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Eric Paul Roorda

a baritone singer of criollas, boleros, merengues, and other Dominican music, was the first internationally known Dominican musical performer, and one of the pioneers of radio performance and the music recording industry in his country. He was born in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, on 22 January 1906, with the given name Eleuterio, to the unwed parents Julián Álvarez Brito and Liborio Aragonés, and raised by his single mother. He started working with her at a young age in the Venus restaurant, running orders, and grew up as a laborer in a variety of other menial pursuits, such as apprentice to a blacksmith and as a shoemaker, tobacco packer, furniture mover, boxing referee, and, most famously, as a shoeshine boy, an occupation in which he gained attention by singing beautifully as he worked.

Brito met the composer Julio Alberto Hernández in 1926 in the city of Santiago de los ...


Sydney Hutchinson

known as “El Rey” (The King) of merengue, who also sings boleros and other Caribbean music, was born on 6 April 1920 near San Isidro on the outskirts of Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic. He grew up in Villa Juana, then the red-light district of San Isidro. He never knew his father. His mother, Altagracia Mateo, was a washerwoman originally from San Cristóbal, an area known for its Congo-Angolan musical traditions. Joseíto worked from an early age, doing errands for prostitutes, selling oranges and peanuts, and breaking rock used in construction projects that followed the destruction of the city of Santo Domingo by Hurricane Zenón in 1930.

In the 1930s Mateo began his career by singing with the guitar-based groups that were then popular in cabarets (brothels). The repertoire consisted mainly of boleros and sones genres imported from Cuba but locally popular and only the ...