One of the Dominican Republic’s most coveted staples is its music with new and old-age classic genres like merengue, bachata, perico ripiao and the now-ubiquitous dembow. The origins of perico ripiao, which can be described as faster-moving merengue, are intertwined with and traced back to indisputable African roots.
Author Deborah Pacini Hernandez breaks down how perico ripiao came about in Bachata: A Social History of a Dominican Popular Music. According to Hernandez, the genre stems from a classist and racist epoch some years after the country gained independence from Haiti. Then Dominican dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo played a role in the social-political definition of the genre, ascribing it as something more lowbrow because of its African influence.
“Because the word merengue has become a symbol of the country’s modern nationhood, it is not altogether surprising that the newer urban merengue de orquesta, associated with the dominant classes, kept the well-known and established name merengue. The merengue ciabaeno, on the other hand, was henceforth referred to as “perico ripiao” or as “merengue tipico,” she writes, noting that the genre was named after a brothel located in the city of Santiago in the country’s pre-dominantly white Cibao region.
In honor of Dominican Republic’s Independence Day, and its deeply rooted afro-indigenous heritage, VIBE compiled a perico ripiao playlist that pays homage to the historically marginalized derivative of merengue that always gets the party started right. Let the tunes of Juan Luis Guerra, Anthony Santos and Fefita La Grande, among many others – who have spread the genre all over the world – help you breakout the Brugal. Enjoy!