Perico Ripiao

Perico Ripiao Dancing


Perico Ripiao, also known as Merengue Cibaeño, is a genre of music and dance that originated in the Dominican Republic. This style of music, dating back to the 1840s, is considered the oldest and most traditional form of Merengue. The name translates to “Ripped Parrot”. Is said to have been derived from a brothel where the music was originally played.

Despite its controversial beginnings, this genre has grown to become a significant part of Dominican culture. Influencing not only the music scene but also the country’s social and cultural expressions.

The rhythmic beats of the güira, tambora, and accordion, are the primary instruments used in Perico Ripiao. Along with its distinctive dance movements, have transcended generations. Today, it continues to be a vibrant part of the Dominican identity. Thus embodying the spirit, history, and resilience of the Dominican people.

History and Origin of Perico Ripiao

Perico Ripiao, a genre deeply rooted in the Dominican Republic’s cultural fabric. It traces its origins back to the Santiago area in the Cibao Valley region. The music first appeared in recorded history in the 1840s. It was during a time when the Dominican Republic was undergoing significant social and cultural changes.

The name “Perico Ripiao” is steeped in folklore and carries a unique story.

It is said to have been derived from a brothel where the music was initially played. The term translates to “Ripped Parrot,” a reference to a parrot that was supposedly torn apart at the brothel during a police raid. This incident, as the story goes, led to the music being played faster, creating the distinctive upbeat tempo that characterizes this music.

Characteristics of Perico Ripiao

Perico Ripiao is characterized by its fast-paced rhythm, sensual dance movements, and often playful or suggestive lyrics. The music is typically played with three main instruments: the güira, the tambora, a two-headed drum; and the accordion. These instruments work together to create a lively, energetic sound that invites listeners to dance.

The dance style associated with Perico Ripiao is equally expressive. Dancers move their hips in time with the music, creating sensual movements that have become a defining feature of the genre. The lyrics often tell stories, make social commentaries, or use humor and double entendre, adding another layer of depth to the music.

Despite its popularity, this genre was not always accepted. In its early days, the sensual movements of the dance and the suggestive nature of the lyrics were criticized by the more conservative sectors of society. However, the music’s infectious rhythm and the cultural identity it represented proved irresistible. Over time, the controversy surrounding this beautiful rhythm subsided. It became more widely accepted, eventually evolving into a beloved symbol of Dominican culture and heritage.

Instruments Used in Perico Ripiao

The distinctive sound of Perico Ripiao is created by a combination of three primary instruments: the güira, tambora, and accordion. The güira, a percussion instrument made from a metal sheet with a rough surface, is played with a stiff brush, producing a unique rasping sound. The tambora, a two-headed drum, provides the deep, resonant beats that drive the rhythm of the music. The accordion, with its bellows and keyboard, adds a melodic layer to the composition, weaving intricate patterns around the steady rhythm of the güira and tambora.

Originally, this music was played by three-man groups, each musician playing one of the three main instruments. However, as the genre evolved and grew in complexity, the bands expanded to include more musicians. Today, it’s common to see five-man bands performing, with additional instruments like the bass and saxophone enriching the musical texture.

Notable Musicians and Bands of Perico Ripiao

Several musicians have made significant contributions to this genre, helping to shape and evolve the genre. Fefita la Grande, known as “La Vieja Fefa,” is one such artist. She is considered a pioneer in the genre, being one of the first female accordionists to gain prominence in a traditionally male-dominated field.

Tatico Henríquez is another influential figure in this rythm. Known as “El Rey del Merengue,” Henríquez is celebrated for his virtuosic accordion playing and his ability to captivate audiences with his dynamic performances.

El Prodigio, a younger musician, has also made his mark on this genre. Known for his innovative approach to the genre, El Prodigio has successfully blended traditional Perico Ripiao with elements of jazz and other musical styles, introducing the music to a new generation of listeners.

These artists, along with many others, have played a crucial role in the development and preservation of Perico Ripiao, ensuring its continued relevance in Dominican culture.

Perico Ripiao in Modern Times

Today, Perico Ripiao continues to be a vibrant part of the Dominican Republic’s cultural landscape. While it retains its traditional roots, the genre has also evolved to incorporate influences from other musical styles, reflecting the dynamic nature of Dominican culture. Modern musicians often experiment with the traditional format, adding new instruments or blending elements of jazz, salsa, and other genres into their compositions. This innovative approach has helped to keep Perico Ripiao relevant and engaging for younger generations.

The influence of Perico Ripiao extends beyond the Dominican Republic. Its energetic rhythms and distinctive dance style have found their way into the broader Latin music scene, influencing genres like salsa and bachata. Moreover, the music’s themes of love, joy, and resilience resonate with listeners worldwide, making this rythm a powerful ambassador for Dominican culture.


1. **What is Perico Ripiao?**

Also known as Merengue Cibaeño, is a traditional music and dance genre from the Dominican Republic.

2. **Where did it originate?**

Perico Ripiao originated in the Santiago area in the Cibao Valley region of the Dominican Republic.

3. **What instruments are used in Perico Ripiao?**

The primary instruments used in this genre are the güira, tambora, and accordion.

4. **Who are some notable Perico Ripiao musicians?**

Notable musicians include Fefita la Grande, Tatico Henríquez, and El Prodigio.

5. **How has Perico Ripiao influenced modern music?**

It has influenced modern music by introducing its unique rhythms and dance style to other genres, and by inspiring musicians to blend traditional elements with contemporary musical styles.