Martha Ellen Davis

A creole culture—Music as a symbol of national identity—The components of Dominican musical culture: The Native American musical heritage; The Hispanic musical heritage; The African musical heritage—Major musical genres and performance contexts: Work songs; Improvisatory poetic genres—Music of folk religion: African-based spiritist cults; Main musical contexts of Dominican folk Catholicism—Secular musical traditions: Brass bands; Secular song: Secular dance—Conclusions


OF ALL THE FORMER COLONIES in the New World, the Dominican Republic is the oldest. As the first colony in the Americas, the roots of today’s Dominican culture lie in the earliest years of the European conquest. The Native American component (Taíno, a subgroup of the Arawak) is now virtually absent, due to the early demise of the native population. Consequently, contemporary Dominican culture is “creole,” criollo or criolla traditionally defined as “born in the New World.” It is a fusion of Old-World elements of Hispanic and African provenance, tempered by New-World circumstance and creativity.

The cultural composition of the Dominican Republic varies according to region, social class, and rural or urban location, all of which are factors that determine the nature and proportions of cultural “ingredients.” These factors are in turn determined by economics, and ultimately by geography and ecology. In the Dominican Republic, the upper class and longtime urban middle class are culturally Hispanic; the middle class is traditionally Hispanic, but its cultural composition is becoming more African-influenced due to current class mobility; the rural and urban lower-class sectors (comprised mainly of former rural dwellers) vary according to region. Regional differences parallel Puerto Rico and Cuba, wherein the Hispanic component predominates in the central mountains, suitable for diverse agriculture, and this area is ringed by coastal flatlands suitable for sugarcane cultivation and consequent settlement by Africans and their descendants during slavery. This geographically and economically determined settlement pattern was established in early colonial times and continues until today. The region of the Cibao Valley and central and northern mountain ranges are the areas of the Hispanic oligarchy and peasantry, respectively. The South (Southwest and Central-South) and border area, the cane plantations throughout the country, and the Province of Samaná are African-influenced, either through direct settlement or indirect African influence from Haiti. The East, the traditional cattle-ranching area since the early days of the colony and now a sugar area, is mixed. Significant Protestant enclaves, of West Indian origin in San Pedro de Macorís and Sánchez, of Afro-North American origin in Samaná, and both in Puerto Plata, will not be addressed here. (For material on the music of this enclave in Samaná, see Davis 1980b, 1981a, and 1983.) The similarities and differences between these cultural constellations are exhibited in, and exemplified by, music (see Map).

Dominican musical culture differs markedly from that of neighboring Haiti. While also a creole culture, Haiti’s musical traditions are far more influenced by the African heritage than Santo Domingo’s. In 1697 France wrested the western third of the island from Spain, which had left Santo Domingo to languish as a colonial backwater after the discovery of riches in Mexico and Peru. France developed Saint-Domingue, called Haïti after the 1804 revolution, as the jewel in its crown. “Development” at that time required a slave labor force, hence the massive importation of Africans. This explains the differences between black/white ratio as well as ethnic composition in the two countries, with regard to both their European (Spanish or French) and African components.


The presumably objective description of Dominican culture as creole may not coincide with the view of certain social sectors, for each nation has its own discourse regarding its identity, based on a collective concept of its sociocultural composition and mythologized interpretation of historical events. The Dominican Republic defines its national identity in counterposition to Haiti, and as reaction to the Haitian invasion and domination from 1822 to 1844, a key historical marker. Haiti constitutionally denotes itself as a black republic; consequently the Dominican Republic denotes itself as a white republic. Dominican scholars of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have emphasized their European heritage as evidence of this definition of national culture. The African heritage has been vastly underrepresented in the scientific literature. Until recently, both scholars and folk musicians often attributed musical instruments that obviously were not European to “the Indians,” when they are actually Afro-Dominican. This, too, is part of the collective national myth. African or Haitian manifestations are rejected as cancerous intrusions tainting the purity of the Hispanic heritage.

The hispanophilic bias can be explained by three factors: (a) the European-centered nature of the academic disciplines themselves; (b) the classdetermined Hispanic culture of the scholars constructing these views, most of whom belonged to the urban elite; and (c) national and Catholic Church policies against all things and persons black, African, or Haitian, which are considered synonymous. (Note, in addition, the union of Church and state.) For instance, the nature of the discipline of folklore and the issue of social class explain the topics and informants chosen for study by folklorist Edna Garrido Boggs, namely ballads (1946) and children’s songs (1955), which are Spanish-derived genres. All three factors explain the biased views of the prolific musicologist Flérida de Nolasco (1939, 1948, and 1956).

The same perspectives are expressed in comments on music by historians and writers of the late nineteenth century, many of them cited in Música y baile en Santo Domingo (1971) by Emilio Rodríguez Demorizi. For instance, the erudite historian Eugenio María de Hostos, in an 1892 work on Dominican society, makes reference to “an instrument of civilization, the accordion … and an instrument of savagery, … [the] single-skinned drum, the atabal [long drum]” (Rodríguez Demorizi 1971: 150); and the costumbrist writer César Nicolás Penson, in Cosas añejas of 1891, refers to the long drums as “very primitive instruments” (loc. cit.). Rodríguez Demorizi himself, official historian for the dictator Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina (1891–1961), who ruled from 1930 to 1961, sustained the rabidly racist extremes of Trujillo’s policies, even after the death of “the chief,” in his vehement rejection of Afro-Dominican customs such as Vodú and its associated drum music (1971: 95).

MAP – 168

Currently, a number of younger scholars and folk-pop musicians, as well as a few older scholars who ride the fashion, emphasize the African heritage of Dominican culture as a form of antithesis. This is a natural phase, although the synthesis—the concept of a creole culture—more accurately represents reality.


In the sections that follow, we shall sift out the components of Dominican musical culture according to ethnic origin, namely Native American, Hispanic, and African. However, the subsequent discussion and musical recordings, taken as a whole, will illustrate the articulation of these components into a multifaceted creole culture. In addition, it must not be forgotten that, as the history of the New World unfolds, there is an increasing lack of correlation between race and culture. In other words, racial type does not fully correspond with culture and, therefore, the practitioners of some of the most authentic and archaic Hispanic genres are black Dominicans.

The Native American musical heritage

This component is actually negligible, for by the year 1548, the Taínos, who numbered at least one million at the time of conquest, had been reduced by disease and warfare to a mere 500. Their heritage has been perpetuated in cultigens and material culture, that is, foodstuffs and technology, rather than in the less tangible aspects of culture. Taíno music and dance were less necessary for the conquerors’ survival and, undoubtedly, were considered heretical when associated with religious ritual.

Chroniclers document the areíto or areyto as the main Taíno music and dance event of the islands of Hispaniola (called Quisqueya or Haiti), Puerto Rico (called Boriquén), and Cuba. The areíto was a religious ritual with dance that varied according to the occasion of performance. It was accompanied by a wooden slit drum, the mayohuacán, and singing by as many as three to four hundred dancers who assumed line or circle formations in close proximity with hand or arm contact. (For a substantive study of references to the areíto in the chronicles, see Thompson 1993.)

These public religious rituals totally disappeared, and so did much of Taíno music and dance as a whole. Only vestiges of beliefs—such as the concept of inhabitation of springs and streams by Indian deities—have remained in the Central Southwest of the Dominican Republic (the area of San Juan de la Maguana / Las Matas de Farfán), which appears to have been the main ceremonial and political center of the island. Cultural transmission probably took place through contact between escaped African slaves and the last Indians they encountered in the Sierra de Bahoruco and perhaps other remote areas. At the present time, some saints considered to be “Indios” are honored in the southwestern region by festivals and pilgrimages to freshwater sites, but the music played for them is creole, of Spanish and African influence.

The Hispanic musical heritage

The earliest settlers were largely of Spanish peasant stock, probably from Extremadura and Andalucía, as well as repatriated Sephardic Jews escaping the Inquisition and the Christian Reconquest of Spain from the Moors and the Jews that, not coincidentally, also was concluded in 1492. These early settlers established the original culture of the colonists, including linguistic and musical practices. The next significant wave of Spanish migration was from the Canary Islands, primarily Tenerife, in the late 1600s; some of the canarios or isleños were also Jewish. Their characteristics, including certain musical practices, still are detectable among their descendants in various towns throughout the country. Twentieth-century Spanish immigration, from Galicia and Asturias, has had little effect on the long-established Dominican culture, although it has had much impact no commerce.

From a demographic viewpoint, the Hispanic component of Dominican culture is overrepresented because of the cultural domination implicit in the Spanish political, economic, military, and religious control of the country for three hundred and fifty years. The Spanish colony on the island of Hispaniola, discovered by Columbus in 1492, passed to French hands in 1795 and back to Spain in 1809. The colony declared its independence from Spain as the Dominican Republic in 1821, but was invaded by Haiti in 1822, gaining its independence from Haiti in 1844. Consequently, Hispanic-derived culture and music constitute an underlying and ubiquitous common denominator in Dominican music and dance.

In addition, specific Spanish retentions also can be identified, rather unchanged from their early colonial origins. Hispanic-Dominican music illustrates the fact that emigrant groups often retain aspects of culture in the living tradition that continue evolving or die out in the area of origin. Just as Cecil Sharp needed to come to Appalachia to collect British balladry, so certain Spanish musical genres are better preserved in the Dominican Republic than in Spain itself. Two works by folklorist Edna Garrido Boggs illustrate this point: Versiones dominicanas de romances españoles (1946), on the Spanish ballad in the Dominican Republic; and her extensive and meticulously researched and annotated Folklore infantil de Santo Domingo (1955, reprinted in 1980), on children’s songs and games, with transcriptions by Ruth Crawford Seeger, whose recordings are in the Archive of Folk Culture of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. It is important to point out that, in light of our generalizations about the distribution of musical culture, Garrido Boggs did most of her 1940s fieldwork not in the Cibao, but rather in southern towns and in the capital (which is also in the South), indicating the very Hispanic nature of Dominican urban areas as a whole, although this is changing.

Other important genres of Hispanic ancestry include some types of work songs; various Improvisatory poetic genres (sung conversation or debate); ritual songs of folk Catholicism; and several types of secular, recreational dance. Note that all except dance music are vocal genres performed without instrumental accompaniment. This contrasts with other areas of the Spanish-speaking Caribbean and circum-Caribbean that have significant string-accompanied decíma traditions, a major improvisatory poetic genre.

Spanish-derived or influenced vocal music is characteristically unmetered, melismatic, responsorially performed when the music’s function is religious, sung high in both the male and female registers with tense vocal production, modal (often in the Aeolian or minor mode and, occasionally, other modes), and the tuning frequently relies on unequal temperament with the “neutral” third. It is practically unornamented, however, unlike some other types of Spanish-influenced music elsewhere. It is important not to assume that all Dominican song with a choral response is necessarily African-influenced, that is, influenced by sub-Saharan musical practices brought to the island by slaves during the post-conquest period, One must remember that “Africa begins at the Pyrenees,” and, before Arabic incursions into North Africa, there was a racial and cultural—including musical—continuum from Africa to Europe. An archaic genre of the island of La Gomera in the Canary Islands (the last point of land in the Old World touched by Columbus before setting sail), namely the “drum dance” or baile de tambor, also includes a choral response to drum-accompanied romances, not unlike that found in some Dominican songs.

The African musical heritage

African slaves were brought to Hispaniola, their first point of contact with the New World, as early as 1502, to supplant the quickly dwindling Taínos as a labor force. The first Africans were Christians from Andalucía, where they already had established a presence for a hundred years. In Spain, they had channeled their political, religious, and expressive structures through the context of the Spanish cofradía or religious brotherhood. Cofradías were established in Hispaniola by the Catholic Church as a means of proselitism, and also by the Afro-Hispanic settlers as extra-official organizations for mutual-aid and burial functions. These organizations were undoubtedly important contexts for music making, as they are today, although they remained undocumented until the eighteenth century (Larrázabal Blanco 1967).

Over the centuries, the slaves brought directly from Africa were drawn from increasingly southerly points along the West African coast. The first ones came from the area of present-day Senegal and Gambia, later from the Guinea coast, and finally from the Congo/Angola region, until slavery definitively was abolished in 1822, with the Haitian invasion and domination until 1844. By comparison with Haiti, the number of slaves was much smaller and the ethnic composition of these groups appears to have been different. In Dominican culture in general and musical culture in particular, there is a residual heritage from the various ethnic components as well as evidence of intra-African syncretism (Davis 1976). On the one hand, the most fundamental underlying aspects of African influence in Dominican culture stem from the earliest arrivals and form part of the creole culture locally perceived as “Dominican,” not Afro-Dominican. On the other hand, the most overt African customs and enclaves are those of most recent addition to the Dominican mosaic, and these stem from contributions by Bantu-speaking peoples from the Congo geocultural region in Central Africa. This coincides with the observation by the distinguished Africanist Gerhard Kubik (personal communication, 1990), upon hearing and viewing this author’s audio and video field tapes. Although this component is of course present in Haiti, the 101 ethnic groups that Haitians refer to as “the twenty-one founding nations” appear to have been brought primarily from the region of Benin (formerly Dahomey), Togo, Nigeria, and the Congo River basin in West Africa (Kolinski 1980: VIII, 33).

The earliest documentation of the music and dance of African slaves is Father Jean-Baptiste Labat’s 1698 description of the calenda, a dance that was widely popular throughout the colonial Caribbean and also is known as calinda or kalenda (Labat 1722), although the term is applied to more than one dance type. A century later, Médéric Louis Élie Moreau de Saint-Méry (1750–1619) described the calenda of Hispaniola aS an unembraced couple dance that alternates a balancing step with circular turns symbolizing ritual pursuit, first in one direction and then in the other (1803). The calenda is very similar to the long-drum dance, or baile de palos, the most widespread Dominican traditional dance (except in the central Cibao region) and still in frequent use today. The baile de palos is the Dominican sacred dance, a “dance of respect,” associated in particular with Afro-Dominican death rites and the patron saints’ festivals of religious brotherhoods (Davis 1976). The most notable African retentions are found in this drum music; the drum dance, however, displays obvious European influence. This is true for the secular dance genres as well. The latter are danced in an embraced position; the torso moves rather stiffly as a unit, without a break at the waist and no hip motion; rather, the movement is in the arms and feet. Therefore, Dominican traditional dance music is more African, while the dance itself is more European.

The main source of information about Afro-Dominican religious practices of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is a corpus of laws prohibiting such practices and their accompanying music and dance. Both civil and religious edicts proscribe the performance of the ritual and music of Vodú in particular (Rodríguez Demorizi 1971).

The genres of Dominican folk music that exhibit the most marked African influence include the music of the long drums (palos, atabales) throughout the country, except in the central Cibao, although the dance itself is more European, as mentioned above; certain collective work songs of the rhythmic variety, mainly in the South; and stories about animals, with their little songs. Other genres, which could be characterized as “creole,” exhibit varying degrees of African influence. These include the non-liturgical Salve and many secular dance genres, among others.

The most basic constitutive elements of African influence are a comparatively greater rhythmic complexity than we find in Hispanic music, reliance on call-and-response style, an AB form with section B a step lower than A, and the presence of a variety of membranophones that are performed polyrhythmically.


Work songs

For collective agricultural tasks performed by men, women, and sometimes mixed groups, laborers in the Dominican Republic have incorporated both Hispanic- and African-influenced styles of work songs. The musical style of these songs depends on the region of the country and on the labor performed. Some songs are specific to certain tasks, in accord with the rhythm of the actions involved. Among these are the plena de hacha for chopping trees; the plena de hoyar for digging the earth before planting; and the plena de majar for pounding rice, coffee, and cacao. These are largely gender-specific for men because of the nature of the work. The plena de hacha is historically the most significant, considering that virtually the entire island has been deforested by hand during the past five centuries to the singing of the plena de hacha. (See Music from the Dominican Republic compiled by Verna Gillis, vol. 4, side A, bands 1, 2, and 3, under Discography.)

Other work songs are less rhythmic or simply unmetered, in accordance with a greater degree of Hispanic influence, and used simply to pass the time as one works. These include the melismatic, melancholic songs of improvised solo texts with a fixed group response. The décima, a ten-line poetic form discussed at greater length below, is used widely in the Cibao for this purpose. A common response, in the Cibao and the Northeast, refers to the dove—“Ay paloma,” “Paloma é,” “Vuela, la paloma,” and the like. An excellent example of a décima, “Pindó, Mamá, Pindó,” sung rhythmically in call-and-response style with handclapping as idiophones, was documented in a tobacco factory by John Storm Roberts. (See Caribbean Island Music under Discography.) This illustrates the adaptation of a Hispanic poetic form to a creole, African-influenced musical idiom, and—notwithstanding the allusion to courtship in this décima—also the incorporation of a traditional genre into a new work context. In some places the décimas or similar work songs that function as sung conversations are called chuines, as in the mountains south of Puerto Plata and in Baní. (See Music from the Dominican Republic compiled by Verna Gillis, vol. 4, A 8 and B 5; and vol. 2, A 1, respectively, under Discography.) The chuines of Baní are sung by seated male workers for such tasks as shelling maize.

Some musical genres transcend fixed performance contexts. For example, the chuines and décimas also are sung just to pass the time, especially in the periphery of all-night saints’ festivals and wakes. In addition, religious music also can be used for work; such music is more characteristic of women, both in its religious and work setting. Specifically, the rhythmic “secular” Salve, a folk subgenre of the religious Marian antiphon, is sung for mainly women’s collective work such as coffee picking. This parallels the use of Afro-North American spirituals for labor in the fields, household tasks, work on the wharf, and at sea (Davis 1980a).

Improvisatory poetic genres

A key characteristic of Dominican folk music of Hispanic origin, in contrast to that of African antecedents, is its emphasis on text. Improvised text sung as a duel (desafío) among or between men is, in fact, characteristic of the Mediterranean region as a whole. Dominican musical genres entailing sung conversation or debate include various forms that rely on the quatrain (cuarteta, coplas), and the décima.
improvisatory poetic genres abound in the Cibao, but also are found, significantly, in the chuines of Baní and in the religious tonadas de toros or bull songs, a genre associated with brotherhoods or hermandades of the East that drive bull calves for donation to pilgrimage sites. AS mentioned above, most improvised poetic genres can be sung in various contexts, including work and recreation. The tonadas de toros are an exception because they are specific to the brotherhoods’ activities.

The improvisation of poetry in Dominican and Hispanic folk music includes both texts created as the musician sings and the improvisatory use of already fixed texts. The décimas are of the former type. Other song types, in quatrains or couplets, tend to use learned text in improvised order; a mixture of learned and improvised text, as in the secular Salve; or improvised text, as in the case of the décima. In the context of folk poetry, improvisation might entail summoning lines from a memory bank of preexistent oral literature.

Décimas are strophes of ten octosyllabic verses following the rhyming pattern abba ac cddc, namely two redondillas (abba and cddc) joined by two linking verses (ac). This poetic form is common throughout the Spanish-speaking Caribbean and appears to have replaced the also octosyllabic romance as the main vocal genre by the nineteenth century, both in the Americas and in the Canary Islands, where it is important in La Palma. In the Hispanic Caribbean, décimas are a medium for reflections on life (en queja), courtship (al amor), and religious praise (a lo divino); characteristically, they are sung as a verbal duel (en desafío). However, the Dominican décima, unlike elsewhere in the region, is sung unaccompanied. It is important to note that performers often do not identify the genre as “décima,” but rather as tonada, chuin, or by other terms used for songs whose versification pattern happens to be this poetic form. By the same token, it is common to find Dominican musicians designating their genre as a décima when actually they are performing improvised quatrains; in such cases, then, the term simply means “song with improvised text.” The Hispanic-Caribbean décima also may be spoken and, in the past century, it has been a favorite of folk poets; some of their oral poetry has been transcribed and constitutes an invaluable source of historical detail and commentary on the region, especially in Cuba. The best documented Dominican folk poet is Juan Antonio Alix (1833–1918).

An example of a “classic” décima, “Pindó, Mamá, Pindó,” excerpted from the middle of a courtship discourse and sung by a woman, was recorded by John Storm Roberts at a tobacco-grinding factory in the Province of Santiago (see Caribbean Island Music under Discography). Performed in call-and-response style, the chorus intersperses the refrain, “Pindó, Mamá, Pindó,” after each verse of the soloist:

a En un pañuelito de seda In a silky handkerchief
b es que te lo voy a mandar, I am going to send it,
b pa’ mandarte a suplicar To entreat and implore you
a después [de] Dios me lo leas. Reading it, so please, God, help me.
a Si no me lo acudiceas [sic] If you cannot acquiesce
c te voy a mandar esta canción I’m going to send you this song
c pa’ que leas la estimación For you to read how strong
d n que yo te pueda tener, The esteem I might be carrying,
d debajo de este papel Hidden underneath these words
c allá va mi corazón. All my heart goes with this thought.

There are cases in which the poetic structure of the décima shows departures from the classical scheme, as exemplified in “Ay, Lola-é,” a song reflecting on love that was recorded by John Storm Roberts in La Yagüita, a village in the Province of Santiago situated in the central Cibao region. In this instance, the first four lines subvert the classical redondilla (abba), suggesting a cuarteta (abab) (Recorded Ex. 1):

Soloist (sets the tune and response):

Ay, Lola-é. Cuando se acerca la tarde
se me aproxima la muerte,
tan solo en considerai [r]
que me voy a acostar sin verte.
Mathaya mi mala suerte!
Cuando yo no te estoy mirando
siempre te vivo mentando,
y en mi loco pensamiento
yo vivo entanto el tormento
de noche y de dia pensando.
Me mandaste a cortar flores
yo las corté de café;
a tu CaSa voy por verte,
a beber sin tener sed.
|Repeat] A tu casa voy por verte
When the evening draws near
My death also approaches,
Just by thinking that I’m going
To bed, loneliness encroaches.
Damn my bad luck!
When I’m not looking at you,
Talking about you is my plight;
And in my crazy thoughts
I am constantly tormented,
Thinking of you, day and night.
You sent me to pick some flowers
And I picked the coffee ones.
I go to your house to see you,
Faking my thirst, drinking for fun.
Parenthetically, the third line in “Ay, Lola-é” also exemplifies the change from an “r” or “]” to an “i” at the end of a syllable or word, which is characteristic of the Cibao dialect. For instance, the tonadas de toros
Chorus: Ay, Lola-é Ay, Lola-é Ay, Lola-é Ay, Lola-é Ay, Lola-é Ay, Lola-é Ay, Lola-é Ay, Lola-é Ay, Lola-é Ay, Lola-é
(bull songs) must be sung with the “i” (e.g., “cantar” becomes “cantai”) for purposes of rhyming, which gives an idea of the region they are from, even if the singer does not speak the dialect. Since there is a huge stigma against this dialect, savvy modern cibaejfios try to weed it out of their speech: this singer succeeded on all the words except “considerar.”
The response, “Ay, Lola-é,” is musically and textually typical of this Dominican genre: a single, simple line of text sung to two alternating musical phrases, the second one being lower pitched or a somewhat inverted version of the first, assuming dominant and tonic endings. Also note the formulaic conclusion of this décima (“You sent me to pick some flowers / And I picked the coffee ones”). Formulaic quatrains mark the conclusion of one décima and the transition to the next person’s performance. When the next soloist starts his/her décima, the first singer joins the chorus. The name of the flower can be changed, but the coffee flower is the most common.
The metaphor of picking a flower or leaf to indicate conclusion is used more widely. For instance, a morano (a brotherhood-specific genre used for pilgrimages or for rendering homage to the saint at the altar) of the Afro-Dominican Brotherhood of St. John the Baptist, concludes as follows:
Ay, Lola-é Ay, Lola-é Ay, Lola-é Ay, Lola-é a beber sin tener sed.
Yo corté la hoja de la siempreviva.
Que vivan mis hermanos ique viva, que viva! (Spoken:)
iQue viva San Juan Bautista! (Response:}
iY vivamos todos!
I picked the leaf of the “everlasting” flower.
Long live my brothers! Vival Viva!
Long live St. John the Baptist! And long live us all!
Here there is an obvious reference to life and death, the picking of the flower representing the truncation of life. This is reiterated in the opening lines of the text: the celebration of life (love, fertility) takes death into account; the “life line” is viewed as a circle joining the extremes. The same motif is expressed in the Haitian-Dominican gagdé cult rituals of the Lenten season.
The tonadas de toros and the chuines of Bani probably are culturally related (for examples of chuines, see Music from the Dominican Republic compiled by Verna Gillis, vol. 2, A 1, under Discography). They are similar to the contemporary relaciones of the Canary Islands, but the specific genre of origin apparently has been lost in the homeland. Both genres are sung in analogous
ways by seated or standing men fueled by quantities of rum. They are melismatic and unmetered, in quatrain form, with lines sometimes expanded for the sake of rhyme or meaning. The role of solo is passed around the circle, with the group responding after the first and last lines in the tonadas de toros, and after the last line in the chuines. They are very taxing on the voice because of the very high register, volume, and marathon-long sessions or events, which may go on all night, or all week in the case of a pilgrimage in the East.
Many genres that rely on the quatrain form are religious. The major genres are discussed below, under “Music of folk religion.” Minor genres include songs called baquini—a terminological variant of the more common baquiné—for wakes of young children (angelitos). Most of these genres are sung without instrumental accompaniment. However, an interesting example recorded in Los Cacaos, in the Province of Samana, which uses fixed, archaic Spanish quatrains of hexasyllabic lines improvised only in the order used, is accompanied by a small drum or tambora. “El Chacho” (Apolinar Mercedes), with the characteristic delegation of female children, sang “A la marina” as the tiny coffin of his infant niece was carried to the cemetery, and the more Hispanic “Angelito, vete” for dispatching the soul as the procession returned to town (Recorded Ex. 2): Chorus of children:
(taking the part of the living) Angelito, vete;
Get going, little angel, vete pa’ el cielo,
Get going to Heaven; que el dia que yo muera,
So that on the day I die, me abras la puerta.
You can open the gate for me.
Solo with tambora:
(taking the part of the deceased) La bendicién, mama,
Give me your blessing, Mama, La bendicién, papa,
Give me your blessing, Papa, La bendicién, hermanos,
Give me your Diessings, brothers and sisters, Para nunca mas.
Goodbye for ever more.
MUSIC OF FOLK RELIGION Music that forms part of religious ritual constitutes the slowest changing and most traditional repertoire.
Recreational genres may be modified in order to entertain; work songs change in accord with changing technology. But when music is integral to the sacred liturgy of ritual events, its evolution and substitution are slowed down. By contrast, many of the recreational dance genres have become extinct or are
on the way to extinction and never or rarely were observed by this writer during the many years of research. Yet religious music is still a dynamic part of the living tradition because it is an essential component of ritual itself. The religious context for musical performance is the greatest conservator of both Hispanic- and African-derived music. So it is to religious folk music that we turn for a key to history as repository of archaic styles, textual elements, and ritual procedures.
African-based spiritist cults
Vodu. This syncretic cult is practiced by extra-official societies whose rituals involve spirit possession and serve the social function of healing. Both spirit possession by deities and the medical function differentiate these societies from the cofradias or brotherhoods and their rituals, as well as from the individually sponsored saints’ festivals or velaciones.
In the latter, spirit possession occasionally takes place, not by deities (unless sponsored by a Vodti medium), but rather by the spirit of the dead, such as a former Sponsor or drummer. When compared with Vodou, its Haitian counterpart and, to a large extent, its point of origin, Dominican Vodi is simplified in both social structure and music. Drumming is an essential feature of such cults in rural and lower-class areas, but instruments, genres, and rhythms are drawn from other ensembles. In the Central-South, the rhythms and small membranophones of the Salve con panderos ensemble are used for Vodt, whereas in the Southwest, the long drums (palos) are played.
Practitioners of Dominican Vodut self-identify as Catholics and the rituals, as in Haitian Vodou, always open with Catholic prayers. Despite similarities with Haitian Vodou, however, Vodii is a Dominican phenomenon. Upper- and upper-middle-class spiritual “centers” in the capital city of Santo Domingo may use no music at all, being more akin to spiritism than to Vodii.
Gaga. The Dominican pronunciation of the Haitian rara is a relatively recent Haitian-derived cult practiced in cane settlements (bateyes) of sugar-mill areas, Originally imported by seasonal cane workers (braceros). There is only one gagd in each batey, headed by a political-spiritual leader of the community and activated during the Lenten season. The spiritual entities associated with gagd, which is linked to Vodiu, are Petro deities. In Haiti, the lwa or loa (spiritual
198 | PERFORMING THE CARIBBEAN EXPERIENCE entities) of the Petwo rite or style of worship within Vodou appear to be of probable Congo ancestry.
Spirits like Simbi, Macaya, Boumba, and a host from the Congo temple at Soucrie, for instance, easily can be traced to the Congo. Kita, the name of a dance and a rhythm that Gerdés Fleurant considers as one of two basic patterns for what he calls the Kongo/Petwo rite, is a Kikongo word for the spirit of a person who has died violently. The word Petwo itself may be a corruption of Pedro, a name taken by a series of Congo leaders who had long been under Portuguese rule and influence (personal communication from Lois Wilcken to Malena Kuss, 2005; see also Gerdés Fleurant, “Haitian Vodou and Its Music,” in this volume). In the Dominican Republic, the Petré Spiritual entities are not a part of the Dominican pantheon, except when recognized as Haitian or take on a Petr6é manifestation (en punto Petré) when difficult healing is needed, as in cases of raving insanity. This implies the expression of great strength, fearlessness, and impulsiveness. If any spirits express sensationalistic behavior, they are Petro, and they might eat glass, walk on fire, or break dishes. By contrast, the deities of the Dominican pantheon, whether they are Rada, Guedé, or Indios, do not behave in this way. Moreover, the music of gagd relies on the drums of the Petro rite and is characterized by the sound of vaccines (vaksin In Haitian Kweyol; fututo, fotuto [horn], bambi or bambuses [bamboo] in the Dominican Republic).
These are single-tone bamboo trumpets playing in an interlocking manner that form part of the gagd ensemble with other aerophones and idiophones.
Gaga societies are highly stratified and complex, with both private rituals involving sorcery for the protection of one’s group, and public, carnavalesque manifestations. The latter symbolically enact life and death during the Lenten season in a creole interpretation of the Passion of Christ. The lascivious dance movements and risqué song texts, in accord with the life and death symbolism, refer to human fertility and thus are life-affirming. Gagd is practiced widely by Dominicans of Haitian descent and is becoming a Haitian-Dominican phenomenon (Rosenberg 1970; Alegria-Pons 1993). In some areas, such as Haina, southwest of the capital, young Haitian-Dominican participants now sing in mixed language or in Spanish, rather than in the traditional Haitian Kwéyodl. (For recorded examples of rara and gagd, see Caribbean Reveis under Discography.)
Main musical contexts of Dominican folk Catholicism Saints’ festivals. Velaciones or saints’ festivals are nightlong events of individual sponsorship, taken on as annually recurring fulfillments of vows to personal Saints in exchange for healing. The main genre is the Salve, namely musical settings of the Salve Regina (“Hail, Holy Queen”) Marian antiphon, performed as altar music. The Salve de la Virgen is a responsorial, melismatic setting of the sacred text only. The Salve con versos found in the East, the Salve de plena found in Bani, and the Salve con panderos of the CentralSouth, are creolized, rhythmic Afro-Dominican adaptations performed in call-and-response style.
Optional genres for saints’ festivals or velaciones include a sung rosary (rosario cantado) that, unlike its more elaborate Puerto Rican counterpart, is only partially sung; versos, a generic term for altar and processional songs apart from the Salve; and palos (long-drums, also known as atabales), for the drum dance or baile de palos whose style varies substantially according to the region.
Death rituals. A variety of death rituals are performed during stages of the death cycle, such as deathbed, death, wake, interment, nine-night prayers (novena), final novena (as second wake), and anniversary of death. The main genres performed during death rituals include the sung rosary in the South; Salves for children’s wakes: and mediatuna for children’s wakes in the Cibao.
In general, the sung rosary functions as an optional enhancement of the prayed rosary. As a special feature, long-drums (palos) are necessary during one or more of these death-cycle activities for deceased members of an Afro-Dominican religious brotherhood, which characteristically functions as a burial society.
Processions and pilgrimages. These are central contexts of Dominican folk Catholicism. Whereas processions are brief, small-scale events during which participants return to the point of departure, pilgrimages are large-scale events lasting for many days and focusing on a pilgrimage center as collective destination. Both involve processional groups walking through streets and roads with fixed stopping points that are sites of musical performance. The key musical genres associated with processions and pilgrimages include Salves and versos, with optional long-drums (palos) when they entail Afro-Dominican religious
brotherhoods. A special feature in pilgrimages of brotherhoods of the East is the singing of tonadas de toros (bull songs), which are associated with the cattle economy of the region.
Afro-Dominican religious brotherhoods. These confraternities (cofradias) are extra-official organizations of the South, Northeast, and eastern Cibao (not the central Cibao). Originally promoted by the Catholic Church, they also were founded mostly by slaves and freedmen as mutual aid and burial societies, with yearlong activities and lifelong, inherited leadership roles. Ritual and musical activities include annual festivals for the patron saint, with optional velaciones to fulfill personal vows; and members’ death rituals, with emphasis on specific phases of the death cycle varying according to the region and brotherhood.
The long-drums (palos) are central to performances associated with cofradias, their construction and musical styles varying also according to region.
The saint’s festival (velacién) and its music. The musically multifaceted saint’s festival or velacion, also called velorio de santo or noche de vela depending on the region, is the most common activity of Dominican folk Catholicism. For this reason, we frame our discussion of associated genres, especially the Salve and palos, in the performance context of the velacién. On any given night of the year there is at least one velacion—and maybe hundreds—somewhere in the country.
The velacion serves as a fulfillment of a personal vow to a saint, in payment for healing of oneself or one’s son or daughter. Once it is celebrated initially, the velacion characteristically becomes an annual, recurring vow that is inherited, that is, assumed by one’s child at the death of the original vow-maker. The event is held on the individual rural homestead of the sponsor (duefio, duefa, or owner), and in homes and brotherhoods’ folk chapels in towns. It may continue in urban contexts, even in the capital city of Santo Domingo, by rural immigrants, but becomes denatured if cramped by the physical setting.
Several musical activities take place during a velacion, with two to four or five different genres being performed, either in different places of the home and grounds (separated spatially), or at different points in time (separated temporally) during the course of an event. At least one of the component activities is often a secular dance, the specific genre varying according to the region. Velaciones are devotional events
ORAL MUSICAL TRADITIONS OF THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC / DAVIS | 199 with additional recreational functions, since they provide a context for secular dance and other forms of entertainment like gambling, eating, drinking, and courting. Public and social-club dances during patron saints’ festivals held in towns are simply agerandizements of this same pattern, the saint again providing an opportunity for recreational and courtship activities.
Spirit possession traditionally does not take place during a velacién. The only case of possession would be by a spirit of the dead, such as a former sponsor, brotherhood leader, or key musician or dancer, who would possess a family member either to criticize the avarice of the sponsor or to enjoy his or her fiesta.
However, if the sponsor of the event is a spiritual medium (servidor de misterios, caballo de misterios), the event includes the additional dimension of spirit possession by Afro-Dominican deities.
At the altar, the sung rosary (rosario cantado) and the Salve are performed during a velacién. The liturgical Salve de la Virgen or Salve corrida is the most indispensable music of the saint’s festival (Fig. 1). In the Roman Catholic liturgy, the Salve Regina is one of four Marian antiphons sung at the end of Compline, one for each of the seasons of the liturgical calendar.
The Salve Regina is sung from Trinity Sunday to the last Saturday before the first Sunday of Advent, namely the fourth and last season. (For the Roman plainchant melody and Latin text of the Salve Regina, see the Liber usuahs, p. 279 in the 1937 edition.) In some areas of the Dominican Republic, a devotional, troped and nonliturgical Salve con versos, which is a creole creation found mostly in the East, or a Salve con panderos in the Central-South, is sung either at the same altar following the liturgical Salves or at a special, different altar (Fig. 2). Versos, a generic term for sacred songs other than the Salve, are optional.
The long-drums (palos) accompany the couples’ dance or baile de palos (Fig. 3), interspersed with the rosary and Salves in the same room in the South, or in the enramada (a roofed patio adjacent to the house) in the East. Secular dance music also can be intermingled with the baile de palos (in the South) or follow the palos at dawn (in the East). The secular genres vary according to the region: merengue predominates in the North; the pripri (actually a type of merengue redondo or circularly danced merengue) in the East and Central-South; and pripri, a homonym for a different ensemble playing carabiné, mangulina, and vals as a tri-generic triptych, with the more recent addition
200 } PERFORMING THE CARIBBEAN EXPERIENCE of the fashionable merengue, in the South. Also in the south, the rosary, Salves, palos, and secular dance may alternate in the chapel, or the secular dance may be located in the enramada. When the event is very large, a second special enramada might serve as the site for performance of secular dances.
During pilgrimages in the East, a velacion is held at each nightly stopping point or estacién, like Stations of the Cross. In such cases, the living room, when not occupied by the altar, or the back or front of the house, is set up with a table for the singers of tonadas de toros, an improvisatory poetic genre. The sponsorship by a spiritual medium incorporates the dimension of spirit possession into the event. In such cases, ensembles ordinarily used for nonliturgical Salves (in the CentralSouth) or palos (in the South) not only honor the deities, but also invoke them (Fig. 4). This phenomenon has grown during the last twenty years.
The spatial organization of the event is then also more complex, with special consultation rooms off the main chapel or altar.
As ritual, the saint’s festival may be preceded by a nine-night novena (or eight nights with the velacion as the ninth). This may entail simply a prayed rosary and perhaps the sacred Salves, or it may be a small-scale, short velacién, ending at 10:00 or 11:00 P.M. The velaci6n proper usually begins at dusk, around 6:00 P.M. In the East and in the Villa Mella area of the Distrito Nacional, it begins with the processional entrance of the king and queen, the viceroy and vicereine (los reyes) of the fiesta. They enter playing Salves and are received by “the drums of the house.” The queen presides over the Salves at the altar and the King over the palos in the enramada. If singers of tonadas de toros are involved, they, too, enter processionally, singing and waving their banners, and are received by “the banners of the house.” Elsewhere in the country, the general ritual procedure of the velacion entails three tercios of one rosary during the course of the night. Each of the tercios is followed by three liturgical Salves de la Virgen or similarly sacred versos. This ritual segment is

Fig. 1: Performance of the liturgical Salve de la Virgen during a velacién held in the chapel of the Brotherhood of Santa Rita in San Juan de la Maguana (ca. 1975). Photo by Martha Ellen Davis, courtesy of the author.

Fig. 2: Performance of a
ical Salve con p
of the most inst
variety at the spiritual medium’s altar during the Fiesta de San Santiago (Ogun Baleny6) in San Cristobal (ca. 1978). Photo by Martha Ellen Davis, courtesy of the author.
performed at dusk, at midnight, and before dawn. In between, the more secular subgenres of Salves, or the palos, are sung or played, filling the time between tercios. In the East and some places in the South, the rosary / Salve liturgical nucleus is followed by three sacred drum pieces, thus further elaborating the liturgical kernel of the tercio. Then the “more secular” subgenres of either, or both, Salves and palos, are performed in their respective places or moments, until the time for the next tercio.
The Salve. Literally the earliest genre brought by Europeans to Hispaniola, the Salve was sung by Columbus’s men on board the ships and currently it is sung throughout the country, with regional variations. (For a detailed study, see Davis 198r1b.) In addition to being performed at the altar during the velacion, it is sung for processions and pilgrimages.
Musical settings of the rosary and Salve Regina prayer appear to add poignancy to the ritual and power to the message. The infinite number of melodies to which the Salve is set also adds variety and enjoyment to the
fulfillment of religious obligations, permitting that the duty created by the vow be fulfilled pleasurably.
Otherwise, an entire night of reciting the same prayer or singing it to a single tune over and over would be a monotonous ordeal rather than a joyful event.
The liturgical Salve, called Salve de la Virgen or Salve corrida, is sung in a high-pitched, tense voice. Performed responsorially, it is melismatic, characteristically sung in the minor mode with a “neutral” third, and relies only on the sacred text of the prayer (Recorded Ex. 3):
Dios te salve, Reina y Madre de misericordia, vida, dulzura y esperanza nuestra, Dios te salve.
A ti llamamos los desterrados hijos de Eva; a ti suspiramos, gimiendo y llorando en este valie de lagrimas.
Ea, pues, Sefiora, abogada nuestra,
vuelve a nosotros esos tus ojos misericordiosos.
Y después de este destierro muéstranos a Jesus, truto bendito de tu vientre.
{Oh clemente! jOh piadosa! jOh dulce Virgen Maria! Ruega por nosotros, Santa Madre de Dios,

Fig. 3: Performance of the baile de palos (drum-dance) in Los Morenos, Villa Mella, in the Central-South (ca. 1979). Photo by Martha Ellen Davis, courtesy of the author.
para que seamos dignos de alcanzar las promesas de Nuestro Sefior Jesucristo, Amén.
Hail, Holy Queen, mother of mercy,
Our life, our sweetness, our hope; hail!
To Thee we raise our voices, we, the banished children ot Eve.
To Thee we raise our sighs, lamenting and weeping in this valley of tears.
Hasten, our advocate, and turn your merciful eyes toward us.
And show us Jesus, the blessed fruit of your womb, after this exile.
O Merciful, O pious, O sweet Virgin Mary, Pray for us, Holy Mother of God,
That we may be worthy of Jesus’ promises, Amen.
(Translation adapted from Jeffers 1988: 197.) Recorded Example 3 illustrates the first portion of one musical rendition of this prayer, which was recorded in 1973 in Esperalvillo, a village in the Municipality of Yamasa, Province of Monte Plata. This is one of the most archaic-sounding examples the author has recorded, and therefore rather unusual in that sense.
It is performed by voices singing very high in
the register. As illustrative of our statement regarding the increasing non-correspondence between race and culture in the New World, this very “Hispanic” Salve was sung by blacks. (See also Fig. 1 for a similar performance context.) At the velacién during which this recording was made, outdoors and around an especially “dressed” cross, others sang more secular Salves, similar to the Salve con versos, “Me voy con Lola,” in Recorded Example 4. Even in the North and South, where there is not such a differentiated secular subgenre as in the East and Central-South, three more sacred, sometimes fixed Salves are followed by others considered less sacred. Also outside, in the enramada, the long-drums played the lugubrious palo abajo and palo arriba of the Central-South region, in accompaniment of a slow, drum “dance of respect” or baule de palos (see also Recorded Ex. 7 and Fig. 3).
In areas of African influence, the Salve has evolved as a genre and expanded in nature, such that other subgenres of Salve use a more relaxed vocal production, call-and-response style, metric and rhythmic accompaniment with handclapping (called Salve con

Fig. 4: Southern palos del Esptritu Santo played for a Vodu fiesta for san Miguel (Belié Belcan) in Guaricano, a village in Villa Mella, with recent immigrants from Barahona (1983). Photo by Martha Ellen Davis, courtesy of the author.
versos, typical of the East) or hand-drums and other membranophones (called Salve con panderos, typical of the Central-South), and intersperse or trope the sacred text with a response, or eliminate the sacred text altogether. Recorded Example 4 illustrates a portion of a Salve con versos of the East; the liturgical text of the Salve Regina is troped by a short response called verso.
Following the sacred text (not heard here), the piece concludes with appended quatrains, also called versos (essentially a generic term that means “lines of poetry”).
The more secular, creole Salve evolved most elaborately in the Central-South. This is precisely the area characterized by drums for the dead, as illustrated in Recorded Example 7. The more joyful musical genres, namely the secular Salves and secular dance music attached to the “liturgical nucleus,” seem to have flourished in this region as much for their needed social function as for the prominent African influence in the area.
Recorded Example 5 illustrates a cumandé recorded in 1976 during a small velacién held by a brotherhood
ORAL MUSICAL TRADITIONS OF THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC / DAVIS | 203 for the Virgen del Carmen in Cambita Garabitos, north of San Crist6bal. This is an unusual creole genre wherein a section of Hispanic-Dominican improvised quatrains alternates with another section of AfroDominican rhythmic percussion. The first section is akin to the genres of improvised text from the Cibao, which are characteristically unaccompanied, unmetered, and rely on improvised quatrains; and the second section is similar to the secular Salve described above, which is metered, polyrhythmic, and relies on an ensemble of small drums as well as on fixed or inconsequential text. The more common Dominican form of Hispanic-cum-African musical integration is the rhythmically accompanied improvised song, such as the more secular Salve itself, and much of Dominican drumming (palos), as illustrated in this cumandé.
At the event in San Cristobal mentioned above.
there had been very little food or coffee served, except for an early supper for a select few, because the sponsor was poor. By about 3:00 A.M., we needed at least some coffee to get through the night and perhaps some rum and food, too. Instead, ginger tea was served—the very cheapest thing to offer. A policeman in attendance, Chicho, was disgruntled, and used the socially acceptable medium of music to criticize the supposedly cheapskate sponsor. Papito, the sponsor’s friend, came to his defense. The final portion of this exchange is presented here (Recorded Ex. 5):
Papito (the sponsor’s friend):
Ay—o, Los horcones de esta iglesia—eé
Ay,—son toditos de tarana.
Ay,—ya doy la despedida—é€eee, Ay,—a los de aqui, hasta majiana.
Chicho (the policeman):
Ay,—Los horcones de esta casa— Ay, sefiores—son de tarana;
ya me he bebido lo que habia, Ay, sefiores—hasta mafiana.
Another shouts:
(Si no mandan a buscar romo, jyo me voy!) Los ___ ? de esta esta casa—é tienen la puerta de acero;
que los duefios de esta fiesta, Chicho—é, Ay,—son todos unos caballeros.
The balsié drum player tries to start the cumandé part: (Guiro—é. ..)
Los horcones de esta casa
Ay, miralos! que son de alambre; que los duefios de esta casa
Another warns: (No relajes!)
Ay, si, es verdad: que [son] muertos de hambre.
He warns again: (Habla mentira el policia!) Ahora vamos a discursear, ¢Chicho, qué—é€? F—e—, esta es la pura verdad; porque el duefio de esta fiesta, Chicho—é, Ay—逗, este es mi amigo Tomas.
El duefio de esta casa
Ay, si es verdad, que no lo he visto; y a nosotros nos esta engafiando Ay—Papito—con un chin de genjibrito.
Papito (to Martha Ellen Davis):
Ay—y—, olga joven, yo le digo, a—é, Ay—se lo digo de verdad;
que con esa grabacioncita—é, ay—a quién es que va a allantar? The cumandé:
O—e, o—e, Tengo sed … Tengo sed Ch.:
Fixed quatrain:
Que no sabia—
que no sabia, que Ud. bailaba; por eso yo ponia mi baile
y la invitaba.
Por eso yo ponia mi baile
y la invitaba.
Tengo sed (?) … Tengo sed (?)
Now we’re going to argue, Chicho; This is for sure:
The sponsor of this fiesta, Chicho, Is my friend, Tomas.
The owner of this house I honestly have not seen him; And he is cheating us,
Papito, with this little bit of ginger tea.
(Addressing Martha Ellen Davis)
Listen, young lady, I’m asking you— And I really want the truth: With this little recording,
Whom are you going to fool? I’m thirsty, I’m thirsty…
Fixed quatrain:
I didn’t know,
I didn’t know that you danced, That’s why I put on a dance And I invited you.
That’s why I put on a dance And I invited you.
I’m thirsty (°), etc.
That’s it!
(Whistle) Papito:
The cornerposts of this chapel
Are all of tarana wood;
I’ll say goodbye now
To everybody here: see you tomorrow.
The cornerposts of this house
Are of tarana wood:
Now that I have drunk up everything, Well, everybody, see you tomorrow.
(If you don’t send for more rum, I’m leaving!) The [owners?] of this house
Have a door of steel:
The sponsors of this fiesta, Chicho, Are all real gentlemen.
The posts of this house
Look at them! They are all of wire; The owners of this house
(Don’t de offensive!)
They are all real cheapskates!
(The policemen is lying!)
Palos (long drums). The merengue is perceived by modern Dominicans as their national dance. Actually, the variety of folk merengue that became disseminated and is associated with nationhood is the perico ripiao of the Cibao, which is not representative of the country as a whole. A much more typical dance is the baile de palos or drum dance, found throughout the nation except in the central Cibao, which is precisely the area of the perico ripiao (Davis 1976). But of course, the baile de palos, whose music is of obvious African ancestry, is not exactly the sort of symbol sought out to represent national identity. In AfroDominican religious brotherhoods or cofradias, palos acquire special importance as the “voice” of the patron saint of the organization. Palos are a usual feature of saints’ festivals or velaciones, and also are used in some areas for funerary rites, especially for members of such brotherhoods.
The drum-dance or baile de palos is the Dominican sacred dance. As previously mentioned in our discussion of the African heritage in Dominican oral traditions, the drum-dance is similar to the chroniclers’ description of the calenda of Hispaniola.
It is a couple dance of symbolic courtship in which a balancing step with the couple facing each other alternates with a circular step, first in one direction, balancing again, then in the other, with the woman
leading, followed by the man in pursuit. Traditionally it is danced unembraced, as “a dance of respect” (Fig. 3).
It is still danced this way with the somber drums for the dead in the Central-South, and with lively drums in the South or Southwest. In the East, with the exception of Samana, the element of “respect” is being lost and the baile de palos increasingly is danced in embraced position, like a secular couple dance. The choreography is the same throughout the country, but the nuances of step pattern and arm position vary geographically (Davis 1976).
Palos are locality-specific, that is, linked to particular places. They differ in that way from the Salves, which are associated with pilgrimage and therefore move from place to place. The Salve de la Virgen is more local, but some versos as well as secular Salves are widely known within an entire region and beyond. The palos’ repertoires also are fixed, always using the same rhythm and even the same melody for each piece; variety and improvisation, however, take place in the text. The tunes and texts (responses) of the secular Salves in the East and of the tonadas de toros are renewed each year, with the pilgrimage to Bayaguana (December 28) and the assembly of its brotherhood (asamblea de comisarios) the first Friday in October as temporal focal points for musical creativity.
There are three major stylistic regions of palos in the country and two important enclaves. These are in the East, Southwest, and Central-South, the latter also comprising two enclaves where special drumming traditions are found, namely the congos of Villa Mella and the sarandunga of Bani. Each tradition is different insofar as type of instruments, ensembles, and musica! style is concerned, but their social function is
very similar, and the drum dance is also analogous from place to place. Some writers, such as Fradique Lizardo (1975) and Bernarda Jorge (1982), classify the music of the two enclaves (the congos and sarandunga) as completely different music/dance genres from the palos; from an ethnographic perspective, their taxonomy is inaccurate.
In the East, the ensemble entails two single-headed drums with pegged heads (palo mayor and alcahuete), accompanied by as many as three giiiras or guayos metal scrapers (a Dominican adaptation of the gourd scrapers), a pair of maracas in the Central-East, and, around the Samana Bay, a stick beaten against the body of one of the drums called catd (Fig. 5). In the eastern Cibao area toward the north, a second alcahuete called adulén is added to the ensemble.
The music associated with this ensemble is lively, maintains a rapid tempo, and the singing displays a rather wide vocal range, with men reaching high into their register, even resorting to falsetto. The main rhythm is called palo corrido and there is a separate rhythm for the dead (palos de muerto). The drums of the eastern Cibao are a subset of this style.
In the Southwest, the ensemble is composed of three single-headed drums with tacked heads (two alcahuetes and a palo mayor) and lacks idiophonic components (Fig. 4). Its music is also lively, with characteristically rapid tempo, but less virtuosic in special effects and less intense, more relaxed than the style practiced in the East. The wide vocal range typical of the East is not used here, but the drum tones themselves display a more extended range than in the East, performing undulating pitch patterns.
The traditional rhythm of this ensemble also is called

Fig. 5: Long-drum (patos) ensemble of the East. From left to right: catd, palo mayor, alcahuete, giiira or guayo, and a pair of maracas.
206 | PERFORMING THE CARIBBEAN EXPERIENCE palo corrido, or palos del Espiritu Santo—a name also applied to the instruments themselves—because of their association with the mammoth brotherhood dedicated to the Espiritu Santo (Holy Spirit) in the Province of San Juan. The drumming tradition of the Southwest is the most widespread, most alive, and spreading at the present time.
In Bani, the tradition of the Southwest has met up with drumming practices of the Central-South. The rhythm is similar to that of the East and to the nonliturgical Salve of the Central-South; in turn, it is Similar to the rhythm of the Cuban habanera, which some believe originated in Hispaniola. These southern palos del Espiritu Santo are verbally the most articulate and textually the most complex among all the Dominican drumming traditions, thus exhibiting Hispanic influence in their poetic component. The somewhat cryptic text of “Que diga el Espiritu Santo,” reproduced below, provides insights into the beliefs of the Brotherhood of the Holy Spirit. This particular performance, sung by Amalis Savala, opened the annual saint’s festival for Santa Rita in 1973 and represents the first recording of this drumming style by the author (Recorded Ex. 6).
Que diga ’’| Espiritu Santo en este tono;
que diga ‘| Espiritu Santo, y me dispensan.
Yo ofrezco mi palabra a San Antonio.
Yo ofrezco mi palabra; llegé el Hombre.
Llegé6 el Hombre de la Tierra, el Sefior mio.
iQue viva el Espiritu Santo, mis hermanos! ¥ jque vivan los hermanos de “hermandra” [sic]! Qué dice el Espiritu Santo, y daba pena,
y a cualquiera le da pena oir mi voz,
que ya no me pareZco, no soy yo.
“Que ya llegé la negra brava,” dice el santo.
éQué dice el Espiritu Santo? “Llegé el Hombre.” Que se acaban los hermanos, que no entono.
Que se acaban los hermanos, que no entono.
Que yo le presto la palabra, amigo mio…
Let the Holy Spirit speak through this tune: Let the Holy Spirit speak, and please excuse me.
| offer my word to St. Anthony.
| offer my word: “The Man” has arrived.
The Man of the Earth, my Lord, has arrived.
Long live the Holy Spirit, my brothers!
Long live the brothers of the brotherhood!
What the Holy Spirit says is very sad,
It makes anybody sad to hear my voice,
I’m not me anymore, I’m not myself.
“The tough black lady’s arrived!” says the saint.
What does the Holy Spirit say? That “The Man” has arrived.
The brothers are dying out; I’m out of tune.
The brothers are dying out; I’m out of tune.
I’m turning the floor over to you, my friend…
[and another takes over the solo].
“The Man” seems to refer to the Holy Spirit rather than Jesus. The singer speaks for the drums when she Says “my voice”; and the voice of the drums is the voice of the Holy Spirit. The voice is sad because the drums of the Holy Spirit are played for the dead and remind us of loss. The singer even thinks of her own death: “I’m not myself,” “I’m out of tune” (that is, losing my vitality), “the brothers are dying out.” In summary, the unclear and incomplete articulation of ideas and symbols in this text actually reflects the mystical nature of the brotherhood and folk religion itself in the Southwest.
In the Central-South, the long-drum (palos) ensemble consists of three single-headed drums with tacked heads, namely two alcahuetes and a palo mayor as in the South / Southwest, but twice as narrow (Fig. 6).
However, in the area of San Juan de la Maguana, one of the alcahuetes is a third shorter and called chivita. The use of idiophones varies. Characteristically, as in the Southwest, there are none. Maracas, however, are used north of Villa Mella, an area influenced by the congos of Villa Mella, one of the enclaves mentioned above.
The long-drums or palos of the Central-South are traditionally palos de muerto (drums for the dead), although they also are danced in most areas by the living. Their dual rhythms are called palo abajo and palo arriba, which in most places are played as bipartite pieces (Recorded Ex. 7). In Los Morenos, a community within the Municipality of Villa Mella which is a part of the Distrito Nacional, however, palo abajo and palo arriba are performed as separate subgenres. Palo arriba represents an intensification of palo abajo, with a switch to duple meter, greater density, and other features. As illustrated in a performance for the dead of palo abajo and palo arriba from Arroyo Salado in the centralsouthern Province of Peravia whose capital is Bani, the text also includes many references to “my voice”—of the drums, of the saints, of the dead. “Calling you” is an invocation of the Holy Spirit (Recorded Ex. 7):
Palo abajo:
Yo vengo de lejos, y con mi voz— horus: e—e-e
escucha mi voz, Sanchelo, y con mi voz—etc.
bDendito y alabado, y con mi voz— yo te estaba llamando, y con mi voz (2 times) bendito y alabado, y —?
Palo arniva: (vocables)
| come from afar, and with my voice; Listen to my voice, Sanchelo, and with my voice Biessed and praised, and with my voice I was calling you, and with my voice Blessed and praised, and—?
The area of the Central-South with the greatest African-derived ethnic diversity and consequently drumming variety is San Cristobal. (See AfroDominican Music from San Cristobal, Dominican Republic, compiled by Morton Marks [1983] under Discography.) There are two enclaves in the CentralSouth whose special drumming traditions are the congos of Villa Mella and the sarandunga of Bani.
The congos of Villa Mella are associated with the second-largest religious brotherhood in the country, aiso dedicated to the Espiritu Santo. This ensemble is unique in the nation and comprises two doubleheaded drums (congo mayor and alcahuete), one of which is very small, just about a foot long. It also includes an idiophone called canoita that resembles the Cuban claves, but one of the sticks is larger and hollowed out like a little canoe. Completing the ensemble is a group of women playing single maracas (Fig. 7). (For recorded examples of the congos of Villa Mella, see Caribbean Island Music compiled by John Storm Roberts under Discography.)
The sarandunga ensemble of Bani is associated with a religious brotherhood dedicated to St. John the Baptist, the most common patron of 18th-century brotherhoods. The ensemble comprises three small double-headed drums, namely tambor mayor and two alcahuetes, as well as giiira or guayo (Fig. 8). The
Fig. 7: Congos of the Holy Spirit ensemble of Villa Mella. From left to right: congo mayor, alcahuete, canotta, and single maracas (not played in pairs).

Fig. G6: Long-drum (palos) ensemble of the Central-South. From left to right: alcahuete, palo mayor, alcahuete (Recorded Ex. 7).
drums are held between the knees in seated position when playing for dance, or under the arm for procession or aitar playing. The lively rhythm, mostly in a rapid 3, is associated with the most virtuosic drum dance in the country on the part of men. (For recorded examples, see Music from the Dominican Republic compiled by Verna Gillis, vol. 2, A 2, under Discography.)
SECULAR MUSICAL TRADITIONS Secular recreational music and dance provide an interface between social classes, race and class, city and country, and oral and literate traditions. In every country, certain cities and towns are deemed the most musical as regards both composition and performance. In Puerto Rico, for instance, the most musical cities would be Ponce and San Juan; in the Dominican Republic, these are Santiago de los Caballeros, the second-largest city in the nation, followed by Puerto Plata, rather than Santo Domingo, the capital.
Brass bands
An important institution that transcends class, race, and literacy is the “municipal band.” The bandas municipalys and music schools or academias de musica that train musicians were supported and equipped by Trujillo during his dictatorship (1930-61). Bands were originally military in nature and played patriotic music. Where they still exist today in somewhat
Fig. 8: Sarandunga ensemble of Bani. From left to right: alcahuete, tambor mayor, alcahuete, and gilira or guayo.
bedraggled form, as observed in Monte Plata in 1973, the same bands no longer or rarely read off scores, but rather play by ear, both for civil occasions and secular, paid dances. Like the bands in Andean towns, which are equally competent in European-style marches and huaynos, the Dominican towns’ bands play marches and merengues. At the turn of the twentieth century, bands of branches of the armed forces and the firemen’s band (Banda de los Bomberos), being better funded, keep up the Dominican band tradition, otherwise somewhat on the wane.
Secular song
Guitar-accompanied song genres constitute a significant type of secular music. Largely urban, some of these pertain to the elitelore, while others are associated with the middle or lower classes.
One of these genres, for lack of a better term, has been called “the sentimental song.” It pertains, at least in part, to the elitelore. Much of the repertoire has been retained in, or has passed into, the oral tradition. In Puerto Rico, such is the case of the songs by Don Felo of Santurce, which finally were recorded years after his death by the old men who remembered them. In the Dominican Republic, Santiago de los Caballeros and Puerto Plata are the centers of sentimental song. A beautiful Dominican genre of this nature, in 3, that never reached wide dissemination, is the criolla. The text of a well-known criolla, “Lucia,” was written by the influential statesman, writer, and lawyer Joaquin Balaguer (1907-2002), thrice president of the Dominican Republic (1960-62; 1966-78; 1986-96) and a member of the Cibao’s intellectual elite. One of the most beloved living composers of various subgenres of guitar-accompanied songs is Juan Lockward of Puerto Plata. The Dominican Republic, however, cannot compare in richness of this type of urban lore with either Puerto Rico or Cuba, which produced internationally known composers and famous guitar
ensembles such as the Cuarteto Victoria and the Trio Matamoros, for example.
An urban song and dance genre of lower-class association is the son. It is considered to be Cuban, although some claim that it originated in Santo Domingo. Whatever the case may be, there has been far more cultural and political exchange between santo Domingo, Cuba, and Puerto Rico than we might realize now, for it was only in the twentieth century that these three former Spanish colonies were separated by different political destinies: the first a free and sovereign country of mainly capitalistic economy; the second a socialist regime once allied with the former Soviet Union; and the third an internally self-governing Estado Libre Asociado or Commonwealth in association with the United States.
The area of greatest son activity is in the capital city of Santo Domingo, where sones are conserved by a group of lower-class black old men called “Los Soneros de Borojols,” and also within the Santo Domingo Province, in the municipality of Villa Mella. Currently, sones are played for dances by groups of young men as well because it is lucrative. In addition to listening to sones on the radio, places for son dancing with recordings and live groups include La Vieja Habana just south of Villa Mella on the highway to Santo Domingo, and E! Monumento del Son in Sabana Perdida.
A more recent, lower-class form of sentimental, guitar-accompanied song is the bachata (a generic term meaning “cheap,” string-accompanied backyard dance), formerly called musica or cancién de amargue (embittered song). As a musical genre, today’s bachata comprises steel-stringed guitar-accompanied laments relying on various musical styles. The texts address the hardships of lower-class life, mainly in urban slum areas, and deal mainly with male-female relations. These relations are strained by the new urban context, namely the economic liberation of women and their incorporation into the industrial
workforce, as well as the rapid impoverishment of the country because of deforestation, overpopulation, and the mismanagement of public funds that should be invested in social services. For the most part, these songs are not written and were disseminated throughout the entire country over the powerful Radio Guarachita. The station also had its own studio and recording company that paid musicians a flat fee for a recording session. The majority of the audience was and is rural. In fact, the most widespread genre throughout the 1990s and up to the present time has been the bachata, with perico ripiao and Mexican boleros—like the sentimental songs of Pedro Infante—in second and third place among genres listened to on radio by the huge rural audience. The places where people heard bachata on 45 r.p.m. discs and, more recently, cassettes and CDs, are the rural bar-grocery shops (colmados) which, with bachata records played over battery-operated “radio pickup” and cassette machines, draw male drinkers and female prostitutes like bees to honey. Bachata also is danced, and bars of ill repute specialize in this genre.
This was the original context for the folk merengue and for some of the 2oth-century’s best-loved music in general, such as ragtime, now considered so innocuous. Developing throughout the 1980s, bachata had become fashionable among the middle and upper classes by the mid-1990s, due in part to popular music composers and performers such as Juan Luis Guerra and his group, 4.40. New York now has become the main center of recording and diffusion of both bachata and merengue. (For a substantive study of bachata, see Pacini Hernandez 1995; for a recent film, see Bachata: Musica del pueblo [2002] under Audiovisual Materials.)
Secular dance
secular dance is much more vulnerable to stylistic fashion and fluctuation of taste than sacred dance. In the Dominican Republic, specific dances remained largely undocumented until the mid-nineteenth century. The origins of many dances bear legendary explanations that circumvent possible African influences when, in fact, most secular couple dances are culturally hybrid. They also represent an important interface between class, race, and rurai/urban milieux, as set forth above regarding recreational music and dance in general. In Latin America as well as in Europe, a relationship of feedback exists between salon and country dances. In
the rural areas, salon dances may be preserved in the oral tradition while the dance halls go on to new fashions. Latin American oral traditions preserve the waltz, polka, and mazurka, among others, as well as the now-archaic danza and danzon salon genres.
Just as the mazurka is still played in the interior of Puerto Rico, the waltz (vals) forms part of a dance triptych in areas of the Dominican South (carabiné-mangulina-vals) that is played 4 la creole, quite differently from its central European version.
Meanwhile, nightclubs in cities have long abandoned these genres and offer big-band merengues.
The late 19th-century creole salon dances— the Cuban danzén and the Puerto Rican danza, for example—are characterized by Western European melody and harmony, but with a lilting and syncopated, subtly African-influenced rhythm.
How did this come about in socially and racially segregated social clubs? The explanation probably lies partly in the fact that some of the musicians were black; historical photographs document the racial composition of the dance bands, such as the municipal! band of the very elitist city of Santiago de los Caballeros.
Instruments for rural secular dance. In rural areas, prior to the last quarter of the nineteenth century, all recreational dances were accompanied by stringed meiodic instruments, such as the tres, cuatro, tiple, and guitar. German trade, however, led to their substitution by the Hohner button accordion. Some ventured the opinion that the instrument dumped on the Dominican market via the port city of Puerto Plata was an outdated model, no longer fashionable in Germany. The accordion provided a louder sound and had no strings to break, but it required an adaptation of all the music to the equal-tempered tuning system.
Consequently, the “typical” Dominican ensemble at the turn of the twentieth century includes the accordion as its melodic instrument. Contemporary rural dance ensembles consist of accordion, a giiira or guayo (metal scraper), and a regionally-specific short drum. In the North, this drum is the tambora: in the East, the balsié (from the French valser), which is the Dominican version of the drum for the ubiquitous pan-Caribbean colonial juba dance; and in the South, a vertical drum also called balsié for the ensemble that plays the carabiné-mangulina-vals triptych, in addition to a large hand-drum (pandero). Another instrument, of Haitian origin and now extinct almost
210 | PERFORMING THE CARIBBEAN EXPERIENCE everywhere except in some rural areas of Samana and Puerto Plata, is the African-derived earth-bow or gayumba, a chordophone associated with Haitian traditions in Cuba, where it is called tumbandera.
Almost any type of music can be adapted to it (Fig. 9).
Traditional secular dance genres. A rich mosaic of recreational dances, cultivated mostly by rural and urban popular sectors, has been documented in the Dominican Republic. Genres based on Spanish folk dance such as the zapateo and its variants, the sarambo and guarapo, both of which are now virtually extinct, were documented in the North and Northeast, namely in areas heavily influenced by the Spanish presence. Fashionable European dances also reached santo Domingo. Especially significant among them is the contredanse and its derivation, the quadrille, which spawned variants such as the tumba of the North, the carabiné of the South, and the panCaribbean bambuld or bamboula of the Haitianderived enclave in Samana.
Other 19th-century European dances also were cultivated, including the waltz (vals), mazurka, and schottische. The latter allegedly was danced in the North by Spanish officers during the Restoration period (1861-65), when Santo Domingo again became a Spanish possession after declaring its independence from Spain in 1821 and from Haiti in
1844. The schottische was imitated in the chenche, or chenche matriculado (“enlisted” chenche), referring in this case to a dance performed by the military.
The mazurka was perhaps the basis of the mangulina, now retained in the Dominican South. Recorded Example 8, documented in 1980, illustrates a mangulina from Cabral in the Province of Barahona whose text represents a refreshing departure from the omnipresent love theme in recent popular music.
(In the text that follows, “Abobé” is an expression of joy [like “Alleluia”] used in Vodou ceremonies.) Chivo, chivo, chivo
Goat, goat, goat,
chivo que he hallado; (2 times)
Goat that I have found; vamoslo a matar
Let’s kill it
pa’ comerlo al otro lado.
And eat it on the other side.
Vamoslo a matar,
Let’s kill it,
a comer al otro lado.
And eat it on the other side.
Chivo que hiede, (Ch.:) Abobo chivo que hiede (etc.).
Chivo que hiede, chivo que hiede.
Mientras mas lo lavas, el mas le hiede.
Mientras mas lo lavas, el mas le hiede.
Stinky goat, Stinky goat.
Stinky goat, Stinky goat.
The more you wash it, The more it stinks.
The more you wash it, The more it stinks.
Caribbean urban dances of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries also reached the Dominican

Fig. 9: From top to bottom and left to right: tambora, eastern type of balsié, southern type of balsié, pandero, and gayumba.
Republic. These included the Puerto Rican danza and the Cuban danzon, son (based on the habanera rhythm), and bolero. In addition, African-influenced creole creations include especially the northern merengue and its regional variants, such as the merengue redondo, which, based on circular turns, encompasses the baile de pripri of the East and the yuca of the North. Other regional variants of merengue are the pasodoble-like chivo florete of Samana, and the pambiche (from the English Palm Beach), the latter supposedly an imitation of U.S. soldiers trying to dance the folk merengue during the First Occupation (1916-24).
One of the most popular ballroom genres of the early nineteenth century was the tumba, a variant of the contredanse. It was replaced at mid-century by the merengue, a rural dance popularized by Colonel Juan Bautista Alfonseca (1816-75) despite rejection by the elite. Indeed, until the 1930s, high-society dances included only the vals, danza, danzon, criola, mazurca, polca, one-step, and two-step. The merengue was used only occasionally to close a dance (Alberti 1975).
The merengue. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, Dominican merengue actually consists of two coexisting subgenres, namely the folk and commercial merengue. There are several regional variants of folk merengue, but the variant of the Cibao in the North is the one that has displaced the others.
It is called perico ripiao (deboned parrot) after the house of ill repute where it became very popular, which may have served parrot, an edible bird. The original folk merengue from the Cibao was played by a string ensemble before the introduction of the accordion, which replaced the strings throughout the country with the exception of the South and in the capital, where they were retained. Nowadays, the guitar merengue again is becoming fashionable, but the sound of the accordion is the timbric image presently identified with Dominican rural recreational dance, and, when used for the merengue, it is the sound of national identity. (See also “Haiti” by Gerdés Fleurant in this volume.) The traditional ensemble of the perico nipiao includes accordion, guira or guayo, tambora, and marimba (Fig. 10).
The Dominican manmba is the same as the Cuban and Puerto Rican marimbula, namely a large lamellophone akin to the African mbira or sanza, reflecting in this case Cuban influence of the 1930s.

Fig. 10: Musicians from the Cibao illustrating the accordion and giiira or guayo of the perico ripiao’s traditional ensemble. The tambora and marimba are not pictured. Photo by Martha Ellen Davis, courtesy of the author.
The folk merengue, apart from its return to strings, is rather unchanging in style. However, a lively and ongoing tradition continues to spawn new pieces in the same style. Recorded Example 9 is taken from El Descubridor, a locally distributed tape that even lacks a number, whose title, “The Discoverer,” assumed particular relevance during the Quincentennial period (1992):
Cuando Colon salid de
en busca del Nuevo Mundo,
al llegar a nuestra tierra
encontro a indios desnudos.
Cuando la Reina Isabel
le entreg6 tres carabelas,
nunca tuvo la esperanza
que Colon alla volviera.
Las tres carabelas
en la travesia:
la Pinta y la Nifia,
y la Santa Maria.
When Columbus left Spain
In search of the New World, As he reached our land He found naked Indians.
When Queen Isabella Gave him three caravels, She never dreamed That Columbus would return.
The three caravels In the crossing:
the Pinta, the Nifia, and the Santa Maria.
212 | PERFORMING THE CARIBBEAN EXPERIENCE The commercial merengue, by contrast, has changed drastically and continues to evolve since its first introduction into the dance hall and promotion by the policies of Trujillo’s dictatorship (1930-61).
His role in promoting merengue is but the most modern illustration of a theme running through the history of Dominican secular dance music of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, namely the role of wars, soldiers, and politics in dance styles and fashions. Luis Alberti (1906-76), the great-grandson of Alfonseca, the Colonel who popularized merengue in the nineteenth century, led Trujillo’s official dance band. His merengue, “Compadre Pedro Juan” (1936), could be considered the Dominican folk national anthem. The structure of the ballroom merengue entails three parts: the paseo (stroll)—for selection of the partner and positioning of the couple—adapted from other ballroom dances:
merengue proper; and the jaleo, with its virtuosic fi
The merengue of the sophisticated dance band substituted band instruments for the melodic and harmonic instruments of the traditional ensemble, namely the saxophone for the accordion and the string bass for the marimba. The first addition was the now characteristic alto saxophone, introduced in 1925 (Alberti 1975: 33). The percussion instruments of the traditional ensemble, namely the giiira or guayo and tambora, were retained. However, in contemporary non-Dominican bands, even these are substituted by other membranophones and idiophones.
In the period following the Revolution of 1965, a grassroots movement precipitated by the need to restore democracy in the country, the merengue was internationalized by Johnny Ventura (b. 1940) and then by others who introduced it to the record industry. By the late twentieth century, merengue was characterized by a markedly accelerated tempo; the addition of brass, percussion, and—more recently—electric keyboard; the elimination of the paseo and merengue sections while emphasizing the Jaleo; and risqué text. Merengue continues to be the national music idiom, and tunes popularized in other genres and contexts are appropriated and reinterpreted in the language of merengue. Salsa and other Afro-Latin styles act in the same way. Popular merengues also are rearranged and performed by any and all dance bands, often disregarding issues of authorship. The concepts of copyright and musical property, with associated lawsuits, carry no meaning in the Afro-Caribbean popular music domain. In
Dominican nightclubs, dance sets continue to revolve around merengue, with a typical set consisting of two consecutive merengues, bolero (slow and romantic), salsa, and merengue. Internationally, merengue not only displaced salsa in New York City as the most popular Latino dance rhythm in the mid-1990s, but it is quite the vogue in Spain, though danced unembraced.
Some of the salient points highlighted in this article merit inclusion in our final summary. It is noteworthy, for instance, that, unlike the string-accompanied décima traditions elsewhere in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, improvisatory poetic genres of Hispanic origin are largely unaccompanied in the Dominican Republic. It is equally significant that, for over a hundred years, the Hohner accordion has substituted for the strings in rural dance ensembles and thus Summons the characteristic sound of Dominican secular dance music. Moreover, and since the midtwentieth century, the merengue of the Cibao, in both its folk and orchestrated variants, has been appropriated as the music/dance symbol of Dominican identity, notwithstanding the fact that the baile de palos or drum-dance is actually more “typical,” that is, more widespread. Altogether, the history of recreational dance shows the significant role that political forces, as well as military events and personnel, play in the shaping of musical culture.
Most importantly, on the one hand, we have seen that Dominican musical culture is a hybrid amalgam of organic, dynamic, and continually evolving traditions, like all aspects of culture and all musical cultures. Its creolization has been an ongoing process since the first days of the colony. Dominican musical culture increasingly is becoming more itself, that is, more creole, especially since the New World severed its formal Old-World ties, and this process continues to unfold. The development of the nonliturgical Salve, the coexistence of the folk and commercialized merengue, and modern-style drumming, for example, serve as testimony of this process.
On the other hand, we have shown that Dominican musical culture is in itself bi- or multi-cultural, given the coexistence of two discrete sets of music-making principles at work within one mind, event, single genre, or individual! piece, as, for instance, in the cumandaé illustrated in Recorded Example 5 (Davis
1957). At the same time, the African component of Dominican culture is becoming more pronounced.
The causes that can account for this change include the political process of democratization with laxed repression against African-influenced musics and their religious contexts; changing social conditions that provide better access to national services and therefore have lessened the need for the mutual-aid role of the Afro-Dominican brotherhoods; a growing need for spiritual mediums who help people cope with the stresses of modern life; demographic developments, such as the growth of rural and lowerclass social sectors in most of the regions bearing an Afro-Dominican culture; and a huge influx of documented and undocumented Haitian laborers and political refugees.
The africanization of Dominican culture has been So rapid as to surprise folklorist Edna Garrido Boggs during a 1980 visit home, when she felt compelled to affirm that she accurately had documented the tradition of folk music and dance as largely Hispanic when she studied it in the 1940s; it has changed noticeably since then. This article itself is a presumably objective snapshot of musical culture at the beginning of the twenty-first century, which takes into account the trajectory of Dominican oral musical traditions up to this point in history.
Tomorrow’s view of the cultural kaleidoscope may see the same components in yet another configuration.


This contribution is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Francisco López Cruz, “Don Paquito” (d. 1990), folk musician and musicologist, who personally introduced me to fieldwork in Hispanic Caribbean folk music in Puerto Rico in 1969. He played a key role both in scientific documentation of his country s musical traditions, and in the conservation of Puerto Rican folk music in the oral tradition—through performance (Paquito López Cruz y su Conjunto Típico) and through teaching at the Instituto de Cultura Puertorniqueña. He rescued the cuatro from demise by training a generation of disciples, and recently wrote a method for the bordonúa. The essay is also dedicated to the memory of Don René Carrasco (murdered in 1978), self-educated researcher, dancer, and teacher, who gave his life to Dominican folk music and dance. He defined the “ballet folklórico” genre for the Dominican Republic through his “Cueva Colonial” dance school in Santo Domingo, the point of departure for others’ ensembles to this very day, though credit rarely is given. He also conducted research, self-financed from his meager earnings as a small-town tailor, with great concern for conserving changing traditions. His huge scrapbook and record series were titled, “Lo que se pierde en Santo Domingo” (What is being lost in Santo Domingo). I consider him to have been the most broadly knowledgeable person about Dominican music and dance traditions throughout the country, learned firsthand before the extinction of many dance genres. But, despite his intellectual brilliance and talent as writer and dancer, his financial need, lack of academic discipline, and social class encumbered the full dissemination of his knowledge. He also was taken less seriously because of his idiosyncratic reinterpretations and perhaps his sexual orientation.


Alberti, Luis 1975. De musica y orquestas bailables dominicanas, 1910-1959. Santo Domingo: Museo del Hombre Dominicano.
Alegria-Pons, José Francisco 1993. Gagd y vudui en la Republica Dominicana: Ensayos antropoldgicos. Puerto Rico: Ediciones El Chango Prieto.
Andrade, Manuel J. 1930. Folk-lore from the Dominican Republic.
New York: American Folklore Society (Memoirs of the American Folklore Society, vol. 23). Spanish edition, Folklore de la Reg
{Santo Domi
Anuario, 1930). Reprint ed. (Santo Domingo: Sociedad Dominicana de Biblidfilos, 1976).
Aretz, Isabel, and Luis Felipe Ramén y Rivera 1963. “Resefia de un viaje a la Republica Dominicana,” Boletin del Instituto de Foikiore (Caracas: Ministerio de Educacién, Direccién de Cultura y Bellas Artes) 4/4: 157-204. Reprinted in El pequefio universo (Santo Domingo: Universidad Aut6énoma de Santo Domingo, Facultad de Humanidades), 4.
Austerlitz, Paul 1997. }
music and D igentity. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
Brito Urefia, Luis Manuel 1987. El merengue y la realidad existencial del hombre dominicano. Santo Domingo: Universidad Auténoma de Santo Domingo.
ORAL MUSICAL TRADITIONS OF THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC / DAVIS | 213 Castillo, José del, and Manuel A. Garcia Arévalo 1992. Antologia del merengue. Santo Domingo: Corripio.
Coopersmith, J. M. 1949. Musica y musicos de la Republica Dominicana. Washington, D.C.: Pan American Union. Reprint ed. (Santo Domingo: Direccién General de Cultura de la Republica Dominicana, 1976).
Davis, Martha Ellen 1976. “Afro-Dominican religious brotherhoods: Structure, ritual, and music” (PhD diss., Anthropology: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign).
1980a. “Aspectos de la influencia africana en la musica tradicional dominicana,” Boletin del Museo del Hombre Dominicano 13: 255-92.
1980b. “La cultura musical religiosa de los ‘americanos’ de Samana,” Boletin del Museo del Hombre Dominicano 15: 127-69.
1981a. “Himnos y anthems (coros) de los ‘americanos’ de Samana: Contextos y estilos,” Boletin del Museo del Hombre Dominicano 16: 85-107.
I931b. Voces del purgatorio: Estudio de la Salve dominicana.
Santo Domingo: Museo del Hombre Dominicano.
1983. “Cantos de esclavos y libertos: Cancionero de anthems (coros) de Samana,” Boletin del Museo del Hombre Dominicano 18: 197-236.
1985. Review of Bernarda Jorge’s La musica dominicana: Siglos XIX-XX (Santo Domingo: Universidad Aut6noma de Santo Domingo, 1982) in Latin American music review 6/1: 108-12.
1987. “Native bi-musicality: Case studies from the Caribbean,” Pacific review of ethnomusicology (University of California at Los Angeles, Department of Ethnomusicology and Systematic Musicology) 4: 9-55. Revised as “‘Bi-musicality’ in the cultural configurations of the Caribbean,” Black music research journal 14:2 (1994), 145-G6o.
1994. “Music and black ethnicity in the Dominican Republic” in Music ana black ethnicity: The Caribbean and South America, ed. by Gerard H. Béhague. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 119-55.
Garrido, Edna 1946. Versiones dominicanas de romances espafioles.
Ciudad Trujillo: Pol Hermanos.
Garrido de Boggs, Edna 1955. Folklore infantil de Santo Domingo.
Madrid: Cultura Hispanica. Reprint ed. (Santo Domingo: sociedad Dominicana de Bibliéfilos, 1980).
1961. “Panorama del folklore dominicano,” Folklore Américas 21/I—2: I-23.
Hernandez, Julio Alberto 1969. Musica tradicional dominicana.
Santo Domingo: Julio D. Postigo.
Jeffers, Ron, editor and compiler 1988. Translations and annotations of choral repertoire, 2 vols. Corvallis, Oregon: Earthsongs, vol. 1.
Jorge, Bernarda 1982. La musica dominicana: Siglos XIX y XX. Santo de Santo D
Kolinski, Mieczyslaw 1980. “Haiti” in The new Grove dictionary of music and musicians, 20 vols., ed. by Stanley Sadie. London: Macmillan, vol. 8: 33-37.
Labat, Jean-Baptiste 1722. Nouveau voyage aux isles de l’Amérique.
Paris: Théodore Le Gras, 6 vols.
Larrazabal Blanco, Carlos 1967. Los negros y la esclavitud en Santo Domingo. Santo Domingo: Postigo.
Lizardo, Fradi
1975. Danzas y bates folkiéricos dominicanos.
Santo Domingo: Museo de! Hombre Dominicano—Fundacién Garcia-Arévalo.
Moore, Lillian 1946. “Moreau de Saint-Méry and ‘Danse,’”
Dance inaex (New York) 5: 229-Go.
214 | PERFORMING THE CARIBBEAN EXPERIENCE Moreau de Saint-Méry, Médéric Louis Elie 1797-1798. Déscription physique, civile, politique et historique de la partie frangaise de Visle Saint-Domingue avec des observations générales sur sa population, sur le caractére et les moeurs de ses divers habitans, sur son climat, sa culture, ses productions, son administration, … accompagnées des détails les plus propres a faire connaitre Vétat de cette colonie a lépoque du 18 Octobre 17809, et d’une nouvelle carte de la totalité de V’isle. Philadelphia: s’y trouve chez |’auteur.
1803. De la Danse. Parma: Bodoni.
Nolasco, Flérida de 1939. La musica en Santo Domingo y otros ensayos. Ciudad Trujillo: Montalvo.
1948. Vibraciones en el tiempo. Ciudad Trujillo: Montalvo.
1956. Santo Domingo en el folklore universal. Ciudad Trujillo: Impresora Dominicana.
Pacini Hernandez, Deborah 1995. Bachata: A social history of a Dominican popular music. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
Rodriguez Demorizi, Emilio 1971. Musica y baile en Santo Domingo.
santo Domingo: Libreria Hispaniola.
Rosenberg, June 1979. El gagd: Religién y sociedad de un culto dominicano, un estudio compgrativo. Santo Domingo: Universidad Auténoma de Sant:
Thompson, Donald 1993. “The Cronistas de Indias revisited: Historical reports, archeological evidence, and literary and artistic traces of indigenous music and dance in the Greater Antilles at the time of the Conquista,” Latin American music review 14/2: 181-201.
Bachata: Musica del pueblo, produced and directed by Giovanni Savino for Magnetic Art Productions. VHS video (61 minutes), distributed by The Cinema Guild, Inc. (New York, 2002).
The Dominican Southwest: Crossroads of Quisqueya and the center of the worg, directed by Martha Ellen Davis and edited by Arturo Guzman. VHS/DVD video (56 minutes), Spanish with English narration and subtitles, sponsored by the Secretaria de Estado de Cultura, Dominican Republic; distributed by Ethnica Publications <> (2004). Spanish version, as El suroeste dominicano: Encrucijada de Quisqueya y el ombligo del mundo (2004).
Papa Liborio: El santo vivo de Maguana, directed by Martha Ellen Davis and edited by Arturo Guzman. VHS/DVD video (56 minutes), Spanish, sponsored by the Secretaria de Estado de Cultura, Dominican Republic; distributed by Ethnica Publications <> (2003).
Afro-Dominican music from San Cristébal, Dominican Republic, compiled by Morton Marks. 1 disc, Folkways FE 4285 (1983).
Caribbean island music: Songs and dances of Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica, compiled by John Storm Roberts. 1 CD, Nonesuch Records 72047-2 (1998). Reissue of LP (1972).
Caribbean revels: Haitian rara and Dominican gaga, compiled by Verna Gillis in 1976-78 with the assistance of Ramén Daniel Perez Martinez, with liner notes by Verna Gillis and Gage Averill. 1 CD, Smithsonian Folkways SF 40402 (1991). Reissue of Rara in Haiti / Gaga in the Dominican Republic. 2 LPs, Folkways FE 4531 (1978).
Merengues from the Dominican Republic, compiled by Verna Gillis (1977), with liner notes by John Storm Roberts. 1 disc, Lyrichord LLST 7351.
Music from the Dominican Republic, compiled by Verna Gillis.
Folkways Records.
Vol. 1: “The island of Quisqueya,” FE 4281 (1976); Vol, 2: “The island of Espajiola,” FE 4282 (1976); Vol. 3: “Cradle of the New World,” FE 4283 (1976); Vol. 4: “Songs from the North,” FE 4284 (1978).
Quisqueya en eb Hudson: Dominican music in New York City, produced by the Center for Traditional Music and Dance, with liner notes by Tom van Buren and Leonardo Ivan Dominguez.
1 CD, Smithsonian Folkways SFW 40495 (2004).
Singers of the Cibao, compiled by John Storm Roberts (in the early 1970s). I cassette, Original Music OML 403CC (Tivoli, New York, 1990).
“Ay, Lola-é,” an improvised décima sung by Odalicia Ventura and chorus, reflecting on love and showing a departure from the classical rnyming scheme in the first redondilla. Recorded by John Storm Roberts in La Yagiiita, a village in the Province of Santiago. In Caribbean island music: Songs and dances of Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica, compiled and with liner notes by John Storm Roberts. 1 LP, Nonesuch H-72047 (1972, reissued in 1998). Produced under license from Nonesuch Records.
2. “Angelito, vete,” child’s burial song in quatrain poetic form performed by “El Chacho” (Apolinar Mercedes) with chorus of children and small drum (tambora) accompaniment, which constitutes an exception to the generalized practice of singing songs without instrumental accompaniment.
Recorded by Martha Ellen Davis in Los Cacaos, Province of samana (1973).
Liturgical Salve de la Virgen or Salve corrida, a folk rendition of the Salve Regina’s text—one of four Marian antiphons performed at the end of Compline in the Roman Catholic liturgy—sung by Afro-Dominicans during a velacién recorded by Martha Ellen Davis in the village of Esperalvillo, Municipality of Yamasa, Province of Monte Plata (1973).
“Me voy con Lola,” a Salve con versos or troped Salve of the East.
Recorded by Martha Ellen Davis in La Guajaba, a rural community in the Province of Hato Mayor (1973).
Cumandé, a Dominican genre wherein a section of HispanicDominican improvised quatrains alternates with another section of Afro-Dominican rhythmic percussion. Recorded by Martha Ellen Davis at a small velacién or saint’s festival held by an Afro-Dominican brotherhood for the Virgen del Carmen in Cambita Garabitos, Province of San Cristébal (1976).
Palos det Espiritu Santo illustrating the drumming tradition of the long-drums of the South / Southwest, which is the most widespread, whose characteristic rhythm is called palo corrido or palos del Espiritu Santo because of their association with the large brotherhood dedicated to the Holy Spirit. Recorded by Martha Ellen Davis at the chapel of Santa Rita in the town of San Juan de la Maguana (1973).
Palo abajo and palo arriba, drums for the dead of the CentralSouth, whose dual rhythms are played in most places as bipartite pieces, with palo arriba representing an intensification of palo abajo through a switch to duple meter, greater density, and other features. Recorded by Martha Ellen Davis in Arroyo Salado, Province of Peravia, whose capital is Bani (1973).
A mangutina, “Chivo que hiede” (Stinky goat), a recreational dance genre now retained in the South and probably derived
ORAL MUSICAL TRADITIONS OF THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC / DAVIS | 215 from the mazurka, performed by Beli y sus Muchachos (Belisario Féliz). Recorded by Martha Ellen Davis in Tierra Bianca, Cabral, Province of Barahona (1980).
Perico ripiao, the most popular and disseminated type of folk merengue, a recreational dance genre of the Cibao in the North, performed by the Trio Reynoso of -Tatico (Henriquez) y sus Muchachos. Excerpted from a locally distributed cassette recording entitled E} Descubridor (without label or number), reproduced by permission from Martha Ellen Davis.