Merengue: The Music
(extracted from “Teaching & Salsa” by Loo Yeo)
Merengue as a music (and dance) form, is most
strongly identified with the Dominican Republic. Its spread has been
aided, in part, by the large numbers of Dominicans immigrating to the
United States, bringing the merengue with them. The merengue, like salsa,
is now recognised as a transnational phenomenon, spanning an increasing
number of countries in an ever-shrinking globe. As of this writing,
merengue outsells salsa by more than four to one in Latin America.
History of Merengue
Structure of the music
The first instrument is a double-headed drum called the tambora. It is placed horizontally across the thighs and played with a stick in the right hand and an empty left hand. Apart from other functions, the tambora is most prominent when playing a drum roll (called a tambora roll) of sixteenth notes between beat four and the beat one of the following bar. The other signature instruments, saxophone and accordion, also play a similar roll of notes (a section of their entire role) that span beats two and three, in response to the tambora. Hence the tambora calls and the saxophone or accordion responds.
Note: only a small section of the tambora, saxophone or accordion roles are illustrated.
The effect of these notes played by the tambora,
saxophone and accordion, bridging the gaps between the primary beats
gives the merengue its characteristic drive - Paul Austerlitz
(1997). One-row button accordions were originally used in merengue,
but were displaced by saxophones on the account of the accordions being
incapable of playing in sufficient major keys. Merengue Ripiao, which
is a form of merengue dominated by the accordion, made a comeback with
the introduction of the two-row button accordions, which have none of
the shortcomings that their one-row cousins possess.
I am a Spanish teacher in the United States. I recently presented at a local foreign language teacher's workshop on using music in the classroom. We were selected to present at the Northeast Conference of Teachers of Foreign Languages... in New York City.
I am hoping to include information from your organization's web page about salsa and merengue music and its history. I have looked and no other site provides such succinct yet detailed explanations of salsa and merengue musically and culturally.
This site is kindly sponsored by Verdant Ecologic. Keeping the right to dance, free.
& Merengue Society