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What Is Merengue Music?

What Is Merengue Music?

Merengue is a genre of music that’s inextricably linked to the Dominican Republic, where it was born in the middle of the 19th century. Since then, it has evolved into one of the most popular styles of Latin music, with influences from a variety of other genres, including jazz, hip hop, and rock. Both a musical style and a dance, merengue is distinct from bachata, salsa, rumba, mambo, and other Afro-Caribbean Latin music. Keep reading to find out more about merengue music, which you’re sure to hear when you’re grooving on the dance floor at Onyx Room, the hottest Latin club in San Diego.

The Basics of Merengue

Merengue’s African and Spanish influences make it a new-world musical style firmly rooted in old-world tradition. Classic merengue is usually performed by musicians playing these instruments:

  • A diatonic accordion, which is commonly played in many styles of traditional folk music
  • A tambora, a two-sided drum (these were originally made from old rum bottles)
  • A güira, a metal scraper used as a percussion instrument

Today’s merengue music is played with more modern instruments, and it often features a rocking rhythm section with brass instruments at its core. You’ll hear it featured in dance clubs alongside other Latin dance favorites such as salsa, bachata, and cumbia.

Merengue’s Popularity

When a huge number of Dominicans started immigrating to New York City in the 1960s, they brought their native music along with them, thus introducing it into the world’s largest music market. By the 1980s, merengue was so popular it was even surpassing salsa on the airwaves. Notably, that decade also saw a surge in all-female orchestras, with Las Chicas del Can becoming especially popular. 

Since that time, musicians like former rocker Luis Díaz and classically trained Juan Luis Guerra have taken merengue even further, creating a truly international fan base for the genre. Guerra has combined African influences with indigenous Caribbean sounds and Dominican roots music, while Díaz’s productions have fused merengue with rock and bachata.

With almost two million Dominicans now living in the U.S., merengue has both inspired—and been influenced by—various American music genres, particularly rock n’ roll. Merengue music has served as inspirations for numerous musicians, including the legendary Carlos Santana, and with the rise of merengue megastars like Elvis Crespo, what was once an exclusively Dominican genre has grown into a genre with worldwide appeal. 

Merengue: The Dance

Merengue is much more than a musical genre. It’s also the national dance of the Dominican Republic, and it’s even performed in ballroom dance competitions along with other dances with Afro-Caribbean roots, such as Puerto Rican and Cuban versions of salsa. 

The merengue, a vibrant Latin dance, is enormously popular in the United States and all over the globe, and it’s a fantastic choice for new dancers because it’s easy to learn. As with most other Latin and Caribbean dance styles, dancing merengue is all about the hips, which both drive and highlight the basic steps. Dancers shift, shimmy, and circle each other, keeping their hands clasped. 

Today’s version of nightclub merengue is even more popular. It has a casual feel like traditional merengue, but it also includes more intricate arm patterns and wraps. Dancers often borrow the pretzel-like arm movements from swing and salsa, customizing them to merengue’s more relaxed beat, and they may even spice up the dance with a few dips.

Top Merengue Songs

If you want to get to know merengue better, start with these famous songs by some of merengue’s top artists from both the Dominican Republic and around the world:

  • “Compadre Pedro Juan” by Luis Alberti
  • “Abusadora” by Oro Solido and Raul Acosta
  • “Bailar” by Deorro, featuring Elvis Crespo
  • “Con La Mano en el Piso y con La” by Mala Fe
  • “Esa Muchacha” by Los Hermanos Rosario
  • “Guayo” by Elvis Crespo, featuring Los Ilegales
  • “Moviendo Las Caderas” by Oro Solido
  • “Suavemente” by Elvis Crespo
  • “Tu Me Quemas” by Chino y Nacho, featuring Gente de La Zona y Los Cadillacs
  • “Samba Merengue” by Harmonia do Samba
  • “Ojala Que Llueva Cafe” by Juan Luis Guerra

When they’re ready to show off their dance moves at the city’s top Latin club, San Diego folks head to Onyx Room Nightclub, a staple of the Gaslamp Quarter nightlife scene. Our open-minded and incredibly friendly clientele is up for anything, which is what makes our nightclub stand out from the rest. With music genres including hip hop, top 40, urban Latin, reggaeton, bachata, salsa, merengue, regional, cumbia, and Banda, we have something to please everyone’s taste. Our inviting atmosphere and welcoming staff will ensure you have an experience unlike any other. To learn more about why Onyx Nightclub is the premier San Diego nightclub, call us at 619-876-8044.

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