Photographer: Pedro Genaro Rodriguez
The Dominican drum is the mother of merengue. For many, without the drum merengue does not exist. It is of African heritage, although the rhythm is local. It is built with a hollow trunk and a patch of goatskin. According to musical tradition, the right-side patch is hit with a stick and the patch should be made from female goatskin; and the left-side patch is hit with the hand and the patch should be made from male goatskin. The drum is also used in the interpretation of Salve.
The Dominican drum is unique regarding its musical rhythm, which is played by stroking the right patch and wooden edge with a stick and the left patch with a hand, each side with a different cadence. It is part of the African heritage that has been found in Burkina Faso and Madagascar. In the Dominican Republic, it was integrated into the Merengue and the Salve.
It is the soul of traditional merengue, to the point where for many musicians and dancers merengue does not exist without a drum. For some musicians who are not Dominican this is the most difficult instrument to play from the country’s folklore heritage.