Bachata is a popular Latino musical genre. It has also gained worldwide renown due to the popular form of dancing associated with this music. The genre is most popular in the Dominican Republic, where it originated, but also in Cuba, Colombia, Panama, Argentina, Puerto Rico, and parts of the United States, though it is listened to and appreciated on a global scale. Since its development in the early 1900’s, Bachata has become an integral and treasured part of the culture in the Dominican Republic and throughout Latin America.
If you are interested in Latin American musical and dancing traditions, familiarizing yourself with the Bachata genre and its popular songs will broaden your knowledge of this exciting and dynamic music.
Bachata was developed in the early twentieth century in the Dominican Republic, born from a combination of several different musical cultures, and spurred on by the presence of people of African descent in the Caribbean and Latin America. The popularity of the music was concentrated in poor rural areas, and that is where it gained the momentum to become the popular genre it is today. Bachata is a mixture of bolero, a type of slow-tempo Latin music, and African musical elements. Bachata also incorporates Caribbean rhythms, and all of these elements combine to make a very unique sound. For most of its history, Bachata was associated with the rural poor, and not appreciated by more wealthy or elite citizens of the Dominican Republic; it was thought o be vulgar and crude, associated with a certain low-class lifestyle, and was not accepted as a part of mainstream or popular music. This had been the case all the way until the 1990’s, when a significant instrumentation change, from acoustic to electric guitars, resulted in a popularity explosion for Bachata. Soon it was being listened to and talked about all over the world, far beyond its former Latin American borders. The newer, non-acoustic form of Bachata is sometimes referred to as the “New York style” of the music, and that is the style that remains so popular in the Latin world today.
Bachata’s distinct sound is related to its instrumentation, which usually consists of five instruments: a lead guitar, bass guitar, rhythm guitar, bongos or tambora drums, and maraca-like percussion instrument called a güira. These instruments work together to form syncopated and sweet rhythms, with similarities to salsa and merengue, though usually of a slower tempo. The lyrics of Bachata songs deal almost exclusively with pain, love, and loss, making them very similar to the lyrical conventions of blues music. Almost all popular Bachata songs are dedicated to love, longing, and heartbreak. Throughout the twentieth century, Bachata music represented the difficulties and complexities of life for those living in the poorer regions of Latin America, specifically in the Dominican Republic. Modern Bachata musicians often incorporate other musical cultures, such as hip-hop or rhythm and blues, into their songs, while maintaining the traditional sounds of Bachata.
Modern Bachata Artists
Though no longer active in the Bachata community, Aventura was a popular group in the 1990’s, and were often referred to as the “Kings of Bachata.” The members of the group are primarily natives of The Bronx, but their families hail from the Dominican Republic, and their music embodies the traditional characteristics of Bachata sound, mixed with more modern hip hop and R&B elements. The group separated in 2001 and a few members went on to enjoy successful solo careers.
Antony Santos has been a prominent Bachata since the early 1990’s, and is credited with incorporating more romantic songs into the genre. His lyrics were softer and more romantic than those of Bachata artists before him, and as a result, he became very popular very quickly within the genre. He is currently the highest paid Bachata artist in the Dominican Republic, and his popularity has led to more widespread popularity for the Bachata musical tradition in general.
Leslie Grace Martinez is only nineteen years old, but her Bachata cover of the Shirelles song “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” catapulted her into fame at an early age when it was released in 2012. She is the youngest female artist to put out a single that has risen to the number one spot on both the Billboard Latin Airplay and Billboard Tropical Songs charts. Since then, she has released a second studio album and continues to write and perform her own Bachata songs.
Juan Luis Guerra is a Bachata producer, singer, and composer. He is one of the most celebrated Bachata artists, having won several Grammy Awards, Latin Grammy Awards, and Latin Billboard Music Awards. His music incorporates a combination of merengue with traditional African and Latin sounds. He is recognized all around the world, and is often credited with spreading the popularity of Bachata throughout the global music scene. He remains an active musician today, having released eleven studio albums since the beginning of his career in the early 1980’s.
To get a feel for the conventions of Bachata, here are some classic and popular Bachata songs to listen to and become familiar with:
– “Medicina de Amor” (Love Medicine) by Raulin Rodriguez
– “Voy Pa Alla” (I’m On My Way) by Antony Santos
– “Volvio El Dolor” (Pain Returned) by Luis Vargas
– “Bachata Rosa” (Bachata Rose) by Juan Luis Guerra
– “Mi Corazoncito” (My Heart) by Aventura
– “Darte Un Beso” (Give You a Kiss) by Prince Royce
– “Me Voy” by Hector Acosta
– “No Tengo Suerte En El Amor” by Yoskar Sarante
– “No Es Una Novela” by Monchy and Alexandra
– “Secreto de Amor” by Erick Escobar
– “Yo Me Equivoca” by Domenic Marte
Now that you know a bit more about Bachata music, as well as Bachata artists and songs, you can explore other musical genres, from those based in Latin America to different kinds all over the world. Studying different musical cultures, as well as music theory and musical composition, is a rewarding pastime, and can improve your understanding and appreciation of music as an art form.