Merengue típico

Artists' bios

Tatico Henríquez

El Ciego de Nagua

Fefita La Grande

Rafaelito Román NEW!

La India Canela NEW!

Siano Arias NEW!

María Díaz

Agapito Pascual

David David

(AND MORE)

TATICO - Buy Tatico CDs

There is one person in música típica (traditional music) that is forever engraved in history. His name is Tatico Henríquez. He came from Nagua to the city of Santiago and from there went on to conquer the world with his accordion. A member of Trío Reynoso, he played the accordion in such a way that whoever saw him was immediately infected by his music. He played with more intensity and accelerated the tempo of the merengue, provoking a complete change in the way música típica was played at the time.

Tatico Henríquez has been considered the father of música típica. His group was composed of various musicians like Manochí, who at the time was playing marimba; El Viejo Ca, tambora; Miro Francisco, saxophone; and Julio Enriquez, guira. Later, Tatico went on to substitute other musicians that could help him to further evolve the music. Among these, he put El Flaco on the tambora; he removed the marimba and supplanted it with a bassist by the name of Victor. Danny Cabrera played saxophone, and later, he substituted Felix Días. Wanting to innovate within the style, Tatico included for the first time the conga rhythm. He had Flaco, the tamborero, play the conga rhythm on an upturned tambora – before that, only merengue orchestras used congas. Tatico was then obliged to add one more musician to the group. That conguero was called Roberto La Culebra.

Tatico was a rustic musician with an untrained voice, a rural expressive technique, and a very original style. He was so important in the music’s history that a musician who didn’t sing like Tatico or imitate his style wasn’t considered a musician of any appreciable quality. There was no competition for Tatico until the appearance of Bartolo Alvarado, known popularly as El Cieguito de Nagua.

EL CIEGO - Buy El Ciego CDs

El Ciego de Nagua became a new attraction in música típica, dividing in two the followers of that popular music. When Tatico and El Ciego came together to perform, it was like putting two boxers into a ring. The audience would nearly come to blows over the supremacy of one or the other, and the concerts would end in disaster. One of the things that made El Ciego de Nagua famous was the popular merengue El Fua, which was dedicated to the power outages that have been present in the Dominican Republic ever since the time of the Trujillo regime.

Bartolo Alvarado has been one of the musicians who revolutionized merengue típico. He raised the price of his records and sold the most costly tours in this genre's market, giving a greater value to traditional music. He created a modern style of playing accordion, in a very contagious way. He recorded new kinds of music like bolero, salsa, and cumbia, which in those times were a taboo in traditional music.

One of El Ciego de Nagua’s first groups was composed of the following accompanying musicians during the 70s: a Dominican güirero that later became a great composer, named Balbuena; on tambora Juan Robles Purito, lovingly known as El Viejo Puro; on saxofón, Félix Díaz; El Pingüino on bass, the only bass player in traditional music that has played the acoustic (or standing) bass; and Robinson on conga. During the 80s and 90s, the group experienced drastic changes, since some of the group’s members moved to the United States. Throughout the 1980s many musicians passed through the band, including Jesús Bonilla, güirero; Kelvin El Jabao, conga; Diploma, tambora; José Calvo, saxophone; Tano, bass; Rodolfo, familiarly Bocachula, tambora; and Ramoncito, güira. Also, several band leaders have come from El Ciego de Nagua’s group that now have their own bands. Among them are Agapito Pascual, tambora; José Calvo, who now leads the group Artilleria Pesada; and David David, who during the early 90s played güira for the group.

FEFITA - Buy Fefita CDs

The first recognized female accordionist in the Dominican Republic was Fefita La Grande. When Fefita was a young girl she already played accordion, and was the main attraction everywhere she made an appearance. One day during the 1940s Petán Trujillo, relative of the dictator, sent after a curious twelve-year-old girl who supposedly played the accordion, and when he saw her play, he was blown away. She made such a big impression that he put his hand in his pocket, took out 100 pesos, and put them in the hand of the little girl that was Fefita La Grande. In those days, 100 pesos were roughly the equivalent of five thousand dollars today.

Fefita is from a region called San José Santiago Rodríguez, in the northwestern part of the Cibao. Her father, Sergio, was an accordionist too and Fefita learned by watching him play. As time passed, Fefita grew famous playing on the radio stations and television of that country. She has always been a leader in música típica and was even in the 1980s the first person to bring merengue típico to Europe. She has won all kinds of prizes in music, including the Cassandra awards (the highest honor in Dominican music). She is known as “Fire Woman” because everyplace she plays “catches fire.” She has maintained one style of playing accordion her entire life, a style that only she can play.

Fefita has kept nearly the same members in her band since she began. Among them we can name Diploma, tambora; Domingo, bass; Neno, conga; Antonio, güira; and Fabio, saxophone. Since the beginning, her concerts have always been sold out, and even after more than fifty years, she is still playing accordion with the same enthusiasm as the day she began. She continues to be as popular as ever.

SIANO ARIAS - Buy Siano Arias CDs

Siano Arias was born in San Jose de Ocoa to a family of ten children. His father played accordion and loved merengue típico, which was still comparatively unusual in the South at the time. Although merengue típico was not native to the area, it was heard regularly on the radio, and Siano's father learned to play by listening. Because of his love for the instrument, four of the Arias brothers also became accordionists: Siano, Domingo, Wilson, y Willan. Of the four, Siano would become the most famous. For his stellar technique, his way with people, and his gift for composition, he was often compared to Tatico.

In the words of Siano's brother, Domingo: "Sometimes it isn't so much playing the accordion, but having the luck to penetrate the public, that the public should like the way you are, that you should be a nice, simple person, and that helped him more than playing well. There are many who play well and they haven't had the luck of getting to the [heart] of the people and staying there. Tatico was like that, he was an affectionate man, people followed him around like a caravan…. In Siano's case, if Siano hadn't died he would have been among the great musicians here. Here he had the musicians beat; here they spoke only of Siano Arias."

"Siano was a musician who for me, or for many musicians they categorized him as a second Tatico because he was a man who people really liked, he seemed sweet to people even though he played accordion really well… He came to Santiago and stole the audience away [in the 1980s]. He came but didn't stay long in Santiago… he went right away to the capital and moved here later. So Siano had been in Santiago four years when he died and even that same week he was going to travel to New York. Aureliano [Guzman] was going to take him. He was a musician who stole the show here." Siano died at age 32, leaving behind numerous recordings as well as songs like "Cuando Yo Me Muera," still popular today.


written by David David and Sydney Hutchinson