|Cultural origins||Dominican Republic|
|Typical instruments||Requinto/Bachata guitar, electric bass guitar, güira, bongo drums|
|Dominican Republic, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Curaçao, Aruba, Panamá, Chile, Colombia.|
Bachata is a Latino genre of music that originated in the Dominican Republic in the early parts of the 20th century with the European and African descendants in the country and spread to other parts of Latin America and Mediterranean Europe. It became widely popular in the countryside and the rural neighborhoods of the Dominican Republic. Its subjects are often romantic; especially prevalent are tales of heartbreak and sadness. The original term used to name the genre was amargue ("bitterness", "bitter music", or "blues music"), until the rather ambiguous (and mood-neutral) term bachata became popular. The form of dance, bachata, also developed with the music.
The earliest bachata was originally developed in the Dominican Republic around the early part of the 20th century, the genre mixed the pan-Latin American style called bolero with more African elements, combined with other traditional Latin-Caribbean rhythms. During much of its history, Bachata music was denigrated by the Dominican elite and associated with rural underdevelopment and crime. As recently as the 1980s, bachata was considered too vulgar, crude and musically rustic to enter mainstream music. In the 1990s, however, bachata's instrumentation changed from acoustic guitar to electric steel string. The new electric bachata (New York style) would soon become an international phenomenon, and today bachata is as popular as other Latino music and dance like salsa and merengue in many Latin American dance halls. Bachata was played by campesinos, or peasants, who would play it whenever the village gathered for a party.
The typical bachata group consists of five instruments: lead guitar, rhythm guitar, electric bass guitar, bongos and güira. The rhythm guitar is also known as a segunda and serves the purpose of adding syncopation to the music. Bachata groups mainly play a straightforward style of bolero (lead guitar instrumentation using arpeggiated repetitive chords is a distinctive characteristic of bachata), but when they change to merengue-based bachata, the percussionist will switch from bongo to a tambora drum. In the 1960s and 1970s, maracas were used instead of güira. The change in the 1980s from maracas to the more versatile güira was made as bachata was becoming more dance oriented.
The first Dominican bachatas were recorded immediately after the death of Trujillo, whose 30-year dictatorship was accompanied by censorship. José Manuel Calderón is credited as having recorded the first bachata singles: (“Borracho de amor” and “Que será de mi (Condena)”) released on 45 rpm in 1961. After Trujillo's death, the floodgates were opened: following Calderon's historic bachata debut came more recordings by the likes of Rodobaldo Duartes, Rafael Encarnacion, Ramoncito Cabrera El Chivo Sin Ley, Corey Perro, Antonio Gómez Salcero, Luis Segura, Louis Loizides, Eladio Romero Santos, Ramón Cordero and many more. The 1960s saw the birth of the Dominican music industry and of the bachata music which would dominate it.
While the bachatas being recorded in the 1960s had a distinctly Dominican flavor, they were regarded at the time as a variant of bolero, as the term bachata, which originally referred to an informal rustic party, had not yet come into use. This term was first applied to the music by those seeking to disparage it. The higher echelons of Dominican society felt that bachata music was an expression of cultural backwardness, and a campaign ensued to brand bachata in this negative light.
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.
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".
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[by whom?] 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.
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 the genre, adding more hip hop and R&B sounds into 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 Xtreme. 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. Their act inspired a young boy named Prince Royce, who in 2010 burst onto the scene in the absence of Aventura with his debut solo album, which included hits such as "Stand By Me" and "Corazón sin Cara". By 2011 Romeo Santos was back with a number one album that included five number one hits on the Latin charts and is still pushing the limits of bachata trying to bring it to the mainstream. In 2013, bachata headed the Latin charts as Romeo and Prince Royce produced number one hits.
- Hector Acosta - known as "El Torito"
- Aventura - known as "Kings of Bachata"
- Alex Bueno
- José Manuel Calderón
- Carlos & Alejandra
- Zacarías Ferreíra
- Leslie Grace - known as "Princess of Bachata"
- Juan Luis Guerra
- Toby Love
- Elvis Martinez
- Monchy & Alexandra
- Edilio Paredes
- Marino Perez
- Antony Santos - known as " El Mayimbe"
- Henry Santos
- Romeo Santos - known as "King of Bachata"
- Yoskar Sarante
- Pacini Hernandez, Deborah. "Brief history of Bachata", Bachata, A social history of a Dominican popular music, 1995, Temple University Press. Retrieved on December 4, 2008
- Pacini Hernandez, Deborah. Bachata, A social history of a Dominican popular music, 1995, Temple University Press. Retrieved on December 4, 2008.
- iASO Records, David Wayne. "Juan Luis Guerra Biography", Juan Luis Guerra Biography, 2008, iASO Records.
- Comprehensive history of bachata with music and video clips
- Video on how to dance Bachata Traditional and Bachata Fusion
- Site about Original Bachata incl. Dance-Videos and Dance-Tutorials
- Music of the Dominican Republic
- National Geographic.com - Nat Geo Music: Bachata page