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
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
music The singer has died aged 70
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams looks concerned as Arya Stark
tv
Arts and Entertainment
photography Incredible images show London's skyline from its highest points
Arts and Entertainment
'Silent Night' last topped Classic FM's favourite Christmas carol poll in 2002
classical
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tv 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
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.

    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there