Monday, April 11, 2016
Traditional Afro-Domincan musics include various religious drumming traditions such as salve, congo, and palo. (Check out this great Afropop resource for more on traditional Afro-Domonocan music). Below, by way of example, salve.
And the music of Haitian migrant workers, called gagá:
These musics remain very much looked down on, for being black and for their links with Haiti. The national music is merengue. Merengue típico, derived from the Cibao region, usually features an accordion, a güira (metal cousin to the güiro), the tambora - a drum played with one stock and one bare hand -, and often a saxophone and a bass. The tempo is generally fast, with repeated short phrases.
Under the dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, who ruled the country 1930-1961, merengue was orchestrated standardized and used to sing the praises of the nation and its leader.
It was also some pretty kick-ass dance music…
As early as the 1950s, the bandleader Ángel Viloria was performing merengue in New York
After 1965, Dominicans began o stream into New York City. By 1980, merengue was enjoying a commercial boom in the Latin music industry in the US as a party music. With the rise of salsa romántica, merengue was increasingly popular as a dance music, as in the 1980s classic by the Rosario Brothers:
Matching uniforms, goofy dance moves, and other gimmicks were part of the way the music was marketed and presented. (This was the 80s).
As migration intensified, New York City became the place where a lot of merengue was being made - both in "Dominican York" fusions with pop, hip hop, and house music …
… and with a revival of the old-school típico style that was happening more among nostalgic New York Dominicans than on the island itself, as in this Queens, NY house party.
Bachata music started in the DR as a guitar-based singing of sad songs like boleros, and was associated with the lower classes who had migrated form the country to the cities.
Because of the upheavals of that group, bachata tended to focus on themes of distance or of inter-gender conflict.
New innovations included a particular electric guitar sound, and a more standardized instrumentation and rhythm.
As we will see, bachata has become a staple of the pop en español music industry, catering both to US Latinos (on both coasts) and in Latin America itself.