The London-based Colombian band Son Real presents an excellent CD of vibrant, dynamic and very danceable salsa and merengue. The band has a funky rhythm section (percussion, piano, bass), a tight and bright brass section, and three female crooners who fill out the sound on the 13 tracks.
This is a must-have album for you Latin fans out there; our picks include the dancefloor tracks Aurorita, Corazon gitano and Ay papa ay mama. A perfect choice for your Friday and Saturday parties!
As a young boy, Joaquín played every night at the biggest hotels in Santo Domingo. He began his musical career as a street musician in the streets of San Domingo, Dominican Republic. “I was playing my music in the streets of Santo Domingo when I was nine years old. I was the oldest of seven children and we were very poor,” Joaquín offers with a knowing smile. “Music was more than just a love for me. It was survival.”
At the age of 12, this Dominican “king of accordion” was playing for guests at a local hotel, and by the time he was 17, he was performing at the Olympic Games, played for the president of the Dominican Republic at his presidential home, won first prize at the highly competitive Merengue Competition of Santo Domingo and appeared each week on the Sabro Show, a favorite variety program on Dominican TV. He also toured with the Folk Ballet of the Dominican Republic.
Díaz has performed at numerous venues and festivals around the world “This music is in my blood. It is everything to me. It is my destiny,” says Joaquín Díaz.
Now residing in Montreal, Canada, he continues to delight audiences wherever he goes. Since his arrival in Canada, Díaz has put together a band that has demonstrated the musical heritage of the Dominican Republic. In 1998, he and his group of extremely talented musicians received a grant to produce their first full-length CD Merengue Más Merengue, which showcases Díaz’s stellar accordion playing.
Merengue Mas Merengue (Magra Multi Média, 1998) Merengue Alegre (Arhoolie, 2002) Ola (Cinq Planètes, 2006)
Rafael & Energía Dominicana – Enamorarse en la playa [“Falling in Love at the Beach”] (ARC Music EUCD2715, 2013)
Many people, especially those of the romantic persuasion who enjoy the creative arts, believe in love at first sight. These days, one can eavesdrop on friends describing first encounters with potential paramours met online and hear them summarize, “We spent half an hour at Java Jive, and the spark just wasn’t there.” Cats, on the other hand, prolific beasts reputed to have nine lives, are more prudent; they do not believe in love at first sight. Two feline housemates may gambol and groom and sleep curled up together once they become acquainted, but the first interaction is a quick sniff and a spark.
For many people using online dating services, all housecats and at least this one listener to Rafael & Energía Dominicana’s “Enamorarse en la playa” release, “the spark just wasn’t there,” at first meeting.
This is probably because merengue itself is so strident and exuberant that it all initially sounds the same; everything’s on ten. On second and ongoing listens, though, this proves to not be just another merengue release at all. There is huge comfort with modern instruments and studio technique. The studio facility and staff are equal partners with the players here on a creative, passionate, gifted team.
This release develops, listen after listen, like a flower blooming. One looks forward to the next needle drop, not because it’s merengue night at a club, but because it sounds so good. Balance between instruments and sections, naturalness of vocals, judicious ring off from guitars, capture of the elusive horn solo from amidst the ever-steroidal salsa horn section … every concern that might go into a listener’s first impression is addressed and dealt with. It’s a record that makes one seek better speakers or tunable headphones to provide the sound a better frame.
“Enamorarse en la playa (Falling in Love at the Beach)” is not, at least to this listener, a love at first hearing release. It is, however, a long-term relationship.
Today, November 30, 2016, UNESCO announced that Dominican merengue music and dance was inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
The merengue is considered part of the national identity of the Dominican Republic. It is present in people’s daily lives – from their education to social gatherings and celebrations, and even political campaigning.
In 2005, merengue was recognized by presidential decree with November 26 declared National Merengue Day. Merengue festivals are held in cities in the Dominican Republic like Santo Domingo and Puerto Plata every year.
Danced in couples, flirtatious gestures are used as participants move in circles to the rhythm of music played on instruments such as the accordion, drum and saxophone. It is a dance that is usually introduced to learners at an early age.
Knowledge and skills on the practice are transmitted through observation, participation and imitation. The merengue attracts people of different social classes, which helps to promote respect and coexistence among individuals, groups and communities.
The north of the country is considered to be the cradle of merengue with the area of influence extending to Puerto Rico, the United States of America and the Caribbean region.
The merengue is also popular in other Latin American countries such as Venezuela and Colombia where variations have emerged, and countries in Central America.
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