The Merengue, its history
The merengue is part of the Dominican identity.
It is a folkloric dance that has spread widely.
According to Flérida de Nolasco it was someone only known as Alfonseca who invented the merengue.
Born as a Creole melody after the battle of Talanquera where the Dominicans triumphed.
Apparently merengue comes from a Cuban music called UPA, one of whose parts was called me-renge. The UPA passed to Puerto Rico, from where it would arrive to Santo Domingo in the middle of the last century.
In the middle of the last century, from 1838 to 1849, a dance called URPA or UPA Habanera, walked through the Caribbean arriving in Puerto Rico where it was well received.
This dance had a movement called merengue that apparently is the form that was chosen to designate the dance and came to the Dominican Republic where it was not even mentioned in the early years.
Structure and Instruments
From the beginning the merengue was interpreted in the instruments that the people had and they were easier to acquire, the Dominican bandurrias, the Tres (musical instrument derived from the guitar), the Four, also derived from the guitar.
At the end of the last century the diatonic accordion of German origin made its entry through the Cibao, which by its easy handling displaced the bandurria.
The choreography of the merengue is reduced to the fact that the interlocking man and woman move laterally in what is called “palisade passage”, then they can turn to the right or left. This is the true “salon merengue”, in which couples never separated.
There is also what is known by the name of “meringue of figure” in which couples made multiple evolutions and ornaments or “vases” as it was called, but always without letting go.
Genuine and authentic merengue only survives in rural areas. The traditional form of merengue has changed.
The walk disappeared. The body of the meringue has lengthened a little more. The jaleo has suffered, the introduction of exotic rhythms.
In its beginnings merengue, despite its rise among the popular masses, was not accepted by the upper class until much later, because of its link with African music.
Another one of the causes that weighed on the repudiation and attacks against the meringue were the literary texts that accompany it, generally risen of tone.
In 1875, in full Victorian era. Ulises Francisco Espaillat began a campaign against the merengue that was totally useless because the dance had already taken possession of the Cibao where it became strong to such an extent that today is associated this region as the cradle of merengue.
At the beginning of this century educated musicians made a great campaign for the introduction of this dance in the halls.
The popular musicians joined that campaign, which always found the resistance that inspired the vulgar language of the lyrics that accompanied the rhythm.
Juan F. Garcia, Juan Espínola and Julio Alberto Hernández, were pioneers in that campaign. Their success was not immediate because although they established the musical form of merengue, they could not get it to penetrate into “society” and be considered as a creation of the Dominican people.
The panorama changed from 1930, because Rafael L. Trujillo in his electoral campaign used several sets of “Perico Ripiao” and managed to diffuse the new air to zones where it was not previously known to him, helping much in that diffusion the use of the radio Recently arrived in the country before the beginning of the dictatorship.
In spite of this great diffusion and propaganda, merengue was not accepted in full in what was called “the good Dominican society” until in a family of the “aristocracy” of Santiago, on the occasion of the celebration of a party they asked Luis Alberti, who was going to liven up with his orchestra, to compose a merengue with “decent lyrics”, and he agreed.
Alberti composed for this occasion the “Compadre Pedro Juan”, which not only liked, but caused a furor, becoming the anthem of meringues. From that moment the meringue began to spread. For this the radio provided a generous aid.
As the merengue spread throughout the country, there were variations in this rhythm, something cataloged of normal with all cultural manifestation. These reflect the handling of cultural elements made to the accommodation and convenience of some.
Variants of Merengue
Since they were educated musicians who fixed the musical form of the new merengue, the popular musicians tried to imitate and to follow this model while the man of field continued touching the merengue of the same form.
This gave rise to two well-differentiated merengue forms. The authentic folkloric merengue still found in the fields, and the meringue of the hall. The latter is the one that diffuses the most and the one that the great majority of people believe is folkloric.
One of the variants of the merengue is the “pambiche” that according to legend that can have truthful glimpses, is nothing more than the name that receives the meringue of merengue devoid of its other parts and adapted to the slow pace of the “Yankee” sailors who They occupied our country and they found it difficult to adapt to the faster rhythm of merengue.
Music is an integral part of daily life; Affirming that the merengue is present in all the country. At the same time music, folklore and dance, Merengue is the expression of an entire nation.
Currently, among the most outstanding merengueros are Juan Luis Guerra, Milly Quezada, Johnny Ventura, Fernando Villalona, Hector Acosta (El Torito), Sergio Vargas, Los Hermanos Rosario, Eddy Herrera, Miriam Cruz, among others.
In addition to these merengueros today, we also have predecessors such as: Luis Alberto, Rafael Solano, Joseito Mateo, Vinicio Franco, Felix del Rosario, Alberto Beltrán, Frank Cruz, among others.
Merengue is considered the national Dominican dance. It is a folkloric dance that has spread widely and that until the moment its origin is discussed.