Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
(b Wilfrido Radam‚s Vargas Martinez, 24 April '49, Altamira, Puerto Plata province, Dominican Republic) Bandleader, trumpeter, singer (lead and chorus), composer, producer; in vanguard of the '80s merengue explosion, starting from pure merengue but incorporating other Caribbean and African American ingredients. Oldest of ten children; attended Municipal Academy of Music from age ten; became leader and trumpet soloist of a local band at eleven. Made LP debut with Wilfrido Vargas y sus beduinos '74 on Karen leading his own band Los Beduinos (the Bedouins); pianist/composer/arr. Sonny Ovalle wrote half of the album (he later made a crucial input to Wilfrido's '80s hit albums); lineup incl. pianist, singer, arr., composer, future bandleader/prod. Bonny Cepeda (the first merengue artist to receive a Grammy nom., for his Noche de Discotheque '85 on RCA), singer/composer/arr./mus. dir. Victor Waill, bassist/prod. Chery Jim‚nez. After Wilfrido Vargas y sus beduinos (on which singer Sandy Reyes made his first appearance) and En el Madison Square Garden, both '76, Punto y Aparte! '78 marked a watershed, track 'El Barbarazo' in particular seen as 'new merengue'. His confident Karen productions continued with: Poder Musical, compilation Evolucion, Wilfrido Vargas Presenta A Chery Jim‚nez, Haciendo Historia with accordionist Guandulito, Wilfrido Internacional, El Jequ, ...Ahora, Abusadora...! (which spotlighted Reyes), Cosas De Mi Amigo Miguelito (which highlighted vocalist Miguelito) '79--81. Performed in Cuba '79 with Fania All Stars: concert version of 'El Barbarazo' incl. on their album Habana Jam '79. Joint venture with Reyes Wilfrido Vargas y Sandy Reyes '82 was first of hit albums increasingly distinguished by a stylish and inventive blend of typical merengue with traces of soca, zouk, funk, rap, etc; other best-sellers incl. El Funcionario '83 (debut of vocalist Rubby P‚rez), Ron pa' to el Mundo '84, El Jardinero '84 (introduced synthesizer, electric guitar, incl. track 'Lo Ajeno Se Deja Quieto', performed by Vargas y Los Beduinos on BBC2 Arena TV show Latin Sound '86), Wilfrido 86--La Medicina '85, made in DR and Venezuela, took fusion further. Karen parting shot Vida, Cancion y Suerte 1971- -19...'86 showcased P‚rez, who went solo with eponymous LP '87. Changed to Sonotone for La M£sica '87, El Baile '87, Mas Que Un Loco '88, Grammy nom. Animation '89, Siempre ... Wilfrido! '90; then switched to Rodven for Wilfrido Vargas '91, Itinerario '93, Usted Se Queda Aqui '94, El Extraterrestre '95. Wilfrido Vargas y sus Consentidas '93 compiled Karen hits, best-of album Los A¤os Dorados '93 on Rodven collected Sonotone material. Still a star in the '90s, though with less chart success. He devised/prod. the best-selling merengue bands Las Chicas del Can (all women) and the New York Band mid-80s (Chery Jim‚nez co-prod. latter's '86 debut LP, then became their exclusive producer). His Hoy '96 on Palma incl. hit 'Candela Bestial'.