Musicians from the Dominican Republic Visit St. B’s, March 6, 2018

Boys in kindergarten, first grade, and seventh grade enjoyed special performances from musicians visiting from the DREAM Project’s Bachata Academy in the Dominican Republic.  St. B’s Old Boy Benjamin de Menil ’88 established the tuition-free academy in 2013 in an effort to help preserve the country’s musical tradition and to teach and encourage young musicians.
Professor Mártires de Leon accompanied three talented musicians from the school on their first trip to New York City.  St. B’s boys were lucky to learn firsthand about bachata and merengue music and enjoyed hearing the musicians perform.
The boys learned about the instruments that are played in traditional bachata music.  The bongo drum is the foundation and sets the rhythm for each song.  The güira complements the drum rhythm and is similar to a high hat.  Two guitars, the requinto (lead guitar) and the segunda (rhythm guitar), combine with percussion instruments to produce lively music that inspires people to dance.  Benjamin de Menil explained that the layering of rhythms that are played simultaneously in bachata create an active, dynamic energy which stimulates movement.  The musicians demonstrated several styles of bachata music.  In caminando songs the bongo and güira are quieter, whereas the majao style is more animated and upbeat.
The musicians also demonstrated four rhythms that are regularly used in merengue.  The tambora drum is used in merengue instead of the bongo, and the drummer plays the tambora with one drum stick and a hand.  Merengue is traditionally played with guitars, but accordions or orchestras have also performed merengue.  The guitar rhythm in this style is syncopated and can be difficult to play.  The musicians from Bachata Academy performed the pambiche beautifully and made it look easy.
Junior and Upper School boys thoroughly enjoyed learning about bachata and merengue music.  The beautiful music made a lasting impression, and we extend our gratitude to Benjamin de Menil, Professor Mártires de León, and the musicians, Edison García, Adriel Martínez, and Estefany Santos.