Merengue phenom Rita Indiana is known as la montra (the monster) back home in the Dominican Republic and now New York music fans are getting a glimpse of why. The six-foot tall musician—on tour as part of the July 6-9 Latin Alternative Music Conference (LAMC)—is winning over audiences with her multifaceted style that blends merengue with elements of hip hop, techno and Afro-Caribbean sounds. Also a successful author, there's clearly more to Rita Indiana than what is seen on stage.
Interview by Wilda Escarfuller
AQ Online: On Tuesday you performed at Drom in the East Village. What was the crowd's reaction?
Rita Indiana: It was very intimate. We put together an acoustic version of the latest album [El Juidero, released last winter] in a smooth and transformative performance. Everyone loved it.
AQ: The rhythms and lyrics in merengue have changed over the years. What started off as a ballad has transcended into what could be described as a complex mix of hip hop, rap and reggaeton. What is your style?
Rita:I admit that I create popular, twenty-first century music; I can’t really categorize it as fitting into one genre. Although I use the güira and the tambora from merengue, I also incorporate elements from blues and funk music that comes from places like Cuba, Puerto Rico and Jamaica.
(Rita Indiana (left) and Wilda Escarfuller laugh about when they used LP records, July 7, 2011. Photo: Courtesy of Hector de Jesus Photography.)
AQ: Do you believe that the music market in the Americas has changed in the last two decades, and how does your music fit into Latin America’s musical movement more generally?