This section will have 2 dedicated parts that cover you needs of learning about Bachata music.
This will be our Bachata playlist that has songs which are picked by our in-house DJ. The taste of music can be different from each person. However, we hope you can find some good gems amongst our choices that can serve you right. 🙂 The playlist will be just right below.
The second part will be some context about the findings about Bachata music. It is quite long writing. If there is any mistakes or suggestion, please be happy to share with us. 🙂 You can Start here.
BACHATA MUSIC COLLECTION PLAYLIST
COMPLETE BACHATA MUSIC MINI HANDBOOK
A. Bachata music definition
Bachata literally means “party.” It is a widely popular dance music played on guitar, originated in Dominican Republic. While the bachateros traditionally have included a variety of music styles like those of ranchera, vals, meringue, and son in their usual repertoires, the Bachata is actually based in the popular bolero rhythm. The melodies, harmonies, and rhythms of Bachata proper reflect the influence of the above, different styles, especially the meringue.
Originated during the first half of 20th century, Bachata as a Latin American music genre that has both indigenous and African, as well as European musical elements. Originally, this genre of music was given the term “amargue” which means ‘blues music,’ ‘bitter music’ or ‘bitterness.’ It was only much later that it was replaced by a more mood neutral and ambiguous term Bachata.
Typically, the Bachata band consists of at least a minimum of 5 musical instruments:
- Bass guitar
- Segunda or Rhythm guitar and
- Requinto or lead guitar
Today, it is often accompanied by the modern day electric guitar.
A.2 What is Bachata?
Bachata as a music genre as relatively unknown until only 10 years ago when it was limited only to the street that marked the Dominican Republic. The fact of the matter is that those people who created and loved this music style must have played it for over 4 decades.
B. The big evolution
The period of evolution for Bachata music is long, spanning for over 40 years. Initially, it took root in Santo Domingo where the Bachata music artists performed it popularly in the bars and other similar areas that were marked by an absence of high morals. During this time, the dictator in power Rafael Trujillo and his entire family controlled and repressed even the music that was prevalent in the Dominican Republic. When he died in the year 1961, a majority of the musicians who were refrained from expressing themselves musically went to the country’s capital in order to record their own music.
B.1 Bachata is first introduced as a genre
During this time the Bachata music was popularly called as the “bolero campesino.” The word Bachata itself means an impromptu party in which music, particularly the guitar music was played. It was a lot of years before the word Bachata actually came to be considered as a genre of music. It was a musician who took advantage of the death of their dictator Jose Manuel Calderon by enjoying the musical freedom and claimed his fame by recording the first ever music single in this genre. The songs that went on record were “Que Serade Mi” or Condena and “Borracho Deamor.”
B.2 Incorporation of modern trends
The Bachata as a style of music was still undergoing an evolution when it was first recorded by Calderon. Since it was still in its earliest stage, it still sounded more like bolero, and the distinctions between the two music genres found in Ecuador, Puerto Rico and Mexico were quite a few in number. As technology advanced in the music industry, Bachata music started to develop a sound that is uniquely its own. Originally limited only to the acoustic guitar, musicians began to alternate between or use both the acoustic guitar as well as the electric guitar. The Bachata music artists would then change the sound with the use of any combination of flanger, reverb or echo techniques.
B.3 Influence of different styles
Bachata music today has several kinds of rhythms which have been derived from so many different kinds of music like the merengue and blues. However, the root of the Bachata music lies in its style referred to commonly as bolero. In the Latin culture, it is quite a highly traditional form of music and it commonly romantic in its essence. The music generally revolves around topics that have to do with sentimental emotions concerning love which ranges from being deceived by one’s lover or lost love. Since a majority of the songs has to do with heavy emotion, it correlates a lot with blues.
Besides incorporating the modern day electric guitar, some of the best Bachata songs also include the rhythmic guitar or the Segunda which is also a new style of guitar. The other Bachata music instruments like the guira and the bass guitar help to give the rhythm a good and solid base. The bongo drum is also added into the mix to give the songs a much clearer base of percussion.
B.4 The love is spreading
After winning many music loving hearts across the Latin America, Bachata as a music form is now gaining a strong hold in the United States of America. Some critics credit this increasing popularity to the release of Bachata Rosa by Juan Luisguerra which won a Grammy back in the year 1992.
As Bachata music gains momentum as a popularly loved genre, one of the most loved and notable stars on the rise is the Aventura, a rock band. It becomes one of the most popularly recognized music bands of Bachata in the United States and even enjoys fans in other countries like Sweden. Aventura may be taking Bachata music to international music lovers, but two Bachata music artists that managed to hit close to home with its popular songs are none other than Luis Vargas and Antony Santos. Other artists that are starting to make a great name for themselves in the Bachata genre music scene includes the likes of Frank Reyes, Elvis Martinez, Joe Veras, and Xtreme. It is today more of an evolving music genre since many of the Bachata music artists are beginning to realize that they can actually incorporate different music styles successfully. This music genre is slowly gaining worldwide recognition. It has the feel and the rhythm of rich native Latin culture based in Dominican Republic. If you love the beat of merengue and soulfulness of blues, then you will definitely enjoy the Bachata music.
C. Short history of Bachata
C.1 A history rich and deep
The music of Latin America may have a varied and rich history, but it was only around the early 1960s that the Cuban originated Bachata came into existence. However, despite the fact that it originated only much later in the 60s, its traditional guitar tales belonging to the legendary Mariachi from Mexico can be traced back much further into history. There are also some observers who make the claim that Bachata music actually has its roots in the earliest Italian music.
The Bachata music artists of old used the familiar guitar to recount his or her stories of failed romance, heartbreak and even of love. Hence it is from this that Bachata got its literal meaning “musica de amargue” which is translated as the music of bitterness. The earliest form of Bachata music originated from the lower rung class like house servants where they would unwind and relax at the end of a long day’s work with a song, accompanied by the guitar. The modern day Bachata variation is slightly different in so many ways.
C.2 Bachata music and Boleros
Guitar music had always had a dominant place in the musical landscape of Dominican Republic, but it was only in the year 1962 that it was first recorded by Jose Manuel Calderon and hence recognized. The Bachata music of Manuel Calderon and the other artists of his time had a very identical style to the Latin American bolero which was also popular in countries like Ecuador and Puerto Rico. As a matter of fact, most of the songs recorded by the bachateros were actually covers of original boleros. Just as the bolero, the romantic music common among all serenaders and lovers, was recognized throughout the Latin America, as was also the Bachata which was recognized by the society in general.
C3. The stigma around Bachata
Over time, the Bachata songs came to be commonly associated with a new aspect of the world – that of delinquency, poverty, and prostitution. There are so many complex reasons for this, and it involves the conflicts that existed in the Dominican society concerning tradition and modernity, wealth and poverty, and even genuine bad faith that was directed towards the other elements that were visible in its music industry. Over time, the stigma around Bachata and its songs grew so strong that all of the national radio stations refused to play it except for one.
C.4 The consolidation of a genre
While the Bachata music artists had to struggle with the extremely difficult and deplorable situation in which she unwillingly found themselves, it also worked for the better because it led to the consolidation of this music from as a genre. Limited to the barrio and the brothel, Bachata music artists began to narrate stories of this part of the world. It told stories of the plight of the dweller of barrio who had to live without water or light, the poverty stricken boy from the village who goes to the city only to get ripped off, the experiences that the prostitute’s lover had to go through. Lyrics like these were filled with sexual double entendre and slang.
C.5 The end of Bachata isolation
Bachata music came to hold a truly unique place in the musical genres of Latin America from around 1970 to the 1990. It came to be known for the free expression of a part of a nation that was relegated to the underground. Unfortunately, the mainstream of Dominican music was provoked even further to a fierce kind of contempt because of its free expression. Ironically, when Blas Duran, one of the most despised among the cabaret bachateros and commonly considered as the master of the sexual double entendre began to record his music with the help of an electric guitar during the year 1987, it brought an end to the isolation of the Bachata.
C.6 Modern Bachata music instruments
As the style gradually changed over the many years, the Bachata music instruments had also changed along with it. The acoustic, plain guitar may have been the main inspiration of Bachata music for so many years, but today, it has evolved. Along with the electric guitar, many Bachata music artists also use the bongo and the bass drum which works wonderfully well to fill out the musical sound.
There is a particular musical instrument that has managed to make a very distinct difference in terms of the musical sound – it is none other than the replacement of the traditional maracas to the ‘guira.’ The guira is a musical instrument which is in the form of a cylindrical metal sheet. It has very small perforations, and the musician is expected to play it with the help of a small sized brush. The guira has been able to add a unique style to the modern day Bachata because of its capacity to sound like a mixture between the traditional maracas and the high hat of a drummer.
C.7 Emigration of Bachata
During the 1980s and the 90s, the United States underwent a major wave of emigration from the country of Dominican Republic. The emigrants brought with them their native music, establishing the Bachata music is almost all the major cities located in the Eastern part of the USA, with a higher concentration in the New York City.
C.8 The beginning of a new style
It was only after the innovation of Duran that the popularity of Bachata music began to soar high and other bachateros along with Anthony Santos used this new electric guitar style to record romantic and hence more acceptable Bachata songs. The influence of the merengue become highly evident both in the lines of the guitar as well as in the rhythm of the music. As a matter of fact, it was not their Bachata but the merengues bachateros which made the modern Bachata music popular for the first time.
C.9 Acceptance of Bachata music
Eventually, the Bachata music came to be welcomed by all levels of the society when several musicians from the middle class rung like those of Juan Luis Guerra experimented successfully with the music. Currently, some of the best Bachata songs are played and well loved in all parts of Latin America. It is probably one of the most popular Latin music kind today in New York City. It has even been successfully fused with other music style forms such as R&B (like Aventura), Vallenato (like Monchy Y.Alexandra), etc.
The band known as Aventura catapulted Bachata music right to the top of pop charts internationally with its song called “Obsession” in the year 2002. It even reached the top position in countries like Italy and France.
C.10 Popularity of Bachata
By the end of the 1990s, Bachata turned into a wildly popular genre of music among all the Latinos living in the North Eastern part of the United States. These new found fans again took it back to their own native countries, thus spreading its popularity into farther reaches of the globe. It caught the attention of large and successful record labels and led to the birth of slick, modern Bachata productions.
The song “Hoja en Blanco” manages to get massive success all over the world after it was released back in the year 1999 by the popular Bachata music artist Monchy Y Alexandra. As already mentioned, it owes part of its wide popularity to the presence of the vallenato elements which was a style already popular in all parts of Latin America.
C.11 The birth of Bachatango
Fast forward to the year 2005, Bachata fused with another popular music form tango, giving birth to a new style of music and dance called Bachatango. The history and the origin of Bachatango are still debated because some even claim that Bachatango can be traced back to as early as the year 1981 when Grace Jones sang the song “I have seen that face,” which was a readaptation of the version “libertango” from that of Astor Piazzola.
D. Bachata lyrics
Whether you are just beginning to get into Bachata music or you are already deeply in love with its melody, one thing that manages to get your attention is the lyrics and the wording. It is probably one of the genres of music where the lyrics drastically vary in terms of how sweet or racy the phrasing of the lyrics is, and the artist who is singing it.
With a little insight into its history and the background of the genre, you will find that the lyrics in Bachata songs have made quite a sensible evolution which reflects its contemporary time. In short, its lyrics are part of a tradition that is growing continually till date.
D.1 The background
The 1960s, the years when Bachata originated was a time of public unease and vast political strife in Dominican Republic. Bachata music was originally derived from the bolero. The bolero is a genre of classic, upper class guitar music. However, Bachata music transformed quickly into a more accessible form of music from the refined beginnings. Over time, it became even more bawdy.
When classifying the lyrics of Bachata music, a lot of people are under the assumption that it just has to be involved with themes of love in order to make it truly Bachata. While this is a highly debated opinion that goes back and forth, we can easily deduce that defining Bachata lyrics is quite broad and that the lyrics and music which falls under the Bachata umbrella encompasses a wide variety of different topics.
D.2 Influences from Bolero
During the early years of the 1960s, the tradition of romantic bolero strongly influenced the Bachata lyrics. Just like bolero, Bachata of this period of time was played with a bass, two guitars and it was accompanied by the maracas. The lyrics of Bachata songs during this time period was heavily dependent on the influence of bolero, so much so that a majority of the songs were actually taken from the popular bolero songs and then updated. The Bachata lyrics from these years were mostly written in formal Spanish and hence were generally sweet and romantic. What distinguishes the Bachata songs from that of Bolero is the speed of the rhythm. Even during these earliest years, Bachata was fast turning into an original entity despite the use of romantic and clean lyrics. The exhilarating speed at which the Bachata lyrics were sung and the Bachata music played marked a clearly visible difference from its own predecessor.
D.3 Cabaret Bachata lyrics
The Bachata lyrics came to acquire for itself an urban and gritty edge by the advent of the 1970s and was given the term cabaret Bachata. The cabaret Bachata lyrics made a direct reflection of the society that sang it. Topics on wealthy girls pinning about love and other problems were soon replaced by issues like urban despair and poverty. The term cabaret in the Dominican Republic usually refers to the district of red light, and hence a majority of the cabaret Bachata songs reflect an era of broken hearts and unfaithful lovers.
D.4 The 1980s
When Bachata began to spread throughout Latin America in the 1980s, its lyrics acquired a rather slyly and sarcastic feel to it. The Bachata lyrics from this period are rife with double entendres and innuendo. The lyrics in itself were plainly innocent, but the way the songs were sung was not. The lyrics during these years had become more sophisticated, which is drastically different from those innocent lyrics from less than 20 years ago. It was also during these years that Bachata reached an audience that was more mainstream. Hence, its lyricism had to be reined back a little bit in order to cater to this new category of listeners. In some cases, it added elements of blues and jazz into the music. It was here that the breakthrough music album Bachata Rosa by the legendary Juan Luis Guerra brought international attention to Bachata.
D.5 Frontier Bachata lyrics
The Bachata lyrics by the end of the 1980s and through the 1990s came under the influence of a wild combination of sounds and styles which led its fans to refer to it as the ear of “frontier Bachata.” The lyrics of Frontier Bachata revolved around new sounds which were produced by electric guitars and synthesizers. It led the way to the introduction of brand new Bachata music artists into the scene like those of Anthony Santos and Luis Vargas. Both these musicians were greatly influenced by the music which they were exposed to in the West. It was also during this period that there was a swing back to the tender sentiments which were expressed in the early Bachata songs inspired by classic bolero. The lyrics were downright romantic in its essence yet it still managed to retain its urban sensibility.
D.6 Bachata lyrics then and now
The Bachata lyrics today is starkly different from the Bachata music which can be traced back to as early as 40 years ago. New York was considered as the Bachata capital in North America, and it saw several influences which include the likes of hip hop, rap, and R&B. Some people even claim that there are no longer any unifying themes for the lyrics anymore. With Bachata bands like the Aventura creating highly captivating fusions from disparate music and dance sources, one can now easily say that the old school Bachata lyrics have indeed undergone a huge evolution and hence are quite unrecognizable from the earliest lyrics.
E. Woman of Bachata
One of the most common themes in Bachata music is about love and romance between a man and a woman. Despite the importance of the role of women in its songs, female voice has been absent conspicuously for most of the Bachata repertoire. Even during the most recent years, when Bachata had slowing won over an ardent following from young Latina female music lovers, the genre still continued to be dominated by male musicians, singers, and producers. In this way, you can say Bachata is a bit of an anomaly.
Other styles of Latin American music like the Mexican Cumbia Sonidera, and Colombian Carrilera which had similar notorious associations with brothel and bar culture had female artists as some of the most popular performers of all times. Even in the Dominican Republic, there are a lot of female singers, bandleaders, and musicians in merengue tipico. Even Bachata’s original forerunner bolero boasted of several numbers of female interpreters.
However, after a time span of over 50 years in the history of Bachata music, popular bachateros is only a handful in number. Perhaps one of the most interesting and also the earliest female Bachata music artist is Melida Rodriguez. Close to the heels of Rodriguez’s footprints was Aridia Ventura who can be considered as the only significant voice from Bachata women during the years spanning the 1970s and the 80s. Carmen Francisco how hailed from the country’s capital of Santo Domingo gained popularity but only for the satirical replies to some boastful songs of the bachatero called Marino Perez. Leonida Alejo, the sister of Eladio Romero Santos, made some popular hits but only had a short career. The breakthrough song by Aventura called “obsession” in the year 2001 featured a female vocal in R&B style and drove the popularity of the song. Last but not the least, the legendary Alexandra Cabrera who was the female side of, Monchy Y Alexandra, the duo. She was one of the most celebrated interpreters of Bachata.
In comparison to the numerous male bachateros who managed to make at least one or several hit songs during the past years, the infinitesimally small quantity of female voices involved in the evolution of Bachata music is quite notable. This is a stark comparison to the impressive number of female audiences in Bachata music ever since the use of electric guitar was introduced in the year 1991 and the success of Aventura in the year 2001.
F. Bachata – Bolero music
The earliest Dominican Republic Bachata music was Bachata bolero, and it was nothing more than bolero crossing over to the more modernized sound. From the 1960s and into the 1970s, the Bachata bolero music borrowed a lot from the trasitional style of bolero and made use of the basic music instruments that consisted of bass, two guitars, maracas, and bongo. Other music instruments like the saxophones, clarinets and similar wind instruments were occasionally thrown into the mix. However, most of the time the music instruments used were quite basic. This element of simplicity and baseness was what gave the Bachata bolero music a touch of the romantic beauty.
F.1 A far cry from the modern Bachata
Unlike the other styles of Bachata which came about after Bachata bolero, like the doble entendre and the cabaret Bachata, this style of Bachata was far from the obscene and sexual depictions. As a matter of fact, a majority of their songs were remakes of the old versions of bolero songs. The songs were very romantic in nature because the lyrics were written and sung in formal Spanish, following classic tradition. It was only until much later in the years that the bawdry references and sexual innuendos were thrown into the mix. Even with this unexpected and rather bash additions, it only added a touch of colorful personality to Bachata music.
F.2 Why Bachata Bolero was accepted
The sentimental style and romantic words of the Bachata bolero were brought to life by the use of the slow tempo. However, it may be noted that a majority of the songs were only remakes and not originals. They were taken from the original songs of valses and classic boleros. During these earliest days, there are no references whatsoever to Dominican lifestyles and slang terms in the Bachata songs which become a big part in the later songs. Ironically, the Bachata bolero was accepted much more publicly because of the absence of what was well known later on as the “Bachata flavor.” Its popularity could also be attributed to the fact that the bachateros where simply singing those songs which were popular already. This was all set to change because the music would eventually move into the period of the cabaret period that offered more colorful and hence more original lyrics.
F.3 Popular Bachata Bolero artists
Luis Segura, Rafael Encarnacion, Inocencio Cruz and Fabio Sanabia were some leading pioneers of Bachata bolero. Moving on from the popular Bachata bolero, Luis Segura continued to gain a lot of success and made recordings beyond this period. Another music artist who was able to make a very strong influence on the style and the period is Leonardo Paniagua. These Bachata music artists moved the Bachata and hence moved the audience with a kind of sound which lifted their spirits and a kind of lyrics that moved the hearts.
The romance and the spice of Bachata bolero of the Dominican Republic lent itself to a period when Bachata music was still young and finding its way. This music style has managed to survive changing eras and has evolved to fit into those changes with a unique flavor that is its own. However, this period of infancy in Bachata music is especially poignant because it marks the start of a remarkable journey which has so much ahead of it.
G. Cabaret Bachata music
Cabaret is a form of entertainment which includes different elements like dance, comedy, theatre, and song. However, cabaret also has another meaning – a brothel in Mediterranean style. The “cabaret” in the culture of Dominican Republic refers to the second meaning. It was during this era of cabaret Bachata that this essence was brought back to life. From the 1970s to the 1980s, cabaret Bachata rose high in popularity.
G.1 A raw depiction
The cabaret Bachata songs narrate tales of deceptive relationships, despecho (insulting a lover because they got rejected) and of jilted lovers in lively trills and lilts. The music also has a detailed picture of the problems and poverty that resulted from leading a life in the barrio. It was this musical era which started shaping the modern Bachata music. This life was typical during the years of the 1970s and the 1980s where poverty, prostitution, and drinking became synonymous with the musical instrument guitar. It was an inescapable truth in Latin America.
G.2 A symbol of the abysmally poor
The bachateros were driven to the cabarets and brothels because of social conditions since other styles of music were also competing with the frequently snubbed Bachata. Promoters of salsa and merengue during this era took advantage of the symbol of the guitar as a musical instrument that belonged to the abysmally poor. It symbolized the anthems of campesinos who were communities living in the poorest neighborhoods of the country. People from this part of the neighborhood often lived without electricity, running water or any form of public amenities. The acoustic guitar came to be associated with such communities suffering from abject poverty.
G.3 Bachata condemned to the cabaret
The promoters of salsa and merengue hung on to the idea that Bachata was a form of music that belonged to the unsophisticated and poor rural folks of Dominican Republic. They black listed all Bachata songs by referring to it as musica deguardia (music which lower rank soldiers enjoyed in brothels) and activate (something that is worthless). With the diplomatic attack by merengue and salsa promoters and its negative association of the music to the lower rung of the society, Bachata slowly came to be condemned and ousted to the cabaret.
G.4 Bachateros experiment with cabaret
Since the bachateros were exiled to the cabaret and brothels, its music also came to reflect the environment in which it was exposed to. Almost all of the bachateros before the 1990s tried their hand on the style of cabaret Bachata. Some of the most prominent cabaret Bachata music artists include the likes of Melida Rodrigues, Blas Duran, Bolivar Peralta and Marino Perez. However, it was Melida Rodriguez who showed the female perspective of the cabaret life – a point of view very rare during that time.
From the musical point of view, cabaret Bachata was quite a simple and rough structure. Such songs were recorded using only one microphone and a single take. As such, the vocals in some recordings were out of tune. Leaving the difficult years of the 1970s behind, Bachata music evolved during the 1980s into a form that is more danceable. Different music styles were introduced during this time. However, Bachata stood strong as a well known classic. It was a music that truly defined a people and an era. However, although the style of Bachata music evolved over time, a part of Bachata will always be connected to the world of drinking, the cabaret, and poverty.
H. Sexual double entendre & double sentido in Bachata music
Most sexual double entendre in Bachata music has an upswing tilt that immediately lifts your whole spirit because of the playful cadence. However, it is the double meanings hidden underneath the lyrics which give it the real impact in these styles of music. The double meanings eventually slipped into other songs as well (today it is considered as classics) including some children’s songs. The other meaning implies sexual intentions.
H.1 A style that is actually everywhere
Sexual double entendre, as a matter of fact, has been a hidden partner of much Latin music for a long time. Musicians from different genre backgrounds have been using this sexual double entendre in a lot of their songs. Irrespective of the social class and background, many renowned artists like Johnny Ventura, Tatico Henriquez and Trio Matamoros used in their lyrics which are considered classics today.
H.2 How it came to be accepted as a style form
The people of Dominican Republic, especially the ones in the middle class rung of the society have always maintained a love hate relationship when it comes to Bachata music. However, the negative perception combined with a mixed reaction towards this sexual double entendre made the music to quickly soar in its popularity. It was this style that defined the Bachata music in the 1980s as it started to mature and to come into form.
H.3 The peak
Bachata music propelled this fad for the double sentido, moving the public and even enticed artists from different musical backgrounds with its mischievous double speak. As the Bachata music artists become bolder and more creative with the play with the words, it saw the replacement of innocuous words with words which had a more risqué in its meaning. This trend saw its peak in the year 1987, and it was slowly replaced by other musical fads.
H.4 Blas Duran and modern Bachata
The bachatero was actually loathed a lot of mainstream music and even forced underground. However, in an ironic twist, Blas Duran who first became its Bachata superstar was a champion of this doble sentido. Blas was actually a well established artist of merengue as well as cabaret Bachata. When it started on his tumultuous journey of using the doble sentido in his Bachata songs, he already had over 2 decades of recording success and experience. When he introduced the use of electric guitar for the first time in the year 1986, he managed to take Bachata one step farther into popularity. It was in the year 1987 that Blas Duran gave birth to modern Bachata by releasing his song “Consejoa las mujeres.”
H.5 More artists follow suit
The release of “Consejoa las mujeres” marked the turning point in the trajectory of modern Bachata. This song was the first big hit in the history of Bachata music, and the people of Dominican Republic sat up and took notice. It opened a floodgate of opportunities for the other Bachata music artists like Marino Perez, Eladio Romero Santos, and Ramon Cordero to move towards this new direction and experiment with the growing popularity of doble sentido.
Typically, it is said that the Dominican culture is richly laden with common sexual references, irrespective of the social class. It holds true both in daily life conversations as well as in the music of the culture. Even widely celebrated music artists like Juan Luis Guerra and Johnny Ventura are known to use doble sentido in their songs. However, Bachata took their culture to a whole new level by boldly placing it openly, in plain view for the public to see. It was an arrogant “in your face” move. This backfired and led to social alienation of their music from public media and even from the middle class section.
I. Frontier Bachata
Bachata music is a style which originated among the working class in the Dominican Republic during the middle of the 1900s. Despite its dismissal by the upper rung of the society and its ban by the Dominican radio and television stations for its gritty and often realistic subjects, today it is well respected and has become quite popular all over the world.
I.1 How it came into being
Besides the introduction of the merengue and electric guitar into the traditional Bachata, the accordian turned out to be one of the most popular Bachata music instruments in the Dominican Republic mainly because it was quite easy to listen to when played along with the other Bachata instruments. It blended so well with this music genre so much so that it even sounded better than the original acoustic guitar. It was this change that gave way to a new form of style in Bachata music which is called the Frontier Bachata.
I.2 Incorporation of different styles
Frontier Bachata starts off with the usual Bachata rhythms. However, this one is a lot faster and yet more simpler. This style form incorporates a lot of merengue fills, melody lines and embellishments. Often, the bacahteros preferred to use the same fills and lines which were used in the merengues instead of the original Bachata rhythms. It also frequently uses the syncopated and bass and guitar lines which constitute “mambo” section which can also be found in Boleros which was the original style which inspired the traditional Bachata.
I.3 Merengue and Bachata styles
Bachata and merengue music are vastly different in its style and purpose and have equally different cultural histories from which it came from. The Frontier Bachateros, on the other hand, loved and incorporated both, giving its music an ability to blend into both the song styles without actually having to disrespect either of its traditions. Despite this flexibility, frontier Bachata still has a very unique style to it.
I.4 Frontier Bachata and American Blues
Some of the top Bachata music artists today include the likes of Efrain Morel, Raulin Rodriguez, Luis Vargas, Anthony Santos and Eladio Romero Santos. During the 1990s frontier Bachata music introduced some innovations like the electric guitar which catapulted its soaring popularity. Frontier Bachata is also a bit like the American Blues in several non-musical ways. Both the musical styles began during the early to middle 1900s among the lower class citizens of the society. Both the music styles dealt with sad and bitter subjects as an attempt to help people feel better when they are going through difficult times. Both the American blues and frontier Bachata also continued strong and had been popularized even during times when it faced negative social stigma and prejudice.
J. Bachata dance
Just as the Bachata music style is uncomplicated and simple, so is the Bachata dance which is formed by a series of very simple steps where the dancers move side to side or front to back. Since the foot work and the foot movements are very simple, the style and the flavor to the dance is added by the movement of the legs and the upper body, if such a thing can be said so.
J.1 Bachata dance music
Where there is Bachata music, there simply must be the Bachata dance. The two go hand in hand – even in the slow paced songs.
As a dance form, it was also developed in the barrios in the Dominican Republic. Every culture has its own distinctive music, and though merengue, salsa, and similar other romantic music styles are widely prevalent in Dominican Republic, Bachata still takes centre stage.
J.2 Bachata music meets New York City
The Bachata music and its dance form are wildly popular in the Latin American culture of New York City. Aventura is one of the first officially recognized Bachata music bands, and this band made their music recordings in New York City. This paved the way for the establishment of a massive presence for this music genre in New York City and different parts of the world. The New York version of the Bachata music has a dominant influence on American schools of music which includes the likes of hip hop, blues, and rhythm. The band is also well known for breaking the traditional mold by including a female voice in a lot of their songs which blew the picture of the male Bachata music artists out of the concept.
J.3 Bachata today
Today, there are many things that have managed to set Bachata music apart from the other styles of music. However, it is the dominance of this genre in America which has helped it to get established in the international music industry scene. The modern day Bachata music sounds very different from merengue, bolero, and salsa when a few years ago it was quite difficult to tell them apart. However, both the music and the dance form has still managed to maintain its true elements of the Latin culture what all these genres have maintained all through these years.
Bachata music and dance from an important part of the culture of Latin America and a vital feature of the Dominican history and culture. Over the decades of its evolution, it has gone through different changes, but it still remains as the top music of Dominican Republic.
K. Bachata romantic dance music
The Bachata music as a genre grew substantially with the flux of the frontier bachateros and Anthony Santos during the 1990s. More than ever before, Bachata music was very romantic and simple at the same time. The simplicity of this music aided by the modernization of the melody has helped to make the movement grow tremendously among audiences that have never experienced the Bachata music before. Many believe that the crossover point was in the release of the album “El Cieguito Sabio” by Reyes in the year 1992 which managed to bring into the Bachata fold the middle class listeners who were mostly interested in the traditional, classic Bachata styles instead of the techno variations.
K.1 Simplifying the style
Reyes was well known for his classical style and open songs during a major part of his career. This album was no exception. The only thing was that the songs were not limited to the simple cabaret style from the early Bachata and moved toward the melodic and romantic tunes of the popular music of the times. The simplification of the music style was something that was started many years before by Bachata music artists like Vargas, Santos, and Duran. Reyes simplified it even more, and it helped him to reach out to a vast number of listeners who were initially put off by this very style. Now, the musical arrangements were designed to give an echo to the singer. It was patterned carefully and simply, like the modern day standard pop music that is prevalent in so many countries today. Modern day Bachata music does the same today.
K.2 Joe Veras changes the course
When Joe Veras rose to fame later after a couple of years, Bachata continued its growth more towards the style of romantic music. Instead of the low mourning like vocals of Luis Segua, the traditional style of singing of Bachata, Veras sang quite softly. He wrote most of his songs by himself, and it was easily reflected in his music and lyrics. Just as most of the original Bachata lyrics were most of the time, his songs still continued to retain the gritty element. However, they began to incorporate elements like relaxed and careful themes which the middle class audience loved to enjoy. Besides changing the style of his singing from that of the traditional bachateros, Joe Veras also approached playing the guitar from a completely different angle. He did not stick to the older traditional styles like the Santos and the likes.
K.3 Reaction of the audience to the change
With leaders like Joe Veras and Reyes, by the end of 10 years, the Bachata music had become almost completely romantic in nature. The switch of the theme is easily evident in a majority of the Bachata songs. It deals strictly with loss and love and nothing much out of that. The bachateros today have made use of this change further to craft the baladas, which is a different genre of music altogether. Bachata music artists like Zacarias Ferreira and Frank Reyes have made a lot of contributions to the romantic style. However, this fusion was resisted by so many of the Bachata fans, and hence new albums failed in this form. The changes that were made to the existing traditional style was substantial. However, the difference was unfortunately too great to simply consider both the genres as romantic. It appears, however, that the Bachata music is still continuing to grow at a rapid pace, helped by the wide appeal of the romantic songs.
K.4 Bachata inspires liberal class musicians
Bachata music was slowing beginning to make its way into mainstream music of the Dominican middle class people when it suddenly captured the creative imagination of a section of liberal class music artists. Among the group, artists like Juan Luis Guerra, Luis Dias, Victor Victor and Sonia Silvestre began to record songs which had very strong Bachata music influences along with an underlying current of the bolero times. With the help of his record “Bachata Rosa,” Guerra Rosa managed to gain massive success in all of Latin American markets as well as in the United States and the far reaches of Europe.
L. Bachata Tecno dance music
It was towards the end of the 1980s that tecno Bachata dance music emerged, close on the heels of the period of the doble entendre. During the latter years of the period of doble entendre, many Bachata music artists began to experiment with the electric guitar and hence led to the introduction of the same. This era of the Bachata music saw continued experimentation with new styles and sounds. The flavor of Bachata music began to gather an increasing number of cross over sounds, thereby gaining the favor of more mainstream listeners. This is a period that shows strong influences of blues, rhythms as well as jazz.
L.1 Why Tecno Bachata was short lived?
Tecno Bachata managed to enjoy quite a short lived success in the Bachata music era. The major reason being most of the musicians who played tecno Bachata songs did not limit themselves only to Bachata and hence moved on the other genres. They were not full time bachateros but rather represented a wider variety of styles in music.
L.2 Tecno Bachata creates a landmark
Despite its short life, the reason why tecno Bachata music is considered as influential is because it essentially made a landmark in the period of the development of Bachata music. One can say it was due to tecno Bachata that mainstream music audiences started to accept Bachata music. In part, this was also because of the massive success of Guerra. Tecno bachateros offered beneficial influences, and Bachata also shifted in its production values. The acceptance of Bachata music became even more widespread when Blas Duran introduced the multi track recording into Bachata landscape.
L.3 Bachata enters mainstream because of Tecno Bachata
This genre of music may have grown and flourished over the changing years, but it managed to hold on to the original, traditional sounds in some manner at least. For a music that managed to withstand the change of time from 1980 and beyond, Bachata still retains the traditional sound for most part. Now, Bachata has gained popularity throughout the world. It may have taken a long time to be able to evolve and grow, but each phase has been able to create its own flavor that is uniquely its own. Today, Bachata owes a great deal to tecno Bachata for being the driving force that brought the underground music into the mainstream and its acceptance henceforth.
L.4 Bachata before Tecno Bachata
As the popularity of tecno Bachata grew, even more, it made an indelible impact on the genre, and the music audience from the middle class grew to love it. What is often not acknowledge quite as much is the fact that Bachata music always was an influential and large audience – a domestic audience that was one of the most significant in Dominican Republic. When Silvestre and Guerra started on their adventure on tecno Bachata, the traditional Bachata music already had a large audience of its own.
M. Artists who inspired Bachata
Bachata is derived from the cultural traditions of the guitar music of Latin America. Hence it is originally derived from bars and clubs where the guitarists and singers sang and performed. The genre was further inspired by the song “music of the people” by Giovanni Savino in the year 2003 and “till there was you” by the Beatles in the year 1963. Before the advent of the 1960s, El Salvador produced music that was similar to Bachata. This is why some people today even claim that this is another major influence on the music.
M.1 The earliest Bachateros
Bachata music had to deal with grass roots level of production and distribution because of the high level of competition from salsa and merengue music artists and promoters. It is a music that is performed commonly by male vocalists and hence it is no wonder that most of the earliest bachateros are men like Rafael Encarnacion, Ramon Cordero, Luis Segura, Edilio Paredes, Eladio Romero Santos and Jose Manuel Calderon (who was a musician).
M.2 Modern day Bachateros
Today, the Bachata songs are mostly played with an electric guitar instead of the acoustic guitar and have a phrasing that is rhythmic and groove like. Some of the present day artists are Aventura (a band that enjoys international recognition even in the continent of Europe), Joe Veras, Los Toros Band, Leonardo Paniagua, Elvis Martinez, Xtreme, Domenic Marte, Richies Ortega, Sonia Silvestre, Ramon Torres, Antony Santos, Andy Andy, Luis Vargas, Monchy Y Alexandra and Juan Luis Guerra.
M.3 A true reflection of its people
During the earlier years when Bachata first came into being it was dismissed as the poor man’s music because it was commonly associated with prostitutes, libertines and rogues. It was enjoyed only to those vulgar and coarse lower class sections of the society in Dominican Republic culture. Although some people hold the opinion that such an association was quite unfortunate for this form of music, there were other people who held the belief that the Bachata songs were honest expressions of a nation that was struggling and coming to terms with the economic and social situations of its own people.
M.4 The struggling Bachata music artists
However, the stigma against the Bachata music was so high that only one radio station was willing to play its songs. While other musical local styles made it to the mainstream easily, Bachata music artists had to work harder and face a lot of oppositions just so they could record and sell the music. Struggling bachateros included the likes of Rafael Encarnacion, Luis Segura, Edilio Paredes, Ramon Cordero, and Eladio Romero Santos. The popularity of Bachata only changed slightly changed when Blas Duran came into the scene and introduced the electric guitar. It sparked wide spread interest in the otherwise shunned music style, making way for it to be welcomed into the mainstream.
M.5 Modern day of Bachata
Today, modern Bachata is recognized more by its rhythmic groove, the flanger execution, echo and reverb effects with the use of the electric guitar. It was usually played in a combination of all the three methods. It also commonly used the arpeggio in the melody of the song.
In 1992, Juan Luis Guerra managed to win the Grammy Award for this massively successful album Bachata Rosa amidst disclaimers that his songs were not actual Bachatas. In 1999, Monchy Y Alexandra gained massive international success with this popular release of “Hoja En Blanco”. It owes some of the popularity of the song to the combination of the Bachata music form with vallenato. It was a style that was already wildly popular in all parts of Latin America. In 2006, Bachata got international recognition with the big hit Obsession by Aventura. It incorporated the local musical style forms like R&B into the mix. This song received one of the heaviest airplays in the US Latino radio, Latin America and even in some countries in Europe.
M.6 Acceptance by all
This modernized Bachata music style now has a more pronounced presence of merengue in its rhythm and even in the guitar lines when playing the music. As a matter of fact, this music was made widely popular by those bachateros who stuck to the merengue style. Musicians like Juan Luis Guerra was more popular among the elites of the Dominican Republic. His poetic and soft music was the reason it Bachata music came to be popularly accepted by almost all sectors of its society.
N. Other interesting resources
- Where is Salsa dance from? And What is Salsa?
- All about Salsa music – the root of Salsa dancing world
- How to ruin an amazing Salsa dance night in 4 ways, literally!
- The beauty of Salsa dance music: an unlimited adventure of a life time
- Etiquette for people dancing Salsa in the classroom and social dancing
- Rueda Salsa dancing etiquettes – 5 ways to be a nice dancer