixes Caribbean rhythms with soul, hip-hop, and a dose of pop to create an immediately pleasing sound that has earned a significant following. Rita Indiana, a published author and former model, along with her band, Los Misterios, has taken on and incorporates reggaeton, electronic, meringue, and everything in between to create something that is authentic, but simultaneously has broad appeal. Lesser-known fusion bands, such as the percussion–heavy rhythms of Batey Cero and ConCon Quemao are strongly influenced by palos, a percussive style of music born in the sugar cane communities (bateyes) throughout the country. At the heart of the Dominican folklore-world music movement are living legends such as Xiomara Fortuna, José Duluc, Irka Mateo, and Patricia Pereyra.