Domingo Garcia Henriquez
Despues que Dios hizo el mundo noto’ que se le olvidaba algo, entoces hizo las manos de Tatico
After God made the world, he noticed he forgot something- then he made Tatico’s hands
I’ve been out hunting in Washington Heights a couple times this year searching for tunes and source material in what’s left of the mixtape shops up there – damned internet.
On my first trip, I trekked uptown with Rupture on a Perico Ripiao re-con mission. The dealers will usually let you decide whether you want the original or the cd-r so you can really rack up at some of these spots. That trip was my first time hearing el fuego improvisado that is Tatico Henriquez.
I feel totally robbed that I didn’t hear this guy growing up on the island next door. At first listen, he is an artist that draws from the listener a sense of appreciation for his contribution not only to music but to his culture. I’ll see your cotton candy pop star and raise you one jibaro de campo and a bag of plantain chips.
Here’s the story of the chunky hick that comes down from the back woods with his accordion, lucky to get paid free food and rum, who completely changed the music game in DR and raised the stakes for merengue players from making 100 dollars to play a bar to making 3-5 thousand dollars a night. He also accredited as one of the earliest latin musicians to have crossed over and played in America.
After years of tagging along behind the best accordion players on the island, guys like Matoncito and Nicolora who’s names are only carried on the lips of camperos. He learned their old songs and in later years there was some controversy over the authorship credits of some of his interpretations. Copyright issues aside, should we not merit him for capturing and rescuing this music before it was lost? What he eventually developed was a sound of his own adding the first electric bass and congas to the genre. He would play shows from seven to eight hours long shredding on his two-row diatonic accordion tuned to the key of A instead of C like all other accordions. He did this to match the key he sang in making the interplay of his voice and his instrument sync.
Then there’s the fact he’s often just improvising the lyrics. How many people do you know that can freestyle and play instrument and sound ill at both? To me that’s genius level shit on par with folks like D’Angelo, Meshell Ndegeocello. Add to that a sweet voice, the g-suave charisma plus success element and what you get is jokes from his widow about women leaving their husbands on the dancefloor and go home with this guy.
The sound he unleashed via shows and his two hour weekly show on Radio Naguas spread all over the Dominican Republic. 30 years past his death he remains to this day one of the most requested artists on merengue tipico stations out there. He died in a car crash in 1976 and what they showed of the wreckage was a gnarled Caddy that resembled a plane crash. Tatico was Buddy Holly. Tatico was Kurt Cobain. Another one gone way too soon. He should be celebrated like Tito or Celia as one of the great contributors to latin music.
Large up to the folks over at the Merenyola website for Merengue Tipico events in NYC and for putting up this one hour documentary on youtube.