Merengue Dance Music and History

Describing Merengue dance and music

The Dominican Republic gave birth to the genre of music known as “Merengue,” and the two are closely related. Merengue, a musical genre and dance that seems to capture the essence of an entire nation, is to the Dominican Republic what blues, jazz, and hip-hop are to the United States. Merengue is the music and dance of the Dominican Republic, and it differs from other Afro-Carribean Latin dances such as mambo, salsa, bachata, cha-cha, and rumba.

Merengue: What Is It?

A quintillo is a repeating five-beat rhythmic pattern that is the foundation of the merengue, an African-inspired music genre that originated in the Dominican Republic (particularly in the city of Santiago). The merengue is a new world musical genre rooted in old-world traditions, with influences from Africa and Spain.

Typically, a group of musicians playing the following instruments will perform the merengue:

  1. An accordion in diatonic tuning, which is frequently used in traditional folk music.
  2. A tambora, a double-sided drum (was originally fashioned from old rum bottles).
  3. A metal scraper called a güira.

Merengue is now played not just in the Caribbean but all over the world because these instruments are affordable and simple to make. Of course, these are not the only instruments used in merengue music—brass instruments like the horn or the saxophone are also frequently used.

What Country Is the Merengue Music From?

Early merengue music from the middle of the nineteenth century was only played on stringed instruments. The use of basic instruments and the popularity of merengue in seedy areas at the time contributed to its bad reputation. German traders introduced the accordion to the Dominican Republic toward the end of the nineteenth century; it quickly established itself as a standard instrument in merengue bands and provided a platform for the addition of other instruments like the piano and brass instruments.

The dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo launched a national Merengue promotion campaign in the 1930s. With its newly developed sound and embrace of the music, Trujillo turned its reputation into a positive celebration of the spirit of the Dominican Republic.

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