While People Debate Whether or Not Karol G’s Summer Anthem Sounds Like Rosalía’s ‘Despechá,’ Let’s Take This Moment to Remember the Afro-Caribbean Origins of Merengue 

While People Debate Whether or Not Karol G’s Summer Anthem Sounds Like Rosalía's ‘Despechá,’ Let’s Take This Moment to Remember the Afro-Caribbean Origins of Merengue 
Credit: Instagram

On June 20th, Karol G released her latest track, “Si antes te hubiera conocido.” The Colombian star from Medellín promised this merengue song would be the “song of the summer” in her promotional teasers, and, for many, it has lived up to the hype. However, the release of “Si antes te hubiera conocido” has not been without controversy. Just days after its debut, rumors began circulating on social media that the song might be a plagiarism of Rosalía’s hit, “Despechá.” The speculation intensified when Rosalía posted a cryptic photo on her Instagram, featuring “Despechá” playing in the background.  

“Si antes te hubiera conocido” seems to be yet another hit for Karol G. Its upbeat, merengue-infused rhythm has fans dancing and there are already some TikTok dances that are making its rounds. Though both Karol G and Rosalia have benefited from the great sounds of merengue, let’s not forget its origins.  

The Origins of Merengue

Merengue originated in the Dominican Republic and is a staple in Latin music culture. However, it’s important to note that merengue, like many Afro-Caribbean music forms, has origins that trace back to African rhythms and traditions brought to the Caribbean by enslaved Africans. 

The genre emerged in the mid-19th century and quickly became popular in the Dominican Republic. It is believed that merengue was influenced by a mix of African, Taíno, and European musical traditions. According to Central Home, merengue is a combination of two dances, the African and the French Minuet, from the late 1700s – early 1800s. The African influence is particularly strong, as the rhythmic patterns and call-and-response elements in merengue are reminiscent of traditional African music. Over time, merengue evolved, incorporating instruments like the accordion, tambora (a type of drum), and güira (a metal scraper). These instruments give merengue its distinctive sound. 

Despite its deep roots in the Caribbean, merengue has transcended borders and become a beloved genre worldwide. It has been embraced by many artists who have added their own unique touches while maintaining its core essence. This cultural heritage is often overlooked, but it’s crucial to recognize the rightful owners of this genre.  

A Baseless Controversy?

The controversy around “Si antes te hubiera conocido” has divided opinions online. Supporters of Karol G argue that merengue is a genre with a long history that cannot be claimed by one artist alone. “Rosalía didn’t invent merengue,” many have stated in defense of Karol G. Others point out the irony of Rosalía, a European artist, gaining fame with Latin rhythms and then accusing another artist of plagiarism within that genre. 

In the midst of this, Karol G’s fans remain loyal, flooding social media with messages of support for their “Bichota.” They assert that the similarities between the songs are coincidental and that Karol G has done nothing wrong. 

Despite the controversy, Karol G’s “Si antes te hubiera conocido” remains a hit, and its catchy beats will undoubtedly continue to be a summer favorite.  

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