Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 6, No. 3, 2007
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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Mark Goldfarb
  Contributing Editors
Bernard Dubé
Robert Rotondo
Dan Stefik
Marissa Consiglieri de Chackal
  Music Editors
Diane Gordon
Serge Gamache
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Marcel Dubois
Emanuel Pordes
  Past Contributors
  Noam Chomsky
Mark Kingwell
Naomi Klein
Arundhati Roy
Evelyn Lau
Stephen Lewis
Robert Fisk
Margaret Somverville
David Solway
Michael Moore
Julius Grey
Irshad Manji
Richard Rodriguez
Pico Iyer
Edward Said
Jean Baudrillard
Bill Moyers
Barbara Ehrenreich
Leon Wieseltier
Charles Lewis
John Lavery
Tariq Ali
Michael Albert
Rochelle Gurstein
Alex Waterhouse-Hayward


Robert J. Lewis


If you’ve ever thought of visiting a Latin American country, but, because of either time or financial restrictions have had to put that plan on hold, the next best thing is Montreal’s International Merengue Festival that takes place every July on Ile Nôtre-Dame (Metro stop Jean Drapeau).

© Marcel Dubois 2007 International Merengue Festival - MontrealFor the sun-blessed weekend of the 21st and 22nd, Latin nations from Central and South America gathered to honour the theme of one nation, one people -- borders be damned. Food, folklore and memorable dance from countries as diverse as Guatemala and the Dominican Republic reminded one and all that the culture of the past is best preserved in the present. With Spanish and its many accents wafting in the breeze, you might have thought you were walking along the banks of the Panama Canal or the Orinoco.© Marcel Dubois 2007 International Merengue Festival - Montreal

Set back from the principal stage was a motley string of mini-boutiques and food stands that transformed the area into a makeshift mercado featuring a broad range of artifacts, traditional clothing and specialty dishes whose tantalizing aromas the nose couldn’t oppose.

© Marcel Dubois 2007 International Merengue Festival - MontrealAs always, there was non-stop musicand dancing that took place in front of the stage. If Latin America is one nation, it manifests in those totally unselfconscious, swinging, lithe hips that out of inner necessity invented the complex rhythms of Merengue, Samba and the Cha-cha. Dancers from all ages came forward dressed in their summer lights and put on an informal show worthy of highlight reel.

During the 2-day event eight major concerts fired up the stage, including the hot Salsa of Johnny Ray, Carlos and Alexandra, Tito El Bambino from Puerto Rico, and Monchy & Alexandra from the Dominican Republic.

© Marcel Dubois 2007 International Merengue Festival - MontrealIn between the music, the much in demand, gorgeous Carnaval de Rio girls mounted the stage in the slimmest of attire that threw into double jeopardy even the tightest marriage and relationship. Paying homage to the meticulously choreographed troupe of long legged dancers was the incessant blitz and flash of cameras.

Depending on age and taste, the musical highlight of the event belonged to Monchy & Alexandra, whose adoring fans couldn’t get enough of their sweet harmonies that filled the half-mooned Montreal night. © Marcel Dubois 2007 International Merengue Festival - MontrealThe music itself was noteworthy for its subtle fusion of traditional and contemporary. The duo would typically begin with a musical idea/cliché that threatened to wear thin, but then, on a dime, the singers would suddenly introduce unexpected changes in melody and cadence that took the song to a new place where it could stand tall and on its own: the audience lapped it up.

At the end of the all too short day’s journey into night, with the cerveza swilled and midnight air redolent of sativa, there were reasons galore to conclude that a good time was had by all.

Shouts of more, more, more, meant there would be just that, next year, at Montreal’s 12th International Merengue Festival.

Photo Credits: MARCEL DUBOIS
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