Las Chicas del Can

Las Chicas del Can are the first all-female merengue group in Dominican music history. Though their lineup changed almost continually, over three decades they nonetheless managed to release hit singles and albums. The group was founded in 1976 by singer Belkis Concepcion. She recruited a group of teens and twentysomethings -- both instrumentalists and singers -- as Las Chicas. Five years later, musical conductor, bandleader, and industry insider Wilifrido Vargas became their producer and changed the name to Las Chicas del Can. They quickly gained renown not only for their unique lineup but for the grooving form of merengue they played. A year later, Concepcion had to leave the group for a time due to illness and Vargas chose 14-year-old Miriam Cruz (then the group's second vocalist) to replace her temporarily, but it became permanent in 1984. Las Chicas del Can released a slew of hit singles and albums during the 1980s, including "El Negro No Puede," "La Media María," "Sukaína," "Juana la Cubana," "Culeca," "Ta' Pillao," "Fuego," "Fiebre," and "Las Pequeñas Cosas," some of which attained gold and/or platinum status. Concepcion tried suing Vargas for the name, claiming herself as founder and rightful owner of the trademark, but he registered it first, and she lost the lawsuit. Singers Miriam Cruz and Eunice Betances joined the band, as did Luchy Betances and Verónica Medina. Medina went solo in 1987; her replacement, Heidy Bello, was in turn replaced in 1991 by singers Arismar Eduardo and Rosana Eusebio. In 1992 the constant lineup changes dictated a name change. Now billed as Míriam Cruz y Las Chicas, they issued the album Nueva Vida, whose single, Juan Luis Guerra's "Te Propongo," topped the charts. They followed it with "La Loba," which also hit the top of the merengue and world music charts. Cruz and her band took on a European tour in 1993 and 1994. Upon returning, they hit the global charts with "Con Agua de Sal," and hit the road in Europe again for another two years. In 1993, Vargas kept the Las Chicas del Can name alive and recruited another group of young singers and instrumentalists, including Florángel del Villar, Adalgisa Báez, Guatemalan singer Michell Flores, and Costa Rican trumpeter Ana Lucía Retana Saavedra. This version of the group had its own string of chart hits, including "Juana la Cubana," "Amigo Travieso," "Voy Pa' Allá," "Hacer el Amor con Otro," "Celoso," and "Explosivo y Sin Compromiso," as well as the albums Botando Chispas (1994) and Derramando Sueños (1996). Flores left in 1998, creating another split. While a third grouping was assembled in 1999, their recordings never hit the charts. By 2000 they dissolved. In 2005, Vargas sold the name to Venezuelan promoter Omar Enrique, who resold it to promoter Evelio Herrera. Calling the group Nuevo las Chicas del Can, he hired and fired, and caused dissent among the group's members. In 2009 he sold the name to Vargas' brother Jorge Luis Báez, who relaunched a quintet version of the band behind Vargas' daughter Alina Vargas. She went solo in 2011 and the band finally split for good. ~ Thom Jurek

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