Caribbean Art Music

Juan Bautista Alfonseca (1810-1875) 

Juan was a self-taught composer born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.  He was the earliest known Dominican composer of merengue.  Although he lacked musical training he was known as the “father of Dominican music”.  In, 1846 he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and he led the first military band and participated in the battles against Haitian rule to lift the spirits of the soldiers with their music.  He composed classics and his music reached a wide audience because it was associated with local culture (Juana Quilina; El sancocho; Ay  Coco!) (, 2010).  He wrote the country’s first National Anthem which he made it a mangulina, not a merengue.   His music served to make people forget the effects of economic and social crisis of 1857 (El que tiene mil pesos no baila = Who does not have thousand dollars does not dance) (, 2010).   His work also includes merengues, mangulinas, danzas, waltzes, misereres, and other religious pieces. 

Alfonseca’s manuscripts did not survive 

and only the first 2 lines of “Juana Quilana” 

text survived. 


¡Ay, Cocó! 

¿Valverde Por Qué Estás Triste? 

Boca Canasta 

Boca Canasta 

Canción Dominicana 

El Carlito Cayó En El Pozo

El Juramento 

El Morrocoy 

El Que No Tiene Mil Pesos No Baila 

El Retozo De Los Viejos 

El Sancocho 

Himno A La Batalla De Las Carreras 

Huye Marcos Rojas Que Te Coge La Pelota 

Juana Quilina 

La Cadena 

La Chupadera 

Los Pastelitos 


Austerlitz, P. 1997.  Dominican Music and Merengue, Dominican Identity.     Temple University Press.  Philadelphia. Pgs. 23-24.

Davis, M. and Austerlitz, P. 2012.  “Dominican Republic” Grove Music Online, Oxford Music.  Retrieved from: 2010.  “Juan Bautista Alfonseca” Encyclopedia of History and Culture of the Caribbean.  Retrieved from:

Guerrero, J.G. 2012.  Merengue and Salsa:  The Cultural Expression of the Spanish Speaking Caribbean.  Retrieved from:

                                      Jose de Jesus Ravelo (1876-1951) 

Jose was a self-taught composer and educationist.  He was the clarinet student of Master Juan Francisco Pereyra.  In 1894-1900, he was the director of the Banda Pacificador (Peacemaker band) and resigned once choral singing was introduced into school education and subsequently, he was appointed as a music educationist.  He taught music at Santo Tomas where he founded the first youth band and taught at Salome Urena.  In 1908, he founded and directed the first government supported school Liceo de Musica until 1942 (later renamed National Conservatory of Music) (Kuss, 2007).  In 1904 until his death in 1951 he was the conductor and director of the Octeto del Casino de la Juventud and later renamed the Sociedad de Conciertos (Kuss 2007).  Ravelo also served as the president of the First Dominican Congress of Music and in 1934 he published a historical work called “History of the Hymns of Dominicans”.  

Ravelo has composed over 200 works and his genres include numerous of religious works as well as chamber music, waltzes, romance, motet, masses, and oratorios.  He is best-known for the oratorio of La muerte de Cristo which is performed customarily during high mass on Good Fridays.  “Ravelo’s music is the primary link between late 19th-century Romanticism and the beginnings of a Dominican national school” (Davis, 2012)


A San Jose, Op179:  Sp; 1941.

Adeste, fideles, Op171:  Lat; motet, 1940.

Alleluia, alleuluia, Op153:  1939.

Alma de Christo, Op199:  Sp; motet, 1943.

Alma redemptoris mater:  Lat; 1940. 

Ave Maris Stella, Op137:  Lat; 1938.

Ave verum Corpus, Op18:  motet, 1904

Ave, Regina, Op156:  Latin, 1939.

Cor Jesu, Op105:  motet; 1928.

Crucem tuam, Op178:  Lat; 1941.

Himno de las Mercedes, Op134:  orch; 1938.

Inviolata, Op177:  Lat; motet, 1941.

Jesu dulcis memoria, Op106:  1928.

La Muerte de Cristo (segun san Mateo), oratorio, prem 1939.

La Resurrecion de Cristo, Op185:  oratorio, 1942.

Las Siete Palabras, Op198:  Sp; 1943.

Libera me Domine, Op140:  orch; 1939.

Misa de Requiem, Op169:  Lat; 1915.

Misa en sol, Lat; 1915.

Misa Solemne, prem 1940.

Missa Brevis, Op213:  1945.

O salutaris, Op162:  motet, 1903.

Oye la voz, Op209:  motet, 1944.

Per imsum, Op189:  Lat; 1943.

Plegaria a la Altagracia, Op174: 1940.

Presta, Senor, oido…,  Op212:  Sp; 1945.

Recordare, Jesu Pie, Op129:  prayer, 1939.

Regina coeli laetari, Op160:  Lat; 1940.

Salve regina, Op149:  Lat: 1939.

Salve regina, Op56:  Lat: 1916.

Tantum Ergo, Op103:  Lat; motet, 1928.

Tantum Ergo, Op181:  Lat; motet, 1941.

Tantum Ergo, Op223:  Lat; motet, 1947.

Tota pulchra, Op147:  Lat; 1939.


Apel, W., 1969.  Harvard Dictionary of Music, 2nd edition, Belknay Press of Harvard University press, Cambridge, MA.  Pg.240

Davis, M, 2012.  “Jose de Jesus Ravelo” Grove Music Online, Oxford Music.  Retrieved from:

Encyclopedia of the Nations, 2012, Dominican Republic:  Famous Dominicans.  Retrieved from:

Kuss, M., 2007, Performing the Caribbean Experience:  Music in Latin America and the Caribbean.  Texas University Press, Austin Texas. Pg. 239

Tiemstra, S., 1992.  The Chorus Music of Latin America- A guide to Composition and Research, Greenwood Publishing, New York.  

Luis Emilio Mena (1895-1964) 

Luis was a composer, conductor and teacher.  He studied the flute, harmony and composition with Jose de Jesus Ravelo at the Santa Teresita Academy.  Began playing in a band at the age of 14; he also learned to play the piano, oboe, cello and bassoon.  He was integrated in the youth band of the Octeto del Casino de la Juventud.  After abandoning a dentistry degree he studied with Alfredo Soler at the Liceo Musical in Santo Domingo.  In 1916, he graduated as a professor of flute in the Liceo de Musica.  His first musical work was La chaquetera Mignon Lucesita, a mazurka which was re-named to Lucila.  He directed several music schools and was invited many times to take the stage and direct the orchestras of radio stations HIX and HIN.  In 1932, he was the founding member of the Symphony Orchestra of Santo Domingo, which was the precursor of the Orquesta Sinfonica Nacional which he conducted many times.

In 1934, Capricho Impromtu and Invocacion were known in Philadelphia thanks to the author’s own management who took initiative to send works abroad.  In 1937, a New York radio station transmitted a concert that feature the work Gugu which was written for flute and piano.  His music includes salon, chamber music and arrangements for string quartet and guitar.  The orchestral suite Recuerdos de infancia is well known to Dominican audiences.  His important works include Sinfonia giocosa and Ecos de la libertad, a symphonic fantasy on three Dominican national anthems (, 2012).  


Alfonso XIII, Paso doble, 1926

Capricho impromptu, 1934

Como un sueno, Suite for fluite and piano

Ecos de libertad

Fantasia for clarinet and orchestra

Gugu for flute and piano

Invocacion, 1934

La Mignon chaquetera Lucesita, Mazutka, 1913

Romanza for violin and orchestra

Sinfonia giocosa


Davis, M, 2012.  “Luis Emilio Mena” Grove Music Online, Oxford Music.  Retrieved from: 2012.  El Tren de Yaguarams:  Los cien musicos del siglo.  Retrieved from:

                                      Luis Albert (1906-1976) 

Luis was born in the province of La Vega, Dominican Republic.  He was the key musician in national popular music of Merengue.  He was interested in music from an early age and came from a musical family.  His great grandfather was Juan Bautista Alfonseca, the composer of Dominican Republic’s first national anthem and his mother was piano instructor Maria Mieses. In 1913, at the age of seven he learned to play the cymbals and snare drums in his hometown’s municipal band.  When his family moved to Mao, Valverde province he began his professional violin training and began his career as a musician.  During this time he met his wife, Gilma Tio.  

Shortly after he got married, Alberti attended classes to perfect his violin playing in the city of Santiago de los Caballeros (, 2012). He later performed in theaters for silent films, and, in 1932 he was the first violinist to perform with the Orquesta Sinfonica de Santo Domingo and has been considered a founding member.

In 1936, Alberti led a highly original Merengue jazz band that often emphasized advanced harmonies and lyrics over the Merengue tipico, known as perico ripiao, and played by the usual performing group of folk meringue (accordion, tambora and guira).  “Alberti improved the urban appearance of Merengue music and brought it to stately ballrooms” (Stevens, J. 2012).  

He wrote several popular songs throughout his career.  His song Compadre Pedro Juan became internationally popular and has been covered by many renowned artists from the Caribbean and the Americas.  He also composed popupular series of children’s songs known as Metodo de tambora y guira. 


Compadre Pedro Juan

Fiesta Navidena en Quisqueya (1966)

Luna Sobre el Jaragua (1951)

Metodo de tambora y guira

Navidades Dominicanas (1977)

Bibliography: 2010.  “Luis Alberti” Encyclopedia of History and Culture of the Caribbean.  Retrieved from:

Stevens, John.  2012.  Caribbean News Network:  Profile of a Merengue Legend.  Retrieved from:



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