This post is also available in: Spanish
Hispaniola is the only island in the world hosting two nations, and this coming 27th of February, the celebration on occasion of the 172nd anniversary since the island divided into two nations, the Dominican Republic and Haiti, will take effect. This is why we decided to interview a musical icon of the Dominican Republic, whom since the 80’s has kept the merengue culture – the musical genre native to the Dominican Republic- alive.
TLC: The lyrics in your songs in some way have always caused the public to get emotional and relate; what inspires you to compose your songs?
SV: Among my most famous songs, almost none of them are my work, because I consider myself a very grounded person, and though I compose on occasion, in order to record an album, I’ve always “grabbed the bull by the horns” and have sought out advice from the experts in the matter, because my strong suit -truth be told- is to sing, though the core of the music business is WHO is calling the shots when it comes to A&R.
Each of my songs is carefully selected, using high- standard values and respect-based criteria. I would never give rhythm to bullying or issues on the denigration of women, the environment, family or its values, I’ve never done it before, and it has felt good to not do so.
TLC: Despite your fame, you have kept on being a humble and close-to-home native of your province (Villa Altagracia), have you ever imagined yourself living elsewhere in the future?
SV: No, there’s no chance of that.
TLC: The way you wear your hair; it has become a general assumption that it is a personality trait of the artist, but in a recent interview, I noticed you haven’t cut it as signs of protest against the Dominican government for their neglect in repairing the streets of Villa Altagracia; do you think that someday you will meet that goal and Sergio Vargas will cut his hair again?
SV: I can assure you that my attitude is not one of protest but more of rebelliousness. I live in the town that saw me born with over one hundred thousand residents. Not one thing has been funded by the State that would provide employment opportunities to those youths fresh out of college. I also let my image speak for itself, and in the way that it catches public attention. I hope it serves as reminder that in my town, Villa Altagracia, also live people and that we are as Dominican as any other born in the capital cities where the State invests vastly in.
TLC: Asides the singing career, was there any other career that appealed to you?
SV: You know, I haven’t yet finished college, but I always dreamed of majoring in Business.
TLC: Which has been your favorite performance and why?
SV: Each of my performances have been a completely different experience from the other. I think that back in 1988 with just one merengue that hit the Top 10, I did a concert in the Altos de Chavón amphitheater, and we broke the attendance record ever to take place until then. In a venue where artists such as Frank Sinatra, who actually inaugurated the amphitheater, this was one of the events that got to me the most. I’ve been the artist that has performed the most concerts there, already 11 to this day.
TLC: Sergio Vargas is a loving and loyal son to his Dominican Republic, and usually wears dresses wearing the colors of his Fatherland. However, there are many fellow Dominican artists that have achieved international fame, and are constantly offering performances abroad, but seldom perform concerts in their hometown. What’s your take on that?
SV: The fundamental part of a man’s life has much to do with his origin. Where he was born and raised, his childhood friends, we all have to bear with our past and some dread it. Even I sometimes understand it, because there’s nothing to look for in the past, but pity the one that forgets their background. Because they end up without a home to go to, and this also shows ungratefulness and human misery. A person that speaks differently from how they live, can’t have public credibility.
TLC: Since your early years, you’ve gone through a series of hardships, such as witnessing your mother’s death at the tender age of six, having to provide for your family since you were very young. Would Sergio Vargas today, change anything about his past?
SV: No, I wouldn’t change a thing. I was happier when I was hungry. The struggle to keep competing and as just another simpleton in a country where there are so few opportunities as is ours, it is already a great achievement. When I didn’t have two dimes to rub together, and lacked the basics such as food and clothing. Now everything is booked and though living “peacefully”, people now distance themselves further from God, families break up. I never saw this when I was just another in the crowd, but we need to face the fact that life goes on. This Christmas I was asked to send a message to the population, and the only thing I wanted to express to everyone was that this is the moment to give back to God. We spend every day asking Him for things, and on our end, with just simple acts of kindness and forgiveness, we are giving God one of the gifts He values the most, but people only ask and are insatiable. And another is that God is loved in silence, to any person that eats in my table, I do so in the utmost silence, emulating God.
TLC: Had you not been a merengue performer, what musical genre would you have chosen?
SV: Had I not been a merengue performer, perhaps a bolero singer. Though merengue runs in my blood, is our emblem rhythm and has over 80 years of history. Early in the century, merengue was already a beat danced to in the agricultural fields and in the regions where the slave colonies had set. Merengue made its grand debut in the times of President Trujilllo, for he was its grand benefactor and even commissioned merengue performances for his parties and tailoring of his suits. It is something that will exist forever in the history of this genre.
TLC: What are your plans for the future, do you have any upcoming project?
SV: What interests me is to stay alive in the midst of all that is going in the world, and not just physically but also in the moral aspect. We need to maintain our public credibility, because without it, we are worth nothing. If tomorrow the people say “no more Sergio Vargas”, I’m prepared to live physically, morally and mentally from anything that will allow me to fend for myself and my family.