Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The delay in blog-writing has been due to boring circumstance beyond my control – namely, the need to finish a book, an article, and a conference paper. The first two have been completed, the last is underway, so now we can get back to the good stuff!

This weekend I finally managed to get myself out of the house, where I’ve gotten entirely too comfortable, and into some merengue típico gigs. You’ve already seen the pictures of my performance at Patron Burger. While there, I also saw two sets by Rafaelito and his group, and danced a couple of tunes with this old güira player known as El Viejo Rodriguez. I told him he should come because he had told me about watching dance competitions in Santiago during the forties and fifties, and that there were several different steps back then that you don’t see now. He was very pleased with my dancing abilities. So I guess I have a future if 1940s merengue típico dance competitions ever make a comeback.

On Saturday, I got some more unplanned accordion playing in. I had gone to the gym, only to find it closed (I forgot they close early on the weekends), so I went to check out an Argentine restaurant I'd noticed only the day before. I had an excellent empanada there and left to walk back home, intending to work for a couple of hours on my conference paper before bed. However, on the way I encountered a tipico trio playing on the sidewalk in front of a neighborhood bar/sandwich shop, and I found it impossible to resist the merengue magnetism. I sat down and listened for a while, but when they found out I could also play there was no getting away. I was obligated to play 7 or 8 tunes before I could leave. It was too bad that I didn't have my camera or recorder with me to capture the streetcorner atmosphere. It was fun, though, and I got paid in beer.

In truth though, I’m having an ever more difficult time getting to the late night tipico shows. Especially since I’ve been trying to get up earlier and go to the gym. The next type of music I study will definitely have to be music for old people. In at 2 PM, out by dinnertime. This is my new ideal research schedule. Any suggestions? Or should I just check into the old folks’ home now??

At any rate, I did get to see a show yesterday (Sunday) that was a bit closer to my ideal schedule. It was a "pasadia" or daytime event for students, to which I’d gotten a ticket from my teenage pals Manaury and Jonathan. (They’ve also promised to take me to some baseball games when those start up next month.) It was at "Andy Ranch," which is an updated version of the old "ranchos tipicos" where one goes to hear merengue típico and bachata, which themselves seem to have been created to cater to urbanites’ rural nostalgias since they are constructed along the lines of a typical enramada, a thatch-roofed shelter where people gathered to dance in the old days. "Andy Ranch," however, also has bar, restaurant, and swimming pools. Unfortunately, what it didn’t seem to have was food.

We got there about 1:00, expecting not to have to wait too long until the musical entertainment began since the ticket stated that the event began at 10:00 AM. However, when we arrived we were told Geovanny Polanco, the merenguero we’d come to see, wasn’t going to play til 5! Oh well, we shrugged our shoulders, we’ll just wait. Such is life in the DR. So we got ourselves a table and attempted to order food. At about 1:30 we put in our sandwich orders. About 2 PM the waiter shows up again, only to tell us that they were out of everything except fries. We could have French fries, or French fries with cheese. Oh well, we said, shrugging our shoulders, just bring us four orders of fries with cheese. The waiter comes back around 2:30 with the news that in fact there are some sandwiches, namely the grilled cheese I ordered and the ham and cheese the other girl had ordered, and should he put in that order, he wonders? Yes, yes, we tell him, just bring us some food!! 3:00 rolls around, and so do our mediocre sandwiches, but he hasn’t brought anything for the rest of our table, and the guys were at least expecting some fries. Which they finally get around 3:30, only one order, with no cheese and only one packet of ketchup that is soon gone. Oh well, we shrug our shoulders, at least we have some sort of food, and we did manage to get some drinks. Mission somewhat accomplished. Although pretty soon the drinks dry up as well.

By the time we finish our sumptuous spread enough time has actually been wasted that the first act is on. This consists of a series of high school wannabe reggaeton singers. I’m not crazy about reggaeton to begin with, and most of them aren’t exactly the greatest singers/rappers/whatever, although some of their backup dancers were pretty impressive. And all wearing very tiny clothes. This caused Manaury, the photographer, to take rather a lot of pictures, of which you can enjoy a few here. These were followed by two professional reggaeton groups, Ingco Crew and Big Family. I can’t tell you much about them because I could not see them. Although we were seated right next to the stage, people were so into this music that they climbed in front of us, onto the stage, sitting on speaker towers and standing on the backs of our chairs. I was kind of relieved when it ended and I found I hadn’t been crushed by falling speakers, falling teenagers, falling whatever.

Finally, what we came to see – Geovanny Polanco. I was really impressed with the group. I’d only seen them once last year, but from what I heard yesterday they have changed a bunch of things since then – new arrangements, etc. He also had a new tambora player (Sandy Pascual, brother of my old friend Fidelina) who was kind of out of control. But in a good way. He’d added a pair of timbales, a snare drum, and a cymbal to his setup. I guess you could say he’s added a drum set to his tambora, while my tambora teacher, Pablo Pena, has added a tambora to his drumset. They also played some new songs I hadn’t heard before. So I guess it was worth the wait. Mostly.

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