Merengue music originated in the Dominican Republic and is very popular in Latin America. Francisco Lora created the music in the 1920's. He is also credited for popularizing the accordion in Latin music.
Many other countries, including Haiti, Columbia, and Venezuela have each adapted the rhythm and developed other their own version of Merengue. The typical instruments include accordion, bass guitar, guitar, saxophone, tambora (drum), trumpet, tuba, and trombone.
While Merengue was created in the 1920's, it was promoted and popularized a decade later by Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, the president of the Dominican Republic. The dictator who ruled the country for thirty years, decided this fast pace style of music should be the national music and dance style of the country. Because of his love for the music, and his dominant power over the country, he ordered numerous songs to be composed in his honor. Trujillo's love and promotion of the music was undeniably a factor in the great success of merengue music in the mainstream Dominican society.
Today, there are three main types of Merengue played in the Dominican Republic:
Some Merengueros also call Merengue Tipico, Merengue's older style, "Country Music" because of its roots in the rural and agricultural region in Cibao. The name Perico Ripiao provoked a lot of controversy because it was the name of a brothel where the bands originally played. However, despite the controversy, the popularity of Merengue continued to soar throughout the country. In the beginning, Tipico groups played string instruments. The accordion and marimba replaced those string instruments and alternate as lead or prominently played instruments.
In Merengue de Guitarra, the guitar is most prominent instrument in the music. The Merengue de Orquesta, also known as the big band orchestra, is very popular today. The typical instruments in this type of Merengue include the following: backup singers, saxophones, piano, timbales, hi-hat, conga, tambora, gira, and bass.
In the 1970's, the famous accordionist, Tatico Henriquez, modernized the Merengue by introducing the electric guitar. This innovation replaced the marimba with the electric guitar bass, and the saxophone was added in harmony with the accordion. During the music evolution Rafael Solano, a prominent artist of the era, was credited for other innovations in the merengue music, most notably the addition of the bass drum played with a foot pedal. Many of today's renowned accordionists emerged from this movement including Francisco Ulloa, Rafaelito Roman, El Ciego De Nagua, and El Prodigio.
In the 1990's, new groups also contributed to the modernization of Merengue by adding congas, timbales, and keyboards to the music. With the increased presence of Dominican immigrants in the United States, especially, in New York, the popularity of Merengue went beyond the Dominican Republic and Latin America. The Merengue produced in New York by Dominican artists is very popular among Latin music lovers around the world. With the fusion of Merengue Tipico and rap vocals, young groups like Fulanito and other young artist leaving influenced by non-Latin genres of music have successfully brought the Merengue to new levels. Today, Merengue has gained huge popularity and the music continues to entertain the world with its distinct Latin flavor.