ROCK / Que Guerra sera: Juan-Luis Guerra has opened Dominican music to the world. After him, the deluge?

ON Saturday, citizens of the Dominican Republic celebrated Independence Day. In the capital, Santo Domingo, the event was part of Carnival.

In Spain, Europe's largest concentration of Dominicans might have celebrated that their country's chief musical export of the Nineties is sitting at number two in the Spanish charts. Latin superstar Juan-Luis Guerra's fifth album, Areito, has sold 850,000 copies, a third of those in Spain, since its release in 1992.

Guerra and his group, 4:40, took two Dominican styles, the fast 2:4 merengue dance rhythm and the guitar-based romantic song bachata, and melded them, via his US Conservatory-trained jazz/rock sensibility, into a catchy, tuneful formula that took the Latin world by storm. Areito, two years in the making, follows the successful recipe - merengues; bachatas; Guerra's plaintive, pretty voice; poetic, slightly fey lyrics; and fashionable references.

If Areito has not as yet equalled the vast success of its predecessor, the five million-selling Bachata Rosa, it has still confirmed Guerra's status as his nation's biggest star, the man who broke merengue out of the Latin American audience. Of major world markets, only Britain, where Areito was released last week, has resisted the Guerra advance.

The Dominican Tourist Board issues posters now of the lanky superstar proclaiming 'Republica Dominicana - Tierra de Juan-Luis Guerra'. It is the land of much more besides, however, as a recent visit demonstrated. As is often the case, the further down-market you go, the more fun it is.

Saturday night. By the standards of merengue band leaders, Alfonso Vasquez Familia, normally known as Pochy, is a pretty sharp operator. By the standards of chartered accountancy, which was the profession by which he supported his early career, he is sensational. Since his newly formed 14-man Cocoband's first hit 'La Flaca' ('The Thin Girl') in 1988, he has performed continually (48 dances last December) and conquered record markets in Colombia, the USA and Germany. The Cocoband's formula has no trace of Juan-Luis Guerra's eclecticism; it's pure high-octane straight-ahead merengue. Animating a packed dance in a big school hall, the band churns out the rhythm inexorably. Sizzling, twitching cross-rhythms from the metal guro scraper and the double-headed tambora side-drum, tumbling frenetic jaleo choruses from the six-man brass section. The couples dance close, merengue-style, left hands entwined above their heads, upper bodies motionless. Afterwards, Pochy sits outside in his brand new silver Landcruiser, sipping beer, talking on the car phone, signing autographs for teenage girls, and looking like he's got bigger ponds in his sights.

Sunday afternoon. The latest Cocoband album, El Arrollador, currently at number 10 in the Billboard Latin charts, leads with a merengue, 'Pa' Los Coquitos' (For the Little Cocos), featuring a children's chorus. The sleeve depicts Pochy surrounded by beaming multi-racial tots. If this bears queasy implications of incipient Benetton-ism, move on rapidly to the work of Blas Duran.

Duran's records are not played on national radio. He doesn't care, he says, because they're rarely off 'Radio Duarte'. The slum quarter street named after the independence leader Duarte is home to Santo Domingo's main market, where dozens of cassette stalls blare out Duran's music constantly.

His speciality is double entendre of a simplicity which makes Benny Hill seem positively Wildean. 'El Conejo' (The Rabbit, carrying the same secondary meaning as the English 'pussy') is one of his biggest hits. The music of Duran's band, the Peluches (Teddy Bears) is similarly sparse and efficient, stripped down to an irresistably hissing guiro, rolling tambora, blasts of rough trombone and Duran's trademark, a repetitive treble electric guitar riff. An audience of working-class families at an open- air dance lap it up, filling the floor from lunchtime to dusk, when the band rushes off to another engagement. During a pause Duran, in purple suit, red shirt, crocodile patent shoes and kilos of gold jewellery, explains his sartorial policy. 'I dress elegant like this so that audiences will take me seriously, as a star.' Watch out, Juan-Luis Guerra and the world. Maybe.

Arts and Entertainment
Kathy (Sally Lindsay) in Ordinary Lies
tvReview: The seemingly dull Kathy proves her life is anything but a snoozefest
Arts and Entertainment

Listen to his collaboration with Naughty Boy

music
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig in a scene from ‘Spectre’, released in the UK on 23 October

film
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap

film
Arts and Entertainment

Poldark review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Katie Brayben is nominated for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Carole King in Beautiful

film
Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
film
News
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
tv
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
    How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
    11 best bedside tables

    11 best bedside tables

    It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
    Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

    Italy vs England player ratings

    Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
    Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

    Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat