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.

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