Merengue de Calle AKA Mambo: The Sound of the Dominican Underground

While vacationing in the Dominican Republic over MLK weekend, I had one of those unique exchanges in which I attempt to purchase a CD of unknown provenance in the vain hopes I will stumble upon some weird hybrid music from the global postmodern. Typically these exchanges are conducted with no more than 70% comprehension by either party, terms such as “hip hop” and “bass” are bandied about, and I get some watered down bhangra or generic reggae for my troubles. This time I lucked out with Super Mambo Supremo 2008, an unlabeled CD-R with an inkjet printout of Heidi Klum next to the Domincan flag’s coat of arms, containing 19 tracks of the sound burning up the Dominican streets — mambo, also known as merengue de calle.

As is typical of such genres, names are often cribbed inappropriately from elsewhere, as the music sounds very little like mambo, at least according to my limited understanding, although “street merengue” does a much better job. The tracks are stripped-down merengue rhythms (most sound right off a Casio’s “Latin” presets), with high tempos, dirty rapped lyrics, and an occasional reggaeton rhythm thrown in for good measure. Also typical for these genres (reggaeton, bachata, cumbia, and funk carioca have similar trajectories), the older and more elevated classes of Dominican society scorned this music until popular pressure became insurmountable; now mambo artists play rallies for major presidential candidates.

Omega is the mamboista tan grande, with a distinctive gravelly voice very reminiscent of Tego Calderon. Apparently he’s so successful he can afford an entire merengue backing band, although you’d never know it from the sound. Have this many musicians ever made a sound so minimal?

Music videos (with typical girls+jewels+cars+money hip-hop imagery — par for the course) are rather the exception — I had far more luck on YouTube finding live performances on low-budget TV shows. One of the biggest hits of the genre is Galgo Mambo’s “El Viajero,” which means “the traveller” — I believe a reference to how Galgo gets around, not, unfortunately, to the rampant sex tourism in the DR:

Love that 80s soft rock intro, a staple of the Dominican radio. Raphael, our taxi driver, preferred it to anything else.

And it’s not exclusively a boy’s club, although the ladies of Unidad Key certainly need to work on their stage presence:

Mambo’s even got its preferred producer/remixer, DJ Ricky, who produced the track “No Era Por Ahi” on Tego’s latest album, El Abayarde Contra Ataca.

Sonically, mambo reminds me more of the tinny hyperrhythmic sound of Angolan kuduro than Caribbean hip hop styles, although there aren’t any links that I know of, other than Iberian-colonialism-meets-black-diaspora:

And now for links!

Blog (en espanol) about merengue in La Republica Dominicana: Merengue Mundo

Thread on a Dominican messageboard about merengue de calle (en ingles!): DR1 Forums

And as a special added gift, the entire contents of Super Mambo Supremo 2008.

UPDATE

Here’s the tracklisting, now that I’ve actually bothered to type it all in:

  1.  Tulile – Ta Buena
  2. Omega – Si No Me Amas
  3. DJ Lexxon – Dale Maraka (this is a remix of a popular Dominican dance song with some Dem Bow)
  4. La Chelcha – Bebe Mas
  5. Galgo Mambo – El Viajero
  6. El Ferry – Te Tienen Pena
  7. Rimambo – La Voz Que Te Quilla
  8. Kewdy – El Bram Bram
  9. La Super Banda – Quedata Loco
  10. Silvio Mora – Los Camarones
  11. Lebreke – Si Tu Quieres Mangamos
  12. Conde Marc Lauri – Demagocia Con Mi Coro
  13. DJ Kennedy – Manga Ahy
  14. Jay Pallano – El Bollo
  15. Unidad Key – Tumba Eso
  16. The Four One – Sofia
  17. La Grena Con Mambo – La Maicena
  18. Mala Fe – Como La Mochila
  19. Tamarindo – Para El Violento

Check the next post for another mambolicious mix.

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37 Responses to Merengue de Calle AKA Mambo: The Sound of the Dominican Underground

  1. […] Merengue de Calle AKA Mambo: The Sound of the Dominican Underground « GAY SOVIET TRON Y’ALL on merengue de calle, aka street merengue: “The tracks are stripped-down merengue rhythms (most sound right off a Casio’s “Latin” presets), with high tempos, dirty rapped lyrics, and an occasional reggaeton rhythm thrown in for good measure.” (tags: merengue DR blogpost) […]

  2. Janette says:

    Thanks for the music Super Mambo Supremo 2008. Do you have the list of the songs and the artists you can post or send to me?

  3. Great info. Thanks for the post. I’m always looking for the lastest hard-edged merengue.

    IK

  4. So I tried tracking things down online and didn’t have much luck. Do you know of any websites I can order the latest merengue de la calle from?

    Thanks,

    IK

  5. ngoma says:

    what what! put a chigga on rock rock!

  6. chiara says:

    El MeJoR OmEgAaaaa… i love this songgg!!! viva la republica dominicana!! besossss mwhuaaahhhhh

  7. Javon says:

    Hey man I wanted to know if you knew where you can download these songs from. It’s hard to find Perico Ripiao in stores.

  8. unfashionablylate says:

    Sorry, I have absolutely no idea where to get this stuff outside of sketchy internet sites (see Tecnorumba post) and bootleggers in Santo Domingo. Would love to know though.

  9. Alan says:

    Brilliant stuff! I’ve just come bak from DR and had a brilliant time, the music was off the hook (so was the women!!!)

  10. josh says:

    looks like your download links are offline. please repost

  11. […] a belated follow-up/expansion of this blog’s greatest hit (los exitos de unfashionablylate) so far with some further thoughts on merengue de calle. Proyecto […]

  12. hola como estan me gustaria que me ayudaran a salir en un variado de merengu de calle mis discos lo pueden en contrar en http://www.tupayola.com

  13. Gavin says:

    CJoon, muchas gracias para las descargas! Eres un musico de mambo?

  14. […] A commenter was kind enough to point me to a very Tecnorumba-ish site (I think the original is defunct now) […]

  15. Nina says:

    Merengue de calle? MAMBOOOOOOOOOOO
    Kalimete, Mala Fe,Tulile? Love it.
    There is nothing better in this world than some hardcore ripit up ghetto merengue. Not even reggaeton, which I turned to when merengue sort of died down in the US and PR.

    Havent figured out the whole “monster voice” thing, which is how my kids and I refer to some of the weirder vocals.

    Mambo afaik doesnt refer to mambo as in Cachao. Im not entirely certain, but I think its the old “jaleo” section that we now refer to as the “mambo” section of a merengue. I take mambo in this context to mean “the good get jiggy with it part”.

  16. natalie says:

    hey i had a ? im trying to find a song i wanted to kno if anyone could help the song`s chores goes pa bajo y caliente but i cant find the name of the song can someone help

  17. […] much more on THIS BLOG, which looks a hell of a lot like the one you’re on right […]

  18. xiagox says:

    I officaillly love you for upping “mangamos” it’s been hell finding a decent copy. A million thanks.

  19. katherine says:

    omega soy fiel admiradora de ti te amo y te kiero mucho besossssssssssssss I love

  20. VINY VALENZ says:

    EL MERENGUE DE MAMBO TA’ PEGAO, AQUI EN STAMFORD, CT, VENGAN PA’ CA OMEGA T ESPERAMOS, RAILY COME ON BUDDY QUEREMOS CONCIERTO EN STAMFORD

  21. […] in the genre today. Fewer than half the tracks were reggaeton at all; instead were bachatas, some mambo tracks, pop-R&B from Don Omar and Ivy Queen, and, yes, a few songs with some of that ol’ Dem […]

  22. Lautaro says:

    Just wante to explain a bit. A reason why the style oculd be called mambo could be that since the mambowas popular and introduced the riffs played by the horn section, the similar horn riff parts in merengue and also salsa songs have been called mambo. So its not only the old 50´s cuban rhythm but also a part of a merengue or salsa song where the horn riffs kick in. Thats why you sometimes here the sing say “vamos al mambo” in salsa songs or merengue songs. They are saying that the song is going in to the mambo part, not refering to the old 50’s mambo rhythm.

  23. lachupandera says:

    tengo un CD del Dueño donde todos los temas estan Duros sin desperdicio
    si los premios los entregan por calidad el mejor candidato a Revelacion del año y omega ni hablar hay que repetir con el cassandra pal montro

  24. lachupandera says:

    LOS DOS MAMBEROS MAS COMPLETOS HOY EN DIA
    EL FUERTE OMEGA Y EL DUEÑO DONJAIRO
    Indiscutiblemente son los dos representante del merengue urbano
    mejor conocido como merengue de calle que conjugan mas talento
    tienen las mejores producciones tema por tema entro los demas.

  25. juan pablo says:

    hola los escribo desde Ecuador y los digo que su ridmo es de lo mejor y sugan alante alante ………los quiero mucho por ponerle manbo al mundo ente ro ….
    Saludos desde el ecuador…..y los imbito a escuchar a la suprema estacion 96.1 fm que viva la republica dominicana y ecuador y alante alante ………………..

  26. […] in transnational popular music. I thought I’d cross-post this, since it’s relevant to posts I’ve made on merengue de calle. The original post is a response to Paul Austerlitz’s […]

  27. Azdreuval A. Lugaro Zierra says:

    upload that mixtape.

  28. Scoopology says:

    yeah why dont you expose us to it buy uploaded the mixtape. thanks in advance.

  29. lisbeth says:

    el omega es lo masimo es el fuelte el merengero de calle mas pegao es el fuerte nuca lo olbides omega tu eres el fuerte eres el merengero de calle mi faborito omega el fuerte te amo omega tu segiras siendo el fuelte omegaaaa

  30. lisbeth says:

    el merengero de manbo el fuelteeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee por cienpre

  31. lisbeth says:

    te amo omega el merengero mas fuelte omega
    el mas duro el mas fuelteeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
    omega
    sigue llebvaando merengue al mundo

  32. lisbeth says:

    omega si merengiando
    te quiero mucho tu atmiradora lisbeth bi los premios casandtra y el r mas brillaste eres tu
    por cierto tengo 10 años me encante tu merengue de calle oye eres lo masimo omega potrcienpre tirando palante soy dominicana de tu pais el fuelte omega
    con rason eres el fuelte eres el meremgero de calle mas fuelte saliste ala calle y deslunbrante estubiste bomba

  33. carlos says:

    thanks for the article, after coming back from holidays on dominican republic i was after some of the music i listened there.
    I love latin music (I am Spanish), and I know many of the artists but Omega was a great surprise while being there.
    Keep making great articles such as this.
    Thanks!

  34. monica genao says:

    ooooooooooooooomg omega me encantan todas tu musica primero pork son de calle y pork cantas mulindo tu tienes una bos hermosa

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