|Cultural origins||Mid-1800s, Haiti|
|Typical instruments||Acoustic guitar, Bass guitar, Tanbou, Conga, saxophone, Piano, Cowbell, Guitars, Tanbous, Horn section, Trombone, Trumpet|
|Derivative forms||Cadence-lypso, Coladeira, Compas, Kadans, Kizomba, Kuduro, Mini-jazz, Soca, Twoubadou, Zouk, Zouk-love|
|Haiti, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Dominica, French West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago, Canada, France, Africa, Panama, Cape Verde, South America, North America, Portugal, Angola, Brazil|
|Music of Haiti|
|Media and performance|
|Music awards||Haitian Music Award|
|Nationalistic and patriotic songs|
|National anthem||La Dessalinienne|
Méringue or mereng in Haitian Creole, is a music genre and national symbol in Haiti. It is a guitar-based style unlike the primarily accordion-based merengue, and is generally sung in Haitian Creole.
Méringue was heavily influenced by the contra dance from Europe and then by Afro-Caribbean influences from Hispaniola. The blend of African and European cultures has created popular dance music, music played on simple acoustic instruments by artists who don't need theaters or microphones to show off their art. Ethnomusicologists believe that the French word méringue, which means exactly the same thing in English; a confection made from whipped egg whites and sugar called meringue in which was probably applied to this musical genre because of the light and fluffy nature of the dance where one gracefully shifts their weight between feet in a very fluid movement. Like almost all Latin American dances, the méringue can trace its origins back to the contredanse; the French dance that was hugely popular in Europe as they began to colonize the Americas.
Méringue was claimed by both elite and proletarian Haitian audiences as a representative expression of Haitian cultural values. Elite Haitian composers, many of whom were trained in Europe and wrote in a European-influenced style, used the méringue as a vehicle for their creative talents. Composers such as Occide Jeanty; his father, Occilius; Ludovic Lamothe; Justin Elie; Franck Lassègue; and Fernand Frangeul wrote méringue for solo piano and sometimes for small groups of wind instruments. Often, these elite méringue were named for people-for example, François Manigat's Eight Days while Staying in Cap (Haïtien). The méringue is based on a five-note rhythm, or quintuplet, known in French as a quintolet and Spanish (from Cuba) as a cinquillo. The quintolet is unevenly subdivided, giving an appropriate feeling of "long-short-long-short-long." While the concert méringue tended to use the syncopated version, Haitian piano soloists, like Ludovic Lamothe, tended to play the quintolet more like five even pulses, giving the méringue a smoother, subtler feel. Occide Jeanty's Maria was written for the Musique du Palais, the official presidential band for the Haitian Republic. Jeanty was chief director and composer for the group and wrote most of the band's performance repertoire. The quintolet in "Maria" is the syncopated version, appearing first in the saxophones and horns, then answered by the flutes, clarinets, and trumpets. Most méringue for concert band followed this pattern, keeping the quintolet figure moving from low to high register, thus allowing the melody to alternate the méringue rhythm with sustained, heavily vibrated notes. The percussion parts also alternate the musical pulse and the quintolet rhythm, giving the méringue an additional lilt. Méringue were also used by proletarian audiences during Carnival time, especially in the nineteenth century. Unlike the elite méringue, intended for use on the dance floor, the Carnival méringue were directed at the elite members of Haitian society, either criticizing unpopular people in power or ridiculing their idiosyncrasies. The formulaic insults of the Haitian Carnival méringue bore some similarity to the early calypso picong, or "stinging," style.
Like many other Caribbean styles, méringue is played by artists who are usually anonymous and, although their music is very much alive, they tend to be called "traditional". Haiti Cherie brings together the best traditional méringue bands presenting a repertoire of mostly anonymous classics.
One exception is Ti zwaso, an old méringue with lyrics by Haitian poet Oswald Durand. Harry Belafonte popularized it internationally as Little Bird, and it is now often mistakenly presented as Jamaican mento.
The music creates a street party where couples dance belt-buckle to belt-buckle to a rhythm that they recognize as their own. This music is the roots of the sound produced by Haiti's international stars: groups like Tabou Combo, Caribbean Sextet and Missile 727, amongst others. —Courtesy Calabash Music
Méringue has lost popularity to compas (konpa) music which revolutionized méringue.
- Austerlitz, Paul. "Merengue: The Music of the Rupublic". p. 2. Retrieved 20 January 2014.
- "A More In-depth Look at Merengue". Retrieved 20 January 2014.
- Manuel, Peter with Kenneth Bilby, Michael Largey (2006). "Caribbean Currents: Caribbean Music from Rumba to Reggae". p. 158-159. Retrieved 28 January 2014.