Wednesday 1 July 2020
Modernised merengue music makes all the cool kids dance

Who would have guessed that what Dominican merengue needed to become popular with cool kids and tigueres alike was a push on the genre-blender button from the skilled hands of Rita Indiana?

This merengue heroine is now on the verge of international pop stardom.

Indiana has taken merengue beats that nod to gritty mambo and salsa, and mixed them with disco, new wave and Afro-derived music forms like Dominican palos.

The result is contagious fast-dance numbers to which she has added Dominican slang-filled lyrics about migration and hard-knock urban lives, making them irresistible to fans interested in the hottest global sounds.

Shortly after forming the group Rita Indiana y Los Misterios, Indiana released the band's first album, El Juidero.

The subject of their music frequently features themes of culture and sexual identity as well as social issues of the Caribbean.

Her most popular tune, "La hora de volvé" (‘Time to Return’), speeds up with güira (percussion instrument) and outer-space blips as if the song is on the verge of going boom, as the singer breathlessly urges migrants to take "una yola al revés" (‘a rickety boat in reverse’) and return to their homeland.

Rita Indiana is finishing up a new album. Mandinga Times (out in May) is a collection of songs about the end of the world, mixing storytelling with Afro-Caribbean beats simmering in metal and punk.

Rita Indiana is also a very successful author, and her novel La mucama de Omicunlé (available in English under the title Tentacle) became the first Spanish-language work to receive the Grand Prize of the Association of Caribbean Writers.

So, writer by day and musician by night. Sounds like a true superhero, doesn’t it?

Come dance along to Rita Indiana’s songs when she visits Roskilde Festival 2020.