The inimitable vocalist, activist, politician and all round granddaddy of modern merengue Johnny Ventura is still going strong after nearly five decades in the business. His medium-paced cooker ‘El Mangú’ features playful lyrics and is in the perico ripiao style. The Queen of Merengue Milly Quezada has had a lengthy career distinguished by Grammy-winning music of the highest calibre. Her sultry voice and playful sense of humour are showcased on ‘Yo Soy Mujer Y No Soy Una Santa’, where she proudly proclaims: ‘I am a woman, not a saint’. Adding to our pantheon of merengue royalty, Joseíto Mateo, who was born in 1920, has had a truly epic career. For many of his compatriots, he is the essence of Dominican music, and ‘El Papá De Los Merengueros’ is a contemporary mambo track.
Just as essential to any merengue album is composer, band leader and trumpeter Wilfrido Vargas. His ‘Tu Eres Un Veneno’ is pure party pleasure with electro beats that quicken the pace, jumping right into the stinging brass jaleo from the start. A fabulous accordionist, El Prodigio is the foremost exponent of the more experimental side of típico, and ‘Corazón Maldito’ features plucky bass figures, insane percussion and a bouncy chorus alongside his uplifting accordion riff. Papi Sánchez’s style is genuinely unique, blending merengue with bachata guitar, stomping old school beats, rap vocals and reggaetón effects. He exploded onto the scene with his sexy innovations and this track is from his hard-core debut album Yeah Baby.
‘El Hombre Merengue’, Kinito Méndez does his usual innovative synthesis on ‘Tírame Tu Que Yo Devuelvo’ adding spice and plenty of call and response. Also featured on this album are the pop merengue band Rikarena, which Kinito Méndez formed in 1994, and their ‘Merengue Riko’ has the typical fun-loving romantic merengue party sound. A boasting song with a chugging, steady pulse, composer and bandleader Jose Peña Suazo’s ‘No Doy Mi Truco’ has a nice fat sound and features the leader shouting ‘¡Cachimbo!’ and ‘¡Purisimo!’ (slang expressions that might translate as ‘smokin’ and ‘super-pure’). Charlie Valens is a young MC who brings explicit risqué lyrics, urban beats and hard-core mambo merengue to the club-hopping masses of NYC and Santo Domingo, and his ‘El Hijo De Tuta’ is a version of a famous protest song.
Featuring a frothy mix of European and African elements, this album is paced from slow to medium to fast and is sure to satisfy both the nostalgic quisqueño (Dominican native) and the merengue newcomer.