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June 23, 2011 

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Juan Luis Guerra (AP)
Legendary Juan Luis Guerra To Make London Debut
Posted: June 22, 2011
LONDON (AP) -- Dominican music legend Juan Luis Guerra is known for his Latin grooves, but he counts the Beatles as one of the primary influences on his signature sound.

The 54-year-old singer, who is playing his first concert in London on Wednesday, said the iconic group was instrumental in his early days, when he first started seriously composing his own songs.

"When I started to play, I spent time listening to bachata and merengue and the Beatles," he says. "That was the birth of my music, it was a mixture of the Beatles and our traditional music."

Guerra's influences changed when he studied at the Berklee School of Music in Boston and came under the influence of jazz masters Duke Ellington and Count Basie, but he has remained a huge fan of the Beatles. He won't have a chance to visit Strawberry Fields, Penny Lane or other Beatles landmarks in Liverpool during his brief time in England, but he recently saw Paul McCartney perform in New York and may see him again this summer at Yankee Stadium.

Guerra's music was shaped by his return to the Dominican Republic after his Boston studies. A prodigy who started composing at age 8, he first found a wide audience in 1989 with the release of "Ojala que Llueva Cafe" -- translated as "I hope it rains coffee." The album also included a bittersweet song about Dominicans trying to flee their country, either by legal or illegal means, a phenomenon that continues to this day although Guerra says the economic situation is much improved.

He is hoping to find new fans in England to go along with his strong following in Spain and his growing popularity in France.

"Our music is mostly merengue mixed with jazz and gospel and African music and rock," says Guerra, 54. "In the end we call it modern merengue, with many influences. It's a music that makes people happy, gives them energy. I think it's necessary in these times we live in to have a little happiness."

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