Berklee Today: Juan Luis Guerra '82
It seems that two things are close to the hearts of a majority of Dominicans: baseball and merengue music. The former fuels the dreams of kids playing in sandlots, hoping to become the next Sammy Sosa or Pedro Martinez. Merengue offers a different form of release for a culture that loves to dance. Merengue tipico was formerly the music of the peasantry in the Cibao valley region and was played on stringed instruments. Later, tambora, guira, accordion, and sometimes marimba joined the band. The form was adapted for the ballroom and became a national dance played by merengue orquestras during the reign of Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo (1930–1961). In the decades following Trujillo's demise, merengue remained a symbol of Dominican national identity. But when Juan Luis Guerra breathed new energy into the form in 1984, merengue connected in a big way with young and old audiences both inside and outside the Dominican Republic.