If you are looking for a national genre of music for the Dominican Republic, you would probably find Merengue at the top of the list. Merengue not to be confused with meringue the sweet fluffy beat egg mixture that goes on top of a lemon meringue pie, is not only one of the most popular genres in the Dominican Republic, but like most Hispanic music is a popular type of dance as well.
Merengue is divided into 3 general categories Perico Repiao, Merengue de Orquesta and Merengue de Guitarra.
Perico Repiao, definitely has a more distinct sound than the other two and would have to be the most authentic, least touched by modern influences. Perico Pepiao is characterized by a fast 2/4 beat that is definitely much faster than the rhythm of the other two and can tire out even the most experienced dancers.
The most distinct instrument in a Perico repiao band is the accordion, played with fast repetitious progressions. The tambora is another essential to a Perico repiao group. It is a two sided drum that is held in the lap, played with a stick in one hand on one side of the drum and the palm of the hand on the other.
Then, probably the most interesting pieces to a Perico Repiao band is the güira it creates a sound that is a mixture of a maraca and a hit-hat, but doesn’t look anything like either of them. The best way I can describe it is a muffler with teeth and a handle.
The güira is made with a cylindrical piece of sheet metal with evenly spaced perforations or “teeth” made from a nail and played with a sweeping motion of a metal brush.
Merengue de Orquesta and Merengue de Guitarra
Merengue de Orquesta and Merengue de Guitarra are the more popular of the three and have a sound that is fairly similar to each other. When someone refers to the music by simply saying a Meregue, it is usually referring to one of these two.
The style, rhythm and tempo a very similar , the distinction comes in the type of instruments that are used. Merengue de Orquesta uses saxophones and other horns and can consist of more than ten members, while Merengue de Guitarra as the name implies, focuses mainly on the use of the guitar.
Click here for a video of your basic Merengue.
Dancing Merengue is simple. It is danced with a partner and the pattern is a step per beat, left, right, left, right, etc… No specific pattern is needed you do what you like.
Through the years Merengue has continued to be a genre of choice and a dance of choice within the Dominican Republic.