In The Dominican Republic live is about Music. The air pulses with energetic beats, Dembow tunes blasting from open car windows and drifting into the streets from colmados also known as mini-markets/neighborhood bars. Even the streets serve as dance floors: people glide across the pavement as buskers play slow, romantic melodies or local radios bump with the newest Caribbean hits. The Dominican Republic is the birthplace of Merengue, Bachata, Dembow and an active champion of other popular genres such as salsa and reggaetón, this small country moves to a rhythm all its own.
The Merengue: a national legacy
Merengue is the national music of the Dominican Republic, anywhere in the country you will find people enthusiastically embracing it as a cultural touchstone. Merengue originated in the Dominican countryside known today as merengue típico, and it incorporated three traditional instruments: the tambora which is a two-sided drum, the accordion and the güira which is a local percussion instrument. Merengue is known as the typical Dominican Music
Prior to the year 1930, merengue was considered a rather uncouth, low-class activity; however, when the dictator Rafael Trujillo entered office, he introduced the merengue into the salons and parties of aristocratic Dominican society, solidifying its place as the country’s national music and dance. Trujillo commissioned many songs using his leadership talents, the virtues of his political party and his own personal attractiveness, he often mandated that merengue had to be included in the musical repertoires of any state-sponsored event.
After Trujillo’s death in 1961, merengue took a contemporary turn, with many of the biggest names in the business ditching the dictator’s rather traditional style for showier, sensual alternatives. Currently, three main types of merengue dominate the airwaves: merengue típico which is known as perico ripiao or ripped parrot, big band merengue and guitar merengue. Famous Merengue artists are Juan Luis Guerra, Elvis Crespo, Wilfrido Vargas and Johnny Ventura.
Listen here: Juan Luis Guerra – La Llave de Mi Corazon
The bachata: known as merengue’s younger cousin
While merengue is an old favorite, the romantic bachata is since years rising fast in popularity and is commonly heard around the country. Bachata came about in the years following Trujillo’s death, basically a victim of his strong censorship policies, emerging from some of the poorest Dominican neighborhoods. In fact, the name bachata was actually imposed as a slight, referring to the humble origins of the style of music and its perceived lack of respectability. Despite its slow start, the four step beat is now one of the most popular styles of music in all of Latin America. Famous bachata artists are Romeo Santos, Prince Royce, Antony Santos and Toby Love.
Listen here: Romeo Santos – Propuesta Indecente
Dembow – Urban Dominican Music:
Dominican Dembow is an interpolation of rap, hip hop, mambo, and the Dembow riddim. The music Dembow is a genre that originated in the Dominican Republic by the mid- 1990s This type of music is booming in the 2010s, Dembow is arguably the hypest music being made in the world right now. If not, it’s certainly the most prolific genre. The baby-voiced prankster known as El Alfa may be Dembow’s most prolific artist, too, with what seems like a new single every few days. Dominican Music has influenced music all over the world, Dominican artists are world famous and well known across the globe.
Listen here: El Alfa – Como Yo Me Muevo
Dominican Republic Radiostations:
Here you can find a complete list with all important Dominican Republic Radiostations. Click on a logo and listen to your favorite radio station online for free.
Tip! Free weekly live music in the Zona Colonial – Santo Domingo
Every Sunday evening in the historic Colonial City there is Bonyé, a collection of the country’s most talented merengue and bachata musicians performing live. Check out a video of the performances over here.