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The Bachata Music Story
Bachata music is a popular guitar music from the Dominican Republic. While bachata is based on the bolero rhythm, bachateros have traditionally included other kinds of music like son, merengue, vals and ranchera in their repertoires. The influence of all of these styles, and particularly that of merengue, can be felt in the rhythms, harmonies and melodies of bachata proper.
Bachata Music is first a romantic sounding guitar music, transformed into dance music. Bachata music was defined as merry and fun, however, in the Dominican Republic Bachata not only refers to music but includes food as well, and is celebrated in the form of a get together. Since these parties used guitar as the instrument for music playing, it later became known as Bachata.
Since Bachata music first came into being, it has faced several phases. When this music was first played it was by musicians from rural areas with low sounding quality. The music was looked down upon and the musicians were referred to as Bachatero.
Bolero as origin
The bolero in Latin culture has traditionally been a romantic music, dealing with themes like deception and lost love.
The genre has passed through several phases since José Manuel Calderón recorded what is generally recognized as the first bachata single (“Borracho de amor” and “Que será de mi (Condena)”) in 1961. Indeed, long before Calderón, guitar music was the music of choice in the places of ill repute which became home to bachata.
The guitar and guitar music like bolero and son were also the staples of the campo, the countryside, and with the death of dictator Rafael Trujillo in 1961 a number of musicians left the campo to record in the capital.
The word bachata originally denoted an informal party where guitar music was generally played-only later did it come to signify the music itself, and then in a denigrating manner.
Instrumentation and Lyrics of Bachata Music
The güira is a Dominican percussion instrument. It is used in merengue and bachata to add a beat to the music without the overwhelming volume of drums. The güira is crafted as a tube of perforated metal with a handle, and it is scraped or brushed by the player to create the beat. (It looks a little like a large cheese grater!)
Lyrically, the typical bachata song is about loss, heartbreak, longing, or sadness. The lyrical content goes hand in hand with the slower tempo. The name bachata comes from a word for a raucous party. It suggest an informal party, an impromptu gathering of friends, with music, dancing, and drinking. However, this is the sort of thing that the common folk do, and it was thus looked down upon by the elites as being vulgar and even immoral. The word bachata was even viewed negatively. The use of the term bachata for the genre did not gain widespread acceptance due to these negative connotations until the 1970s and 1980s.
The music itself, given its lowly origins, was widely ignored. In fact, due to the repressive regime of the dictator, or “El Jefe,” Rafael Trujillo, bachata music was not even recorded until after his death in 1961. It had been associated with barrios and brothels, and was not considered fit for public consumption.
The genre has passed through several phases since José Manuel Calderón recorded what is generally recognized as the first bachata single (“Borracho de amor” and “Que será de mi (Condena)”) in 1961. Indeed, long before Calderón, guitar music was the music of choice in the places of ill repute which became home to bachata. The guitar and guitar music like bolero and son were also the staples of the campo, the countryside, and with the death of dictator Rafael Trujillo in 1961 a number of musicians left the campo to record in the capital. The dictator’s family had virtually monopolized the music industry in the country, and when he was killed entrepreneurs began recording the first generation of bachateros. At this point the music was not yet referred to as bachata, but rather as “bolero campesino”. The word bachata originally denoted an informal party where guitar music was generally played—only later did it come to signify the music itself, and then in a denigrating manner.
When Calderón recorded, bachata was essentially a type of bolero, very little different from the Puerto Rican, Ecuadorian, Mexican and Peruvian music that inspired it. In subsequent years, the music began to define itself as a genre which, while still based principally on the bolero rhythm, is easily distinguishable from it. In order to understand these changes it is useful to divide the genre into the following categories, each of which roughly corresponds to a time period.
Instrumentation and Lyrics of Bachata Music
The 1970s were dark years for bachata. The music was seldom played on the radio, and almost unmentioned on television and in print. Bachateros were also barred from performing in high society venues – having to content themselves instead with gigs in bars and brothels in the country’s poorest neighborhoods. The music was influenced by its surroundings; sex, despair and crime were amongst numerous topics the genre highlighted. This only furthered the cause of those seeking to tar bachata as a music of the barrios. Despite its unofficial censorship, bachata remained widely popular, while orchestral merengue benefited from the country’s major publicity outlets. However, bachata continued to outsell merengue.Some bachateros to emerge from this era were Marino Perez and Leonardo Paniagua.
What is Bachata music during the 80’s?
By the early 1980s, bachata’s popularity could not be denied. Due to popular demand, more radio stations began playing bachata, and bachateros soon found themselves performing on television as well. Bachata in the meantime had begun to take on a more dance-hall sound: tempos increased, guitar playing became punchier, and call and response singing more prevalent. Bachata style merengues, or guitar merengues, also became an increasingly important part of the bachata repertoire. Blas Durán was the first to record with electric guitar in his 1987 bachata-merengue hit, “Mujeres hembras”.
Not many people know about the grey age of Bachata when people considered Bachata is something quite bad. About “what is Bachata dance” in the late 1970s and at the beginning of 1980s in Bachata history, there comes a term “Bachata de doble sentido”. This term appeared from the very popular “cabaret Bachata dance” style. Doble sentido meant a way of substituting words that they would sound similar to others. This uses rhymes that let the listeners have an impression of the next words which will follow. These words will definitely be some curse or anything devoted to sex. Additionally, doble sentido songs included verses made of words which connected (put one after another) and changed their meaning into ones with sexual connotations.
The appearance of “doble sentido” caused another series of criticism. Yet, at the same time, this has made Bachata dance become extremely popular during the mid-development era of Bachata history.
What is Bachata music during the 90’s?
Bachata music has now gone mainsteam. Bachata guitars turned from acoustic to electric in the 1990s, and the music gained even more popularity with this new sound. There are typically five instruments used to play bachata music: the lead guitar, the rhythm (or segunda) guitar, the bass guitar, the bongos, and the güira.The güira is sometimes substituted for maracas, which are more traditional but give the player less control over the beat.
By the early 1990s, the sound was further modernized and the bachata scene was dominated by two new young stars: Luis Vargas and Antony Santos. Both incorporated a large number of bachata-merengues in their repertoires. Santos, Vargas and the many new style bachateros who would follow achieved a level of stardom which was unimaginable to the bachateros who preceded them. They were the first generation of pop bachata artists and received all the hype and image branding typical of commercial pop music elsewhere. It was also at this time that bachata began to emerge internationally as a music of Hispanic dance-halls.
Juan Luis Guerra’s Grammy-winning 1992 release, Bachata Rosa, is routinely credited with making the genre more acceptable and helping bachata achieve legitimacy and international recognition. Although he used the word bachata in the album title, none of the songs reflected the distinctive bachata sound.
What is Bachata music in the 21st century?
By the beginning of the 21st century, the bachata group Aventura had taken the bachata envisioned by Juan Luis Guerra in the early 1990s to new heights. Led by lead singer Anthony “Romeo” Santos, they revolutionized and modernized the genre. They sold out Madison Square Garden numerous times and released countless top ten hits on the hot Latin charts including two number one hits “Por un segundo” and “Dile al Amor”. Other big bachata acts in the decade included “Monchy y Alexandra” and Los Toros Band. By the beginning of the new decade, Aventura had split up because group member Henry Santos wanted to go solo, leaving the others to do their own thing. Today, parallel to Bachata music, fusion genres arose in western countries such as the USA, combining some of the rhythmic elements of Bachata music with elements of western music such as Hip Hop, R&B, pop, techno and more. This fusion genre is quite popular among western audiences, and often includes covers of western pop songs played on MTV and non Latin radio stations. Notable artist of the new fusion genre are Prince Royce, Xtreme and Toby Love, among others. By 2011 former Aventura member Romeo Santos also joined the fusion bandwagon, releasing several new albums which became popular in the USA and other western countries. The hip-hop artist Drake in his music video of “Hotline Bling” based his dance moves off of Bachata music. Now Dj Tronky and the remixes are developing to offer a different bachata scene.
For or against, bachata is in evolution and it will go on. Get the fruits of the origines and get the fruits of the evolution. Above all, you can choose the bachata you want to dance, listen, and the bachata you want be… Travel to the Bachata history.
BORRACHO DE AMOR – José Manuel Calderón
Marino Perez – La Pago Yo O La Paga Ella
Augusto Santos – Olvida Ese Hombre
PRINCE ROYCE – Stand By Me
Nacho – Bailame (DJ Tronky Bachata Remix)
Ozuna ft. Romeo Santos – El Farsante (DJ Tronky Bachata Remix)
Ozuna – Te Vas (Cover) DJ Tronky Bachata Remix
Rafael Encarnacion – Muero Contigo
AVENTURA – OBSESION
melida rodriguez la sufrida
Romeo Santos – Propuesta Indecente
Sebastián Yatra – Como Mirarte (Cover) DJ Tronky Bachata Remix
Sebastián Yatra ft. Karen Mendez – Traicionera (DJ Tronky Bachata Remix)
MY PERSONAL BACHATA PLAYLIST
Alexandre Pires – Traicionar Es Bueno Pero Es Pecado
DUSTIN RICHIE – SED DE TI
Mona Moua – Til The Sky Falls Down (DJ Soltrix Bachata Remix)
Esme – Bestia Salvaje
Esme – Amantes
Natti Natasha – La Mejor Version De Mi (DJ Tronky Bachata Remix)
Festival De Amor – Prophex
Blas Cantó – El no soy yo
Never miss a chance to listen & feel the bachata music