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Tigers of a Different Stripe

Performing Gender in Dominican Music

Tigers of a Different Stripe takes readers inside the unique world of merengue típico, a traditional music of the Dominican Republic. While in most genres of Caribbean music women usually participate as dancers or vocalists, in merengue típico they are more often instrumentalists and even bandleaders—something nearly unheard of in the macho Caribbean music scene. Examining this cultural phenomenon, Sydney Hutchinson offers an unexpected and fascinating account of gender in Dominican art and life.
Drawing on over a decade of fieldwork in the Dominican Republic and New York among musicians, fans, and patrons of merengue típico—not to mention her own experiences as a female instrumentalist—Hutchinson details a complex nexus of class, race, and artistic tradition that unsettles the typical binary between the masculine and feminine. She sketches the portrait of the classic male figure of the tíguere, a dandified but sexually aggressive and street-smart “tiger,” and she shows how female musicians have developed a feminine counterpart: the tíguera, an assertive, sensual, and respected female figure who looks like a woman but often plays and even sings like a man. Through these musical figures and studies of both straight and queer performers, she unveils rich ambiguities in gender construction in the Dominican Republic and the long history of a unique form of Caribbean feminism.

248 pages | 22 halftones, 14 line drawings, 6 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2016

Chicago Studies in Ethnomusicology

Latin American Studies

Music: Ethnomusicology

Women's Studies


“A highly sophisticated and welcome engagement with the shifting terrain of genre and gender in the merengue típico of the Dominican Republic. Spanning forty years, Tigers of a Different Stripe explores a series of key artists and performers and makes a much-needed, deeply insightful, and timely addition to the ethnomusicological literature on gender in the Caribbean.”

Michael Largey, author of Vodou Nation

Tigers of a Different Stripe forges new ground in the study of Caribbean culture by treating vital issues of gender, race, and transnationalism as they manifest in the very act of musical performance. Hutchinson’s background as a merengue accordionist informs her rigorous attention to the intersection of social contexts, lyrics, and musical style. It also buttresses her close relationships with major merengueros, whose perspectives underpin the book’s insightful interpretation of music as a crucial arena for social discourse.”

Paul Austerlitz, author of Merengue

“In Tigers of a Different Stripe, Hutchinson pushes the theoretical boundaries and potential of gendered music scholarship in new and highly productive ways. Along the way, she introduces us to her delightfully quirky and passionate collaborators in such a way as to make them and their musico-political acts come alive. Pulling together years of study and performance, as well as careful and sophisticated theory, this book will become a staple for courses in ethnomusicology and anthropology or enjoyed by anyone interested in ethnography, performance, and gender told through the words of a skilled thinker and writer. This is a truly wonderful book!”

Ellen Koskoff, author of A Feminist Ethnomusicology

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

1 Introduction
2 A Gendered History
3 Tatico Forever
4 Fefita the Great
5 Filosofía de Calle: Transnational Tigueraje
6 Temporary Transvestites: Cross-Dressing Merengue, Bachata, and Reggaetón
7 Listening Sideways: The Transgenre Work of Rita Indiana
8 Dispatch from an Imaginary Island

Appendix A: Dominican Musics Mentioned in This Book
Appendix B: A Comparison of Two Accordionists’ Botaos
Appendix C: Movement and Gesture Analysis of Fefita la Grande Performing “La chiflera”
Works Cited


Society for Ethnomusicology, Gender and Sexualities Section: Marcia Herndon Prize

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