Merengue Venezolano                                          Emilio Mendoza        Appears in the Vol. IX “Genres of Carib...
Merengue Venezolano1991, 41). Soto mentions a possible derivation from the Vasque zorcico proposed by Vicente EmilioSojo (...
Merengue VenezolanoDespite the turnarounds of the merengue, it has a birth-right to be the typical Venezuelan rhythm:Tradi...
Merengue Venezolanosince it is an uncommon meter to experiment with, creating irregular syncopations, and since it is notm...
Merengue VenezolanoFig. 4 Merengue in a four-beat binary-subdivided meterFig. 5 Merengue in a four-beat ternary-subdivided...
Merengue VenezolanoMoncada, Fredy. 1998. ‘Eduardo Serrano.’ In Enciclopedia de la Música en Venezuela Vol. 2    [Encyclope...
Merengue VenezolanoSoto, Cristóbal. 1998. ‘Merengue.’ In Enciclopedia de la Música en Venezuela Vol. 2 [Encyclopedia of   ...
Merengue VenezolanoDíaz, Alirio. ‘Guasa.’ Recital Alirio Díaz. Venedisco VD-1406. 1978: Venezuela.Díaz, Simón. ‘El Testame...
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Merengue venezolano

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Merengue venezolano

  1. 1. Merengue Venezolano Emilio Mendoza Appears in the Vol. IX “Genres of Caribbean and Central and South American Origin.” Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World, Londres: Continuum, 2008.The Venezuelan merengue is a completely different style of music from the homonymous genre of theDominican Republic. It is also named in two more other ways: as merengue caraqueño, relating itsorigin to the capital Caracas, and as merengue rucaneao, depicting the sensual pelvic movements of itsdance. Rúcano is a mix for a popular jelly dessert, being a simile for the joyful shaking of this populardance music.The merengue came into trend during the 1920s until the 1940s in the last period of a rural, backwardVenezuela ruled by the dictator Juan Vicente Gómez, who died in 1936. The country was changing to amodern nation growing with the developing oil industry. At first, the dance music was closely relatedto the mabiles, popular drinking and dancing places in Caracas, and to the Carnaval celebrations of theCapital in parades and in plazas. The merengue was later absorbed into the dance halls of the higherclasses through the adoption and arrangements by the famous dance orchestra of Luis Alfonso Larrain,founded in 1939, and also became part of the repertoire of popular smaller groups and composers suchas Eduardo Serrano, and the ‘Cantores del Trópico,’ lead by the guitarrist-singer-composer AntonioLauro, who also composed his Merengue para guitarra. Hybrid traditional ensembles as theestudiantinas, orquestas típicas and bandas marciales, dedicated to play arrangements of Venezuelanfolk music, always included merengues in their programs. Estudiantinas are situated in the educationalcircuits, the orquestas típicas and bandas are usually subsidized by the local governments.According to Ramón y Rivera, the merengue venezolano is a music-type descended from the danzacubana, and it was known up until the 1920s as tango-merengue (Ramón y Rivera 1976, 95), andindistinctively named guasa or merengue thereafter (Ramón y Rivera 1969, 190). He traces the firstappearances of the danza merengue in music manuscripts from 1880 (Ramón y Rivera 1976, 85),which include academic composers such as José A. Montero (1839-1881) and Salvador Llamozas(1854-1940) (Soto 1998), and the famous band music composer Pedro Elías Gutiérrez (1870-1954)(Peñín 1998). In the other hand, Salazar argues that the merengue originated from the Andalusiantanguillo, but could also have derived from the fulía negra, an Afro-Venezuelan folk type of the centralcoast, and that the tango merengue originated from Haiti, spreading throughout the Caribbean (Salazar
  2. 2. Merengue Venezolano1991, 41). Soto mentions a possible derivation from the Vasque zorcico proposed by Vicente EmilioSojo (Soto 1998, 220). It was also performed by grupos cañoneros (‘cannon’ music groups), due to thefact that the musicians would call the attention by firing a bamboo cylinder (trabuco) filled with anexplosive mixture dubbed carburo, every time a performance of merengue would start in the entrances(zaguanes) of private houses. Its traditional instrumentation consisted of guitar, cuatro (Venezuelanstrummed four-string chordophone), rallo (gourd rasp), maracas, and a mandolin, flute, violin orclarinet as melodic instruments, with voices (Soto 1998, 221).After the successful period with Larrain’s orchestra in the 1940s, among many other orquestas debaile, the presence of this music and dance style diminished considerably by the effect of thedistribution of foreign recorded music, by its wide-spread through the radio as well as by foreigntouring artists in a socially different, modern Venezuela. However, one or two merengues continued tobe included in the repertoire of dance orchestras such as ‘Billo’s Caracas Boys’ during the 1950s inhigher-class circles, specially for the famous Carnival celebrations in Caracas during the regime of thedictator Marcos Pérez Jiménez. Merengue has been always included in the repertoire of musicians withneofolklore tendencies: small vocal ensembles such as the ‘Quinteto Contrapunto’ from the mid 1960sand ‘Serenata Guayanesa,’ as well as in choir arrangements from the beginning of the 1970s onwards.The same appiles to hybrid-instrumental new groups from the 1980s such as ‘El Cuarteto,’ ‘GrupoRaíces de Venezuela,’ ‘Ensamble Gurrufío,’ and solo singers such as Simón Díaz, Cecilia Todd andLilia Vera. It also became one of the rhythms adopted by the art-music composers involved in theNationalist school lead by the composer Vicente Emilio Sojo in mid-twentieth century such as InocenteCarreño. This trend has persisted well into the twenty-first century, where academic composers equallyversed in popular music, such as Orlando Cardozo in his Merenguísticas, have taken the merenguerhythm as being typical of Venezuelan new culture, although it is part of the past as a dance or folkmusic genre. Small new ensembles as well as jazz artists devoted to fusión music such as Aquiles Báezand ‘Akurima,’ experiment in the search for the Venezuelan-defining type of style, and advocate forthe merengue as one of the best candidates among all Venezuelan rhythms to represent the newnational pop music-to-be. Here the merengue venezolano faces a slight disadvantage since it is musicideally to be danced to in couples, but it is in the hands of a side of the Venezuelan music activity thatdoes not involve dance in its performances. At the same time, the merengue is being promoted with theintention to regain acceptance in the pop media, which, as a key to success, it would imply servingagain the purpose to be music for dancing. Nevertheless, this rhythm is within a dynamic creativesituation with unexpected and surprising results for the future. 2
  3. 3. Merengue VenezolanoDespite the turnarounds of the merengue, it has a birth-right to be the typical Venezuelan rhythm:Traditionally, the first lesson given in order to learn to play the cuatro, the national folk and popinstrument, includes the merengue rhythm strummed on the right hand spelling the words ‘sopa-con-pollo’ (chicken soup), (see Figure Nº1). With this technique mastered, almost every child in Venezuelalearns to play the first song, the traditional merengue called ‘Compadre Pancho.’Merengue venezolano survives in its approximate original version through the performances by gruposde proyección such as ‘Los Antaños del Stadium’ since 1950, ‘Cañón Contigo,’ founded in the early1980s, and the more recent ‘Rucaneo del Mabil.’ The latter has as its purpose ‘… to rescue thisforgotten music typical of a city, Caracas, which has no longer any music to define it …’ and at thesame time to ‘… provide a dance-music alternative to compete with foreign music …’ (Gil 2005). Theyinclude in their repertoire other traditional salon dance music as well as merengue, such as pasodobles,joropos, vals, fox-trots and aguinaldos. These groups incorporate wind instruments such as thesaxophone, trumpet and trombone, a snare drum with cymbal and the electric bass, and usually dress informal pair of trousers with suspenders and a flat-top round, straw hat. Their performances are seenmore as a museum-type of concert, nostalgic of the lost and forgotten cultural homogeneity of Caracas.Even by the fact that the merengue is not part of regular dance repertoire anymore, the charm of therhythm persists to attract present composers that are actively producing songs within this style, such asLuis Laguna, Pablo Camacaro of the ‘Grupo Raíces de Venezuela,’ and jazz artists such as AldemaroRomero, Gerry Weil and the new pianist Prisca Dávila, among many others.The rhythm of merengue is traditionally written as a two-beat phrase, but a controversy exists as to howto transcribe it into music notation. The mentioned authors as well as many other scholars havecontinuously discussed it, not arriving at any agreement (Ramón y Rivera 1976, 89; Salazar 1991, 42;Soto 1998, 221). As the merengue has become part of the life of written academic music and ofarrangements of jazz music in its recent development, there are three transcription options that can beused but none of them work efficiently to make the performed music sound as a merengue venezolano.It can be written in a two-fourth measure with triplets and two binary eighths notes (see Figure 1), or ina six-eighth meter as in the majority of Venezuelan music (see Figure 2). But within the composers, thetrend has been to choose the five-eighth meter (see Figure 3). The problem with the first option is thatthe second eighth note on the second beat sounds too slow. In the six-eighth version, it sounds toosimilar to a large body of Afro-Venezuelan music. In the last version, the five-eighth meter, it wouldnot be danceable because the two beats would be irregular: one with a length of a dotted quarter noteand the second one with a quarter. The last version has become the preferred one for new composers 3
  4. 4. Merengue Venezolanosince it is an uncommon meter to experiment with, creating irregular syncopations, and since it is notmeant to be danced to, it can be performed faster and measured in one beat.In the true merengue dance sense, the rhythm should be in a double two-beat meter, since the dancermakes a major step with the right foot on the first beat of the first measure and a major correspondingstep with the left foot on the first beat of the second measure. So it is really a four-beat rhythm (seeFigure 4 and 5) afact that has not been previously considered. The problem caused by the second eighthof the second and fourth beats of the measure, the accented second note, can be solved by performing itwith an accent and with a nuance back or forth depending on the case whether it is written with twobinary eighth notes (Figure 4) or with an eighth with a quarter note within a twelve-eighth meter (seeFigure 5). This is really what happens in the performance of the merengue venezolano, a delightful,promising rhythm indeed.Fig. 1 Merengue in a two-fourth meter (with the words used in its teaching for the cuatro)Fig. 2 Merengue in a six-eighth meterFig. 3 Merengue in a five-eighth meter 4
  5. 5. Merengue VenezolanoFig. 4 Merengue in a four-beat binary-subdivided meterFig. 5 Merengue in a four-beat ternary-subdivided meterBibliographyAretz, Isabel. 1967. Instrumentos Musicales de Venezuela [Venezuelan Music Instruments]. Cumaná: Universidad de Oriente.Aretz, Isabel. 1988. Manual del Folklore Venezolano [Handbook of Venezuelan Folklore]. Caracas: Monte Ávila Editores.Bruzual, Alejandro. 1998. ‘Antonio Lauro.’ In Enciclopedia de la Música en Venezuela Vol. 1 [Encyclopedia of Music in Venezuela], eds. José Peñín and Walter Guido. Caracas: Fundación Bigott, 106-10.CA Editora El Nacional and Fundación Bigott. 1998. Atlas de Tradiciones Venezolanas. Caracas: El Nacional.Cortina, Alfredo. 1994. Caracas, la ciudad que se nos fue [Caracas the City that went away from us]. Caracas: Fundarte.Doffiny, Felipe. 1998. ‘Los Antaños del Stadium.’ In Enciclopedia de la Música en Venezuela Vol. 1 [Encyclopaedia of Music in Venezuela], eds. José Peñín and Walter Guido. Caracas: Fundación Bigott, 64-65.Doffiny, Felipe. 1998. ‘Gerry Weil.’ In Enciclopedia de la Música en Venezuela Vol. 2 [Encyclopedia of Music in Venezuela], eds. José Peñín and Walter Guido. Caracas: Fundación Bigott, 742.Fundación Vicente Emilio Sojo. Catálogo Discográfico de Intérpretes y Compositores Venezolanos [Discographical Catalogue of Venezuelan Performers and Composers]. http://www.catalogofunves.org.veGil, Daniel. Venezuela Demo Rucaneo del Mabil. http://www.venezuelademo.com/musicos/artistas/rucaneo-del-mabil.pdfGirón, Israel and Melfi, María Teresa. 1988. Instrumentos Musicales de América Latina y el Caribe [Music Instruments of Latin American and the Caribbean]. Caracas: CONAC-CCPYT-OEA.Lauro, Antonio. 2001. Works for Guitar Vol. 1-10. Caracas: Caroní Music.Marcano, Angel Vicente. 2004. Luis Alfonso Larrain. Caracas: Editorial La Espada Rota.Moncada, Fredy. 1998. ‘Aldemaro Romero.’ In Enciclopedia de la Música en Venezuela Vol. 2 [Encyclopedia of Music in Venezuela], eds. José Peñín and Walter Guido. Caracas: Fundación Bigott, 560. 5
  6. 6. Merengue VenezolanoMoncada, Fredy. 1998. ‘Eduardo Serrano.’ In Enciclopedia de la Música en Venezuela Vol. 2 [Encyclopedia of Music in Venezuela], eds. José Peñín and Walter Guido. Caracas: Fundación Bigott, 614.Ortiz, Manuel Antonio. 1998. ‘Guasa.’ In Enciclopedia de la Música en Venezuela Vol. 1 [Encyclopaedia of Music in Venezuela], eds. José Peñín and Walter Guido. Caracas: Fundación Bigott, 694-95.Ortiz, Manuel Antonio. 1998. ‘Serenata Guayanesa.’ In Enciclopedia de la Música en Venezuela Vol. 2 [Encyclopaedia of Music in Venezuela], eds. José Peñín and Walter Guido. Caracas: Fundación Bigott, 609-10.Ortiz, Manuel Antonio. 1998. ‘Cecilia Todd.’ In Enciclopedia de la Música en Venezuela Vol. 2 [Encyclopaedia of Music in Venezuela], eds. José Peñín and Walter Guido. Caracas: Fundación Bigott, 681-82.Peñín, José. 1998. ‘Inocente Carreño.’ In Enciclopedia de la Música en Venezuela Vol. 1 [Encyclopaedia of Music in Venezuela], eds. José Peñín and Walter Guido. Caracas: Fundación Bigott, 320-26.Peñín, José. 1998. ‘Quinteto Contrapunto.’ In Enciclopedia de la Música en Venezuela Vol. 1 [Encyclopaedia of Music in Venezuela], eds. José Peñín and Walter Guido. Caracas: Fundación Bigott, 411-12.Peñín, José. 1998. ‘Pedro Elías Gutiérrez.’ In Enciclopedia de la Música en Venezuela Vol. 1 [Encyclopaedia of Music in Venezuela], eds. José Peñín and Walter Guido. Caracas: Fundación Bigott, 707-10.Peñín, José. 1998. ‘Luis Laguna.’ In Enciclopedia de la Música en Venezuela Vol. 2 [Encyclopaedia of Music in Venezuela], eds. José Peñín and Walter Guido. Caracas: Fundación Bigott, 95.Ramón y Rivera, Luis Felipe. 1976. La Música Popular de Venezuela [The Venezuelan Popular Music]. Caracas: Talleres Gráficos Armitano.Ramón y Rivera, Luis Felipe. 1969. La Música Folklórica de Venezuela [The Venezuelan Folk Music]. Caracas: Monte Ávila Editores.Rodríguez Legendre, Fidel. 1998. Música, Sojo y Caudillismo Cultural [Music, Sojo and Cultural Leadership]. Caracas: FUNVES. 49-55.Salazar, Rafael and Lares, Oswaldo. 2003. Venezuela Caribe y Música [Venezuela, The Caribbean and Music]. Caracas: Artes Gráficas de PDVSA.Salazar, Rafael. 1991. Venezuela es Música [Venezuela is Music]. Caracas: Disco Club Venezolano.Salazar, Rafael. 1999. ‘La Música del Mestizaje.’ Revista Musical Venezolana 40: 225-67.Salazar, Rafael. 1999. Eduardo Serrano: Maestro de la Música Urbana [Eduardo Serrano: Master of Urban Music]. Caracas: ISEAL/UNESCO.Salazar, Rafael. n/d. Música Venezolana [Venezuelan Music]. Caracas: Federación de la Cultura Popular.Sangiorgi, Felipe. 1998. ‘Vicente Emilio Sojo.’ In Enciclopedia de la Música en Venezuela Vol. 2 [Encyclopaedia of Music in Venezuela], eds. José Peñín and Walter Guido. Caracas: Fundación Bigott, 628-42. 6
  7. 7. Merengue VenezolanoSoto, Cristóbal. 1998. ‘Merengue.’ In Enciclopedia de la Música en Venezuela Vol. 2 [Encyclopedia of Music in Venezuela], eds. José Peñín and Walter Guido. Caracas: Fundación Bigott, 219–23.Soto, Cristóbal. 1998. ‘Cañón Contigo.’ In Enciclopedia de la Música en Venezuela Vol. 1 [Encyclopedia of Music in Venezuela], eds. José Peñín and Walter Guido. Caracas: Fundación Bigott, 283-84.Soto, Cristóbal. 1998. ‘Grupo Raíces de Venezuela.’ In Enciclopedia de la Música en Venezuela Vol. 1 [Encyclopedia of Music in Venezuela], eds. José Peñín and Walter Guido. Caracas: Fundación Bigott, 687–88.Strauss, Rafael, ed. 1999. ‘Los Antaños del Stadium.’ In Diccionario de la Cultura Popular Vol. 1 [Dictionary of Popular Culture]. Caracas: Fundación Bigott, 21-22.Strauss, Rafael, ed. 1999. ‘Cañón Contigo.’ In Diccionario de la Cultura Popular Vol. 1 [Dictionary of Popular Culture]. Caracas: Fundación Bigott, 102.Strauss, Rafael, ed. 1999. ‘El Cuarteto.’ In Diccionario de la Cultura Popular Vol. 1 [Dictionary of Popular Culture]. Caracas: Fundación Bigott, 172-74.Strauss, Rafael, ed. 1999. ‘Simón Díaz.’ In Diccionario de la Cultura Popular Vol. 1 [Dictionary of Popular Culture]. Caracas: Fundación Bigott, 218-22.Strauss, Rafael, ed. 1999. ‘Ensemble Gurrufío.’ In Diccionario de la Cultura Popular Vol. 1 [Dictionary of Popular Culture]. Caracas: Fundación Bigott, 240-41.Strauss, Rafael, ed. 1999. ‘Merengue.’ In Diccionario de la Cultura Popular Vol. 1 [Dictionary of Popular Culture]. Caracas: Fundación Bigott, 451.Strauss, Rafael, ed. 1999. ‘Serenata Guayanesa.’ In Diccionario de la Cultura Popular Vol. 2 [Dictionary of Popular Culture]. Caracas: Fundación Bigott, 687-90.Strauss, Rafael, ed. 1999. ‘Eduardo Serrano.’ In Diccionario de la Cultura Popular Vol. 1 [Dictionary of Popular Culture]. Caracas: Fundación Bigott, 690-91.Strauss, Rafael, ed. 1999. ‘Lilia Vera.’ In Diccionario de la Cultura Popular Vol. 1 [Dictionary of Popular Culture]. Caracas: Fundación Bigott, 798-800.Valles, Aminta. 2008. Reconstrucción del Merengue Caraqueño [Reconstruction of the Caracas Merengue]. Forthcoming Doctor’s Degree in Education thesis, Universidad Pedagógica Libertador, Caracas.DiscographyAkurima. ‘Nenengue.’ Bajo un Cielo Toronjil. Independent Production FD 2522005136. 2005: Venezuela.Báez, Aquiles. … Y su Música. Independent Production. 1987: Venezuela.Billo’s Caracas Boys. ‘Un Porfiao.’ Y para Todo el Año Billo. Billo LPB 3-80. 1981: Venezuela.Chacín, María Teresa. ‘Mi Merengue.’ María Teresa Chacín. Palacio LPS-66414. 1979: Venezuela.Círculo Musical. ‘Venezuela Merengue,’ ‘Valse,’ ‘Pasodoble Rucaneao.’ Caracas 400 Años. Círculo Musical. 1967: Venezuela.Dávila, Prisca. ‘Lydiando Merengue.’ Piano Jazz Venezolano. Independent Production. 2003: Venezuela.Dávila, Prisca. ‘Frigiando Merengue.’ Estoy Aquí. Independent Production. 2005: Venezuela. 7
  8. 8. Merengue VenezolanoDíaz, Alirio. ‘Guasa.’ Recital Alirio Díaz. Venedisco VD-1406. 1978: Venezuela.Díaz, Simón. ‘El Testamento de Judas.’ Tonadas Simón Díaz Vol 2. Palacio LPS-66384. 1977: Venezuela.Fernández Iznaola, Ricardo. ‘Guasa.’ Ricardo Fernández Iznaola Vol 2. Promus LPS-20154. 1977: Venezuela.Grupo Raíces de Venezuela. Grupo Raíces de Venezuela. Disqueras Unidas. LPMS 5011. 1977: Venezuela.Los Antaños del Stadium. ‘Cocoita,’ ‘El Perico,’ ‘La Ruperto,’ ‘Negra Mala,’ ‘La Niña,’ ‘Los Hijos de la Noche.’ Los Antaños del Stadium. Discomoda DCM516. N/y: Venezuela.Quinteto Contrapunto. ‘María Tolete.’ Música Popular y Folklórica de Venezuela Volumen IV. Polydor Mono 033. 1965: Venezuela.Romero, Aldemaro. ‘Medley of Merengues,’ ‘Préstame tu Máquina,’ ‘La Guayaba,’ ‘La Media Rosca.’ Venezuela Aldemaro Romero and his Salon Orchesta. RCA Victor LPM-1315. 1956: Venezuela.Serenata Guayanesa. ‘El Burro Parrandero,’ ‘Pesca de Zapoara.’ Música Folklórica y Popular Venezolana. London 77978. 1972: Venezuela.Serenata Guayanesa. ‘El Kaiser,’ ‘Media Diana.’ Serenata Guayanesa Vol 3. London LPS 88537. 1976: Venezuela.Sevillano, Jesús. ‘Juana y José.’ Canta Jesús Sevillano. Polydor 30074. N/y: Venezuela.Various Artists. ‘Brujería.’ Dos Cuatros. Souvenir SLP13-13. N/y: Venezuela.Various Artists. ‘Cambio Futurista,’ ‘La Caraota,’ ‘La Suegra’ ‘La Veragacha.’ Canciones de Venezuela. Polydor 30230. 1977: Venezuela.Various Artists. ‘Carmen .’ Folklore Venezolano. Turpial TLP5120. N/y: Venezuela.Various Artists. ‘Carmen.’ Dos Cuatros. León FCLP-017. N/y: Venezuela.Various Artists. ‘El Monstruo de Portuguesa.’ El Hijo del Cazador. Divensa LP-014. 1976: Venezuela.Various Artists. ‘El Porteño,’ ‘La Bartolada.’ Danzas Venezolanas del siglo XIX. Mariasa LP-001. N/y: Venezuela.Various Artists. ‘Mi Teresa.’ Aguinaldos y otras Melodías Venezolanas. Siruma. N/y: Venezuela.Various Artists. ‘Tuntuneco,’ ‘El Porfiao.’ Páginas de Oro de Venezuela. Tops Hits THS-1201. 1977: Venezuela.Vigilantes de Tránsito. ‘El Ruego,’ ‘Los Encantos de Lara,’ ‘Mi Secretito.’ A Bailar con los Vigilantes de Tránsito de Venezuela. n/p LP001. N/y: Venezuela.Weil, Gerry. ‘Merengue Rucaneao.’ In Prisca Dávila. Piano Jazz Venezolano. Independent Production. 2003: Venezuela. 8

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