Venezuelan merengue

Venezuelan Merengue

Venezuelan merengue

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The word merengue designates a musical form extended through all the Caribbean. The first occurrences of merengue in print in Venezuela are from scores of “dance merengue” of the second-half of the 19th century . As a dance craze, merengue acquired popularity in Caracas during the 1920s. It is important to distinguish this form from the vastly more popular Dominican Merengue. Although they share the same name, the rhythms have very little in common, except the fact that they were commonly written for partner dancing.


The origins of the word are controversial. For some people, the word merengue comes from the French word “meringue”, a confection made from whipped egg whites. However, this concoction is called suspiro in Venezuela. There is a stronger link to a Haitian popular dance with that name. Another theory links the name to African words like “muserengue” or “tamtam mouringue”.

In Caracas, the term merengue rucaneao designated a way of dancing with couples holding and often featuring exaggerated hip movements (which added to the craze and subsequent controversy). Dances were paid affairs, with popular prices being “a locha” (12.5 cents) or “a medio” (25 cents) in dance halls known then as mabiles. Live accompaniment consisted of four solo instruments: trumpet, trombone, saxophone and clarinet and rhythm instruments such as the cuatro, bass and percussion (which, depending on the size of the ensemble, could be as simple as a scraper, or...
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