October 8, 2014

Dominican Music

You will never be asked to turn down your music in the Dominican Republic. Why? Because blasting your music is part of being Dominican. How did blasting music at all hours of the day become socially acceptable? I have no idea, but I am thankful that I never have to worry about offending anyone when I throw dance parties with the neighborhood kids. The downside is that I am sometimes woken up by a neighbor's stereo system at 6 a.m. (when the power comes on).

For an entire month I was woken up by this song:

It was a rough month.

Thankfully, the above song is not representative of Dominican music. Indeed, the above song is from a Venezuelan singer popular in the late 80's. Much more often you will hear bachata, merengue, salsa, or dembow music. All of which I am come to enjoy. Here is a break down on what they all sound like:

Bachata was created in the D.R. in the early part of the 20th century. It was once considered to be the music of country-folk - the lyrics and dancing were considered too vulgar for the wealthy, but today it is the most common music you will hear on the radio. The are a multitude of great Dominican artists in this genre. To get a good mix I recommend the "I love Bachata" album series which is available on iTunes. (I have 2013 and 2014.) The most well known singers of this music are Prince Royce and Romeo Santos, both of whom are Americans. I prefer Romeo Santos - his album Fórmula Vol. 2 is amazing and features mainstream American artists: Drake and Niki Minaj, although their Spanish singing skills are wanting.

Decide who you prefer by listening to two of their most popular songs.

First Prince Royce with "Darte un Beso" (Give you a Kiss):

And now Romeo Santos with "Eres Mía" (You are Mine):

Merengue, like bachata, is native to the D.R. Created in the 19th century the music was made popular by the country's dictator, Rafel Trujillo. Merengue is now one of the most popular genres of music in all of Latin America. Merengue music tends to have a faster beat than bachata and the dance is also more rapid and features more spins and turns than bachata. I think meregue is more fun to dance, but only if your dance partner know what they are doing - otherwise you are just dancing in a circle.

There are not many female singers heard on Dominican radio, but Miriam Cruz is one exception. Check her out below with the old but classic "La Loba" (The She-Wolf):

Salsa originates from Cuba, and is not nearly as common as bachata or merengue. Bachata and merengue can be difficult to distinguish at first, but since salsa was developed off the island its sound is unique. But if you can't hear the difference, you can always tell when a salsa is playing because only two couples will be dancing. Most Dominicans do not know how to dance salsa - they seem to like to stick to their native dances: bachata and merengue. However, there are still well known Dominican salsa singers and most Dominicans can sing along to salsa songs played on the radio. Here is Yiyo Sarante with "Pirata de Amor" (Pirate of Love):

Dembow is a new and evolving genre, original to the D.R. It is a form of rap stemming from Puerto Rico's reguetón music (think "Gasolina" by Daddy Yankee), however now it is its own beast. I use the word beast because dembow lyrics tend to focus on sex, drinking, and generally acting wild. Dancing to dembow is similar to dancing to American rap music - just find a stranger and start grinding up on them. Get your booty shakin' to this next song by El Alfa, "Subete en el Caballo" (Get on the Horse). And yes, the title is a sexual innuendo.

Just for fun, below, is a more innocent dembow song. This song is about the Chikungunya virus, which I finally got (and recovered from) last month. I didn't get the severe joint pain as portrayed in the video but I did get swollen joints, fever, rash, and random waves of exhaustion (I fell asleep at my kitchen table surrounded by unopened grocery bags one afternoon.). Still, I consider myself lucky. Many of my neighbors and fellow volunteers continue to suffer from joint pain months after their initial diagnosis. K2 and his song "La Chikungunya" should give you an idea of what they are still going through:

American Pop
Like nearly every where in the world, you can hear American pop occasionally in D.R. The U.S. is close enough that some volunteers tune into Radio Disney to get their pop music fix. Most Dominicans to not know what the lyrics to American songs mean - but that doesn't stop them from singing along.

Slowly Dominican music is making its way back to the States. Prince Royce and Romeo Santos can already be heard on the radio in America - especially their songs that mix English and Spanish and/or feature popular English singers. An explosion in popularity for Dominican music in the U.S. is coming. Are you ready?!

1 comment:

  1. Good morning, how are you?

    My name is Emilio, I am a Spanish boy and I live in a town near to Madrid. I am a very interested person in knowing things so different as the culture, the way of life of the inhabitants of our planet, the fauna, the flora, and the landscapes of all the countries of the world etc. in summary, I am a person that enjoys traveling, learning and respecting people's diversity from all over the world.

    I would love to travel and meet in person all the aspects above mentioned, but unfortunately as this is very expensive and my purchasing power is quite small, so I devised a way to travel with the imagination in every corner of our planet. A few years ago I started a collection of used stamps because through them, you can see pictures about fauna, flora, monuments, landscapes etc. from all the countries. As every day is more and more difficult to get stamps, some years ago I started a new collection in order to get traditional letters addressed to me in which my goal was to get at least 1 letter from each country in the world. This modest goal is feasible to reach in the most part of countries, but unfortunately, it is impossible to achieve in other various territories for several reasons, either because they are very small countries with very few population, either because they are countries at war, either because they are countries with extreme poverty or because for whatever reason the postal system is not functioning properly.

    For all this, I would ask you one small favor:
    Would you be so kind as to send me a letter by traditional mail from Dominican Republic? I understand perfectly that you think that your blog is not the appropriate place to ask this, and even, is very probably that you ignore my letter, but I would call your attention to the difficulty involved in getting a letter from that country, and also I don’t know anyone neither where to write in Dominican Republic in order to increase my collection. a letter for me is like a little souvenir, like if I have had visited that territory with my imagination and at same time, the arrival of the letters from a country is a sign of peace and normality and an original way to promote a country in the world. My postal address is the following one:

    Emilio Fernandez Esteban
    Avenida Juan de la Cierva, 44
    28902 Getafe (Madrid)

    If you wish, you can visit my blog www.cartasenmibuzon.blogspot.com where you can see the pictures of all the letters that I have received from whole World.

    Finally, I would like to thank the attention given to this letter, and whether you can help me or not, I send my best wishes for peace, health and happiness for you, your family and all your dear beings.

    Yours Sincerely

    Emilio Fernandez