Music and Dance

The merengue style of music is mainly associated with the Dominican Republic, as it originated in this region. Characterized by a lot of variations in tempo, different dance forms were developed from this music style, which are quite famous worldwide.
Fast Fact
The first meringue song was supposedly written in 1844, which also marked the foundation of the Dominican Republic. It is a war song that makes sarcastic remarks about a soldier called Thomas Torres, who abandoned a battle and ran away from his fellow soldiers.
Merengue music as well as dance first originated in the 19th century, and has a typical Latin American flavor to it. This art form also has an African influence, and is the national dance of the Dominican Republic. Merengue was further popularized by the dictator of this nation, called Rafael Trujillo. In the early- to mid-twentieth century, he extensively promoted this music, which later on spread to other parts of Central America and also to the USA, where it was first introduced in New York city.

There always has been a controversy regarding the derivation of the name ‘merengue’. Some say that it has been derived from the French dessert confectionery called ‘meringue’, which is made up of sugar and egg-whites. This recipe has a ‘light and bubbly feel’ to it, which was compared to the same feature of merengue music-short, simple, and cyclic rhythm patterns. It is very similar to other Latin American music and dance forms, like salsa and bachata.

There are several theories that explain the origin of merengue, but none of them have yet been confirmed. Some say that this style evolved equivalently with African, European, and Central American elements and features. It developed as a type of rural music in the Caribbean region, and also is the cultural identity and national symbol of the Dominican Republic. The music though is a bit different from the one that is played in Haiti; the latter has a slower tempo and mainly depends on string instruments such as the acoustic guitar and ukelele.

According to one version, merengue originated from the slaves who were tied together with one leg, while leaving the other free. They had to move and drag their free single legs while cutting sugarcane in the background of loud drum beats. This led to the idea of using only a single leg while dancing, in respect of the slaves who suffered. A second story tells of a war hero who returned home to his village after being victorious in many battles. Such wars were a part of the revolution that took place in the nation of the Dominican Republic in the 19th century. This soldier was limping as he was injured on one leg, and hence, to celebrate his patriotism towards his country, all the village people started limping and dancing to honor him, specifically on a 4/4 to 2/4 beat. This probably lead to the birth of merengue.

Elements of Blues Music

The components of blues music are a base for the introduction of many other sub-genres of this music. This article concentrates on the musical elements of blues music…
Blues is undoubtedly the most popular music genre which has undergone many changes in its characteristics since its inception. Most notable genres of music such as rock and rhythm and blues have been developed on the basis of the contents of blues music. This music was a result of the combination of African and Western cultures in the Southern part of America. Some of early blues music personalities were Bukka White, Robert Johnson, and Bessie Smith. Banjo and piano were the early instruments in this music type.

Major Elements of Blues Music

Melody and Harmony
The harmony of blues music mainly focuses on the first, fourth and fifth chords of a combination. So, if the musical piece starts in the A chord, next chords will be fourth ‘D’ and fifth ‘E’ chords. And for G as the starting chord, the following chords would be C and D. This is exactly similar to the standard relative chord combinations. When it comes to melody, blues music also consists of an emphasis on the flattened third, fifth and seventh notes of a major scale. These notes are traditionally played in a blues scale.

The rhythm is also a unique characteristic of blues music. The rhythm is based on the 12-bar and 48-beat repetitive pattern. The three above-mentioned chords are played for 12 bars. Normally, the bar is divided into certain numbers of beats for different chords. For example, the first chord will be played for 16 beats, eight beats for the fourth chord, and eight beats for the first chord again. This will be followed by four beats for the fifth, four more beats for the fourth chord, finally coming down to eight beats for the first chord. Taking the example of E-A-B combination, the 12 bars can be divided in E/E/E/E/A/A/E/E/B7/A/E/E pattern.

Just like the melody, harmony, and rhythm; lyrics are also to be placed in blues music in a different manner. The verse of a conventional blues song comprises three lines. The first two lines are more or less the same, followed by the third. Most of the time, the first two lines are the same, and have question-like lyrics. The third line, is the response to the first two lines. So, the lyrical structure becomes in the AAB pattern. Singing first two lines is divided among eight measures in a 12-bar, whereas the rest four measures consist of singing the third line. Thematically, blues lyrics concentrate more on sadness and disappointing stories; such as poverty, lost relationships, death, violence, racism, and so on. Hence, verses are in a question-answer format.

Musical Instrument Sounds
Earlier, the banjo was prominently used as the main instrument for blues music. However, in the early 1900s, guitar and piano were added. Nowadays, as this music has become so innovative, many other instruments have been added as a standard. Basses, drums, and harmonica are included in the blues scene today. Using various instruments is the chief reason why there are many branches in blues music found today.

This type of music has been through many modification phrases with regards to lyrics, instruments, and harmony; which is evident in most types of music today. The most popular sub-genre is blues-rock, which is a blend of blues and rock elements. The elements of music in R&B, hip hop, and rock and roll genres are also related to blues music. Many of the heavy metal music is based on the roots of blues.