Thursday, May 24, 2007

New to the blog?

So I was thinking, some of you may be new readers, and if you are, you may have no idea about what the deal is with my blog. This should bring you up to speed.

I'm an ethnomusicologist working in Latin American music and dance. I have been researching Dominican merengue tipico for six years and am now in the midst of the horrific process of writing up that research in the form of a dissertation. That, and procrastinating a lot by taking on other projects and drinking lots of beer.

Merengue tipico is the traditional kind of merengue from the northern Cibao region of the Dominican Republic. It is very different from the kind of big band/pop merengue you may have heard on the radio in instrumentation, rhythm, and repertoire. It's based around the accordion and uses several different rhythms, some highly syncopated, unlike the monorhythmic pop merengue, and is an oral tradition that incorporates improvisation, unlike orquesta merengue, which relies on written arrangements. If you want to know more about merengue tipico, you should be able to find most of what you'd need on my web site:
If you want the quick version of tipico and orquesta history, read what I wrote for this small record label:

I started the blog when I moved to the Dominican Republic in 2005 as a way to document my research and other activities and get out of writing icky field notes. If you look back over the course of the blog you will see pictures and stories about merengue tipico in different contexts: in ranchos and car washes in the city of Santiago, in parties in people's houses, etc. You'll also hear about how I learned to play it on accordion and the various places I've performed.

While in the DR I got involved in several other projects as well. Being the only person yet granted access to the complete papers of Fradique Lizardo, the late Dominican folklorist, I got interested in his research on Dominican folk dance and how he started the Ballet Folklorico Dominicano, so I observed current ballet folklorico groups in different parts of the country and talked to dancers.

I also got interested in carnival - how could you not? - and joined a carnival group called Los Confraternos in Pueblo Nuevo, a Santiago barrio. I dressed up as a lechon, Santiago's traditional carnival character, with them and went through the grueling parades every Sunday through carnival season in both 2006 and 2007. If you are interested in seeing pictures of carnival, visit my posts from February of both years, as well as late January and early March (carnival lasts a long time in the DR). This year I also tried to visit other carnivals for comparative purposes, so you can also see pictures from La Vega and Cotui in February-March 2007.

My other research site is New York City, where there is a very active tipico scene, particularly in Brooklyn. Since the bulk of my NY research was done between 2001 and 2004, you won't see much of it here, but I have paid some return visits. You'll find chunks about NY tipico from June-July and October 2007, and at other random points.

When I'm not in the DR, I'm usually in Tucson, AZ, or traveling about randomly. Since tipico doesn't make much of an appearance outside of the DR and New York, when I'm away I usually post stuff random stuff from my tipico files or other observations about Dominican culture. I try to post at least once a week. Please subscribe to the feed if you want to be sure not to miss anything!

That's the blog in a nutshell. If you have any suggestions for accordion, tipico, or Dominican-themed topics you'd like me to write about, please post them here!


Linda said...

Although I started reading your blog half-way through, this is a nice recap and helped to put everything in perspective. Thanks!

Squeezyboy said...

Brilliant !
I'm going to subscribe to and read every bit of your blog.
Check out my Squeezytunes blog, it's dedicated to accordions and the like and I love merengue, cumbia etc.

Unfortunately living in the UK it's hard to learn about such things. So your blog will be a godsend.

Thank you Sydney

bujo_tang said...

nice site. i will check back from time-to-time. I am an accordionist and lawyer from Pennsylvania but I have a verrrry bad BelizeJones; somewhat similar to the geographic permumbras of your ethnoMusicology.