I’m blogging at hist525.wordpress.com as part of a class I’m taking 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 book on merengue, which is quite good.
This concept definitely caught my attention. On page 93:
Many bands practiced what was called fusilamiento (shooting, assassination), basing merengue arrangements on foreign hits.
In Austerlitz’s account, merengue is a very, shall we say promiscuous style, able to adapt to many forms, which is the key to its popularity across Latin America. Of course, covering hits to get attention is nothing new and certainly not limited to merengue, but that there is an entire concept built into the culture is certainly interesting! In my limited exposure to merengue, I’ve definitely come across many versions of popular songs, including Western pop covers. I like this video because I also had the experience of hearing the merengue version of “Don’t Worry Be Happy” in a cab in the DR. I’ve also heard it on Spanish-language radio in DC.
Side note: I visited the DR for a long weekend a couple years ago. My driver was also a cop (remember, Austerlitz says they make very little money — tourism is the only way to get paid), middle aged and conservative in composure. We didn’t listen to much merengue or bachata in the car — his favorite station played 80s soft pop — think grocery store music. He did like Aventura, but who doesn’t?
Here’s an example of fusilamiento at work. The first song is a classic by the Spanish singer Camilo Sesto. I first heard this on the Mexican oldies station in Chicago, called “Recuerdos” (Memories).
Here’s a merengue version I found on YouTube. I have an mp3-CD from Guatemala with a similar merengue version, but with some drum machines and a few other electronic effects added.
Another merengue style (though it’s classified as “mambo,” which in the DR is an urban style of merengue).
Here’s a bachata version for good measure. I’ve also heard other bachata versions of this song.
But the fusilamiento concept permeates lots of Latin genres. Here’s a cumbia version.
I’d like to explore this concept further: does it originate in merengue? Do other genres have names for it? And how does it relate to more contemporary music practices such as remixes and mashups? Here are some recent “assassinations” of Michael Jackson songs done in the mambo/merengue de calle style. There are dozens of these on YouTube.