Joaquin Diaz says he didn’t choose the accordion — the accordion chose him.
Growing up in the Dominican Republic, Diaz was surrounded by the sounds of merengue music, but his father forbade him from touching the accordion he kept in the family home.
“I took advantage of his absences to explore the instrument until the day he arrived home from work sooner than usual: he caught me playing my first merengue called ‘Juanita Morel.’ I was 9 years old,” recalls Diaz. “From that day on, I went along with him to private parties. He played the Tambora and I, his accordion.”
It was the beginning of Diaz’s passion for the ultra-danceable music of his homeland — a passion that has continued despite the fact the accordionist now lives in Montreal. He relocated to Canada in 1990 after meeting his Quebecois wife in the Dominican Republic.
“She was teaching English in a small school in San Pedro de Macoris, my hometown,” says Diaz. “Her interest in our culture and our music was remarkable. Her father was an accordionist, and she brought me to Quebec to meet her family and to visit the country. And then I stayed.”
Now, Diaz brings merengue rhythms to audiences all over the world, including Victoria, which he’ll be visiting for the first time this Friday. (“Bring your dancing shoes,” he cautions.) He and his band are known for drawing on Dominican traditions while also finding inspiration in the accordion music from other countries.
“Certain styles of music really interested me, such as Tex-Mex, that I learned during my stay in San Antonio, Texas in the company of Flaco Jimenez or Mingo Saldivar,” says Diaz. “Also, the music of Eastern Europe and their incredibly virtuosic accordionists impressed me. Here in Montreal, I have accordion-playing friends who came over from France and Italy.”
But while he enjoys blending accordion music the world over, Diaz says it’s the traditional tunes of his homeland that are most important to him.
“Merengue is the ‘flag’ of my country,” he says. “What inspires me most is the traditional side of this music which helps to keep me in touch with my roots.”
As they say, there’s no place like home. M
Accordionist Joaquin Diaz’s whips passion for merengue