The Dominican Republic is widely known around the world as the Caribbean island where Merengue and Bachata music takes its current shape. Merengue and Bachata have been fueled by the cultural roots of the Dominican Republic and have in many ways shaped the Dominican economy.
Description and origin
Johnny Pacheco was born in the Dominican Republic; he created Fania Records with Jerry Masucci in 1964 and was a major promoter of salsa music from New York City. Dominican artists played salsa in NYC and around the world.
Dominican salsero/sonero, Cuco Valoy is known as "El Brujo" (the sorcerer) and as a Latino legend that served as an ambassador for Afro-Cuban music. He first gained attention in the 1950s with his brother, Martin, in the music duo Los Ahijados. He studied music theory at National Conservatoire of Dominican Republic Music. Cuco Valoy appeared in the Salsa scene originally as a sonero,one of the Cuban rhythms that later gave a commercial term Salsa, in the 1970s with his hits "Juliana" (later covered by the group DLG), "El Divorcio", and "Nació Varón" (afropop.org). Cuco's son, Ramón Orlando, one of the pioneers of Merengue classico of the 1980s, continued his career by directing the popular band La Orquesta Internacional with singers Peter Cruz and Henry García. Ramón went on to win a Grammy in 2005 for his merengue album "Generaciones" and today composes Salsa music for contemporary artists such as Sexappeal.
Henry García remains a great name in Dominican Salsa music. Garcia sang with Cuco Valoy and later with Cuco's son Ramón Orlando but did not have the same recognition as these artists. Garcia tried his hand at having his own group for a short while but is better known for being one of the most active Salsa vocalists in the Dominican Republic to this day and lending his talents to many CD music side projects like the hit album "Sobran Razones" by the popular group Fernando Echavarría de La Familia André. Garcia's current focus has been contributing as a backup singer (corista) for various Dominican salsa artists, including Belio Antonio. Garcia is mostly known for his songs "Te Quiero", "Sisi y Ricardo", and "Nació Varón".
Development of Dominican Salsa and Cuban influence
Cuco Valoy represents soneros whose home base was in the Dominican Republic where they produced their music. After studying music theory at the National Conservatory of Music, Valoy formed with his younger brother Martin Valoy a duet solo, which soon became popular in presentations and serenades, playing hits from artists of the time. In the 1956 Valoy changed the duo repertoire of son montuno, with the name "The Ahijados" in line with Los Compadres from Cuba. Valoy was the lead vocalist and guitarist of this orchestra. Cuba was a great influence in the development of the Salsa market in the Dominican Republic, and it affected the sound of Salsa in many ways. However, there was also a wave of Dominican Soneros in the 70s who entered the Dominican market.
Santiago Cerón was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic in 1940 and was a singer with the Orquestra of Pete "El Conde" Rodriguez, Tony Pabon y La Protesta and the Orquesta de Arsenio Rodriguez. He went solo around 1970, and his first release was "Tumbando Puertas", featuring the hit "Lindo Yambu". Since then Cerón continued to prove himself as a sonero and became the Dominican face of Salsa and Son both in NYC and South America (Colombia and Venezuela among others). The Dominican market was dominated at the time by El Brujo and the Fania All-Stars—a lineup of Salsa's best performers, including Dominican born Rey Reyes, and led by the star Johnny Pacheco, the co-owner of powerhouse label Fania Records who founded the label with Italian-American lawyer Jerry Masucci in 1964
Johnny Pacheco is known as the Dominican who found Fania record with Jerry Masucci given a commercial name salsa music and was a producer, musician, bandleader, and was an excellent musician of Salsa. Born March 25, 1935 in Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic, Pacheco helped start Fania Records, turned out more than 60 albums during his career, and has earned himself nine Grammy nominations, ten Gold records and many other awards throughout his career that pay tribute to his talent. Pacheco's passion for good music is what led him to start Fania Records with Masucci, and Fania got its name from an old Cuban song by Reinaldo Bolaño called "Cañonazo". Thanks to word of mouth and the success of Fania's first recording, New York City's music lovers became aware of the new style of Latin music and Fania was propelled forward, expanding its talent roster. Masucci took over as executive negotiator as Pacheco continued as music director, and Fania became the label of young and innovative new artists throughout New York City. Larry Harlow, Ray Barretto and Bobby Valentín all contributed to the new dance in New York. As one of the key individuals responsible for the Soneros explosion of the 1970s in New York City, Pacheco also started a dance craze called "Pachanga" and went on to work as music director for many films as well. Today he remains deeply committed to the improvement of the Latin community and is still greatly involved in the recording industry, performing and recording some of the best tropical music with his group.
A notable Salsa performer of the Dominican Republic is José Alberto who was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic in 1958 and later became known as Sonero "El Canario" in his career due to his widely adored voice. At age seven, José Alberto relocated to Puerto Rico with his family and later to New York in the early 1970s where he sang with several orchestras. He received international attention as the bandleader of "Typical '73" in October 1977. In 1983, Alberto hired a group of well-known musicians to lend their talents and form Jose Alberto "El Canario" y Su Orquesta, a group known for their spectacular performances that always led to dancing. In 1991, José Alberto released his first album, Dance With Me, and saw success from the albums romantic lyrics combined with energetic Salsa arrangements. His success continued with songs like "Mis Amores," "Sueno Contigo," "Llego la Hora," and "A La Hora Que Me Llamen Voy," some on the CBS label and others on the Sony label. In 1997, Alberto signed with RMM Records and moved toward Mambo music, completing a tribute to music master Machito and other compilation albums. Known for his music of the tropical rhythm genre, his career boasts countless Gold and Platinum records and international recognition.
Another bright star from the Dominican Republic, is Raul Martinez, or Raulin Rosendo as he is better known. At age 12 Rosendo was already performing with the merengue group, "El Chivo y su Banda." From ages 13 to 19 Rosendo's career moved quickly, starting with his participation in a show televised by Rahintel which led to a contract with the musical group of the maestro Cuco Valoy. He also learned beside Fernandito Villalona and became the co-leader of the well-known "Los Hijos del Rey." These opportunities to interpret Salsa and Merengue led to many large venues in New York City and abroad, and Rosendo eventually recorded two productions of his own, while he surrounded himself with talented individuals and soon became an exclusive recording artist for Kubaney. Rosendo's time with Kubaney proved very successful as he recorded five productions and became known as one of the best Salsa singers of all time. In 1981, Rosendo formed his own orchestra and for the first time produced as a soloist for his project, "El que te Guia." Different projects kept Rosendo resurging with success, but in 1995 his record "Uno Se Cura" became the most sold album of the year, and he was nominated for a Cassandra Award and an A.C.E. Award in New York. Rosendo is known as "El sonero enfadado" (The Angry Sonero), but obviously not because of a failure to succeed. He had more hit songs in 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999, putting him among the greatest Salsa musicians of his time.
Contemporary Dominican Salsa
A new era of Dominican salseros is emerging with talents that work to combine the tropical sound of Quisqueya with new vocals that continue to usher in fans from the old school fans and the next generation of listeners. Felix Manuell is one such performer. This Dominican born singer started his career at age 12 performing in his church choir and at school festivals. In 1990, Manuell sang for the Sinsontes of the Hotel Luperon Beach Resort and in '93 he immigrated to Europe and sang for Héctor Café in the group Indetenibles de la Salsa. His success quickly spread to Latin America and continues today.
Dominican Merengue and Bachata have continued through the music of Juan Miguel Batista, or Michel, also known as "el Buenón," one of the most active salseros in the Dominican Republic today. Starting to sing at age 6 and to develop musical ambitions at age 17, Michel is very open about the fact that his career took 35 years of hard work and perseverance to get to the position of success it is in now. Today, Michel is one of the best known salseros in the Dominican Republic, with great success in and outside of his country. His start came after singing in a festival in Barahona and winning first place, which led him to consider music as a career and led him to move to the capital of Santo Domingo to study singing and refine his tone.
Michel went on to join several Merengue groups like Gladisquero, the diplomats of Haiti, Tabú Combo and Johnny Ventura's Show Combo. In 1995, Michel recorded for the first time, and though his dream was to sing ballads, he had found the most recognition in Salsa music while recording in New York and Europe. Michel's 2004 recording led to three Cassandra awards nominations in 2008, showing how his hard work of tireless singing in piano bars, clubs, and restaurants had paid off. He now has a full schedule of events and has become a familiar face in the world of Salsa. Michel plans for 2009 to be full of many collaborative projects, and hopefully continued success amounting from his willingness to adapt and persevere despite a changing business with threats of piracy.
Asdrubar has emerged as another modern day salsero, drawing in much success in the Caribbean and becoming known for popular songs like "Suelta mi mano" that have received play on national radio stations and in NYC.
Sexappeal is another example of young talent that has quickly gained recognition, including nominations for a Cassandra award and for the Lo Nuestro award for "Revelation of the Year." "Right now the local Salsa is well positioned, and thanks to God, what we are doing is reaching foreign beaches and achieving major awards," said Sexappeal, who made his debut as a salsero in 2000 with the support of Ramón Orlando.
Another Dominican salsero quickly making his name known is Belio Antonio. This University of Florida professor is by no means a typical Salsero. Shortly after his birth in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico, Belio Antonio's parents moved to New York City where this curious boy was raised around the burgeoning Salsa movement in this city. His native parents moved him to the Dominican Republic in the early 1980s where the culture overcame him and only heightened his attraction toward the flavorful sounds of the Salsa genre. His diverse experiences as a Dominican, Puerto Rican and New Yorker all contribute to his music. Belio Antonio started singing at a very young age after being inspired by lifelong role model. He tells of how he used his first savings to buy his first Elvis record at the age of 7. By the time he was 9, Belio Antonio was playing the guitar and singing Spanish bolero in the Dominican Republic. With time he transitioned to Jazz and Salsa as he performed vocals for Jazz groups John Hilton Quartet and Caribbean Breeze in New York and Salsa group Orquesta Revelación in Florida. Today Belio Antonio has gathered a team of some of Salsa's most talented contributors to produce his first full production to be released later in 2009 – Belio Antonio: Autentico. His music has appealed to salseros in Europe, Latin America, the U.S. and Asia. Belio Antonio is best known for his songs, "Ella fue" and "Tortura de Amor." His third single "No se Compra" – a song inspired by a "platanero" – a plantain vendor – on the streets of Santo Domingo. This song, Belio Antonio says, "perfectly captures the human character that will elevate us from the current financial and social crisis."
Last highlighted is Mickey Taveras, the Dominican salsero and songwriter who got seriously involved in music while composing for stars like Wilfrido Vargas and orchestra. After Sergio Vargas Garibaldo helped make Taveras' song "La Ventanita" an international success, Taveras went on to a solo career with his first album "Lucharé," which went triple platinum in Colombia and Central America and had great success in Venezuela and Mexico in 1996. In 2000, Mickey Taveras self-produced a Latin pop/ballad album called Más Romantico that won success through the song "Historia Entre Tus Dedos" – History between your fingers. Taveras is currently working on launching his own record label called MT Productions Corp. and a new compilation of Salsa, Bachata and Merengue entitled "I'll wait." Taveras will also serve as an executive for the music production and will work with the ASCAP company in New York and Santo Domingo to publish the record.
Contributors to Dominican Salsa
By highlighting key Dominican contributors to Salsa's sound and styles, a better and more complete understanding of Salsa's evolution has emerged. From Salsa's beginnings as a social commentary to the more recent romantic ballads, regardless the style, Salsa was built on the shoulders of many talented Dominican artists. Today, Salsa's rhythms are enjoyed by people of different ethnicities and languages in countries from around the world.
Ramón Orlando Valoy has already been mentioned as a director of music for la Orquesta Internacional, but this Dominican born performer also studied music and served as a pianist, arranger, singer and composer during his career. In 1992, Orlando was awarded 7 Cassandra awards, including el Soberano, the top award of the ceremony. In Santo Domingo, Orlando received a parchment which declared him an Inhabitant for his musical success and achievements that contributed to Merengue music as a whole. Also known as "El Maestro," Orlando will remain known as an influential contributor to Latin music for his work behind the music, as well as for his performances in front of a crowd.
Juan Valdez has emerged as the most influential salsa music composer and director in the Dominican Republic today. "Maestro" Valdez has composed music for Asdrubar and is credited in some circles with having jumpstarted Michel's career in salsa with this adaptation to salsa of Marco Antonio Solís' "Mi Primavera" to salsa. Juan Valdez has also arranged for Felix Manuell & Belio Antonio. Additionally, Valdez teamed up with Belio Antonio to create a new tropical salsa sound that is creating a buzz in the music industry. A native of San Juan de la Maguana, Dominican Republic, Juan Valdez was born in 1962. In his early years he played with Merengue bands such as Los Rosarios, Sergio Vargas, Aramis Camillo and Juan Luis Guerra. Today he teaches popular piano and popular music orchestration at the Conservatorio Nacional de Música de la República Dominicana. In addition to writing music for this new generation of salsa artists, he is also training tomorrow's pianists and musicians. In 2006, Valdez joined the elites of Latin music with his Cassandra award nomination for Best Orchestration and Musical Arranger beside Rando Camasta, Manuel Tejada, Freddy Macumba, and long-time friend Ramón Orlando. Juan Valdez has been nominated for this Dominican award 13 times, most recently in 2009. Valdez further established his name after working with Felix Manuell and various other performers. His ear for music has contributed to their sound, adding a unique and creative style through varying roles as a pianist, arranger, and producer.
Bienvenido Rodríguez is a Salsa producer who began his career working with Bachata music. Before becoming a producer, Rodríguez started as a traveling salesman of Bachatas and Merengue típicos until the time when he could acquire his own record store. When that time finally came, he opened a store on Avenida Duarte in order to finance the production of Bachata and Merengue típico records. In 1967, Rodríguez bought a small label called Montilla, which he renamed Karen after his daughter and started to focus on Merengue and musicians with mainstream appeal. By the early 1970s, he was so successful in his endeavors that he was able to obtain the lucrative distributorship for the New York-based Fania Records, a key producer of Salsa at the time. By the 1980s, Karen had become the Dominican Republic's largest and most successful record label, producing many of the nation's top musicians and proving himself to be an influential producer and businessman.
A more modern production genius is found in Ricky Gonzalez. This keyboardist/producer/arranger has spent the past two decades working with some of the biggest names in Latin American music. Born in the Dominican Republic, like many talented performers before him, Gonzalez was born a musician—playing drums by age 3 and piano by age 14. By age 17 Gonzalez joined Ray Barretto's band and continued playing the piano while studying composition at the Juilliard School and the City College of New York. Gonzalez studied under jazz great Ron Carter and with Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Del Tredici, contributions that shaped his style as performer and producer.
Gonzalez's most recent project is his debut CD, "Oasis" that features an array of talented vocalists and musicians as well as an eclectic mix of Salsa, Hip hop and world rhythms. Recently he produced Tito Nieves' hit "I Like It Like That" and was picked up by major mainstream corporations like Burger King and the American Broadcasting Company. Gonzalez is now receiving even more attention for his stylish beats and catchy lyrics. Though Gonzalez has worked with many well-known performers and stars, he can currently be found touring with Latin superstar Marc Anthony, contributing on the keyboard and with vocal duties.
Notable singers and songs
- Asdrubar- Suelta mi mano
- Belio Antonio- Ella Fue; Tortura de Amor; No Se Compra; No Temas Mi Cariñito"; Te Fuiste Una Vez Más
- Cuco Valoy- Juliana; El Divorcio"; Nació Varón
- Henry Garcia-Te Quiero; Sisi y Ricardo; Nació Varón
- Johnny Pacheco- Dile; Quiero Ser; Soy Guapo De Verdad
- José Alberto- Mis Amores; Sueno Contigo; Llego la Hora; A La Hora Que Me Llamen Voy
- MioSotis- Señora
- Raulín Rosendo- Amor en Secreto; Si No Van A Morir Mi Muerte; Pagina Blanca; Estamos En Navidad; Te Lo Pido Por Favor; Fatlidad; Sin Tituveos
- Santiago Cerón- Lindo Yambu
- Sexappeal- La Primera Piedra; Meniando La Cola; Mal O Bien
- Rodríguez, Nelson (2004, October). Latin beat music update. Latin Beat Magazine, Retrieved February 2, 2009
- Polin, Bruce (2006, February 22). Descarga.com recent DVDs, Retrieved February 4, 2009, from Descarga.com Web site: http://mail.descarga.com/pipermail/descarga-announce/2006/000135.html
- Music of Puerto Rico Retrieved February 9, 2009
- Johnny Pacheco biography,Retrieved February 9, 2009, from JohnnyPacheco.com
- The official website of Jose Alberto "El Canario" Retrieved February 6, 2009
- Michel “El buenón” cuenta su verdadera historia Retrieved February 25, 2009
- Nova, J. (2008). El sabor de la salsa dominicana. Retrieved February 28, 2009, from Salsa en Rosario Web site: http://www.rosariosalsa.com.ar/noticias/enero/salsa_dominicana.htm (spanish)
- Belio Antonio Biography, Retrieved February 25, 2009, from Belio Antonio's official Web site
- Biografia de mickey taveras, Retrieved February 25, 2009, from Retrieved March 4, 2009, from Univision.com Web site (spanish)
- Mickey Traveras biography, Retrieved March 18, 2009
- Ramón Orlando biography, Retrieved March 6, 2009
- Hernandez, D. P. (1995). Bachata: a social history of dominican popular music. Temple University Press.
- Ricky gonzalez biography, Retrieved March 18, 2009, from Ricky Gonzalez: Producer, Arranger, Composer and Musician Web site