The word ‘bachata’ has gone through many transitions, meaning different things at different periods of Dominican history. It started out as just a word designating traditional guitar music, although in the 1960s it was used to label romantic guitar music. A ‘bachata’ was also a generic label for gatherings that took place at informal Sunday afternoon parties where guitar-based groups would play for casual recreation. It was also music that played a large role in entertainment in cabarets (which were actually brothels) and it is only recently that the stigma attached to word has been lessened.
Music of Bitterness: With the death of Rafael Trujillo in 1961, the music – then often called ‘bolero compensino,’ made its way to the capital of Santo Domingo along with a multitude of countryside compensinos that had been living in squalor during the dictator’s reign.
There the music changed from romantic boleros to stories about jealousy, rivalry, fights, poverty and life led in the barrios. It’s not surprising that bachata is equated to the Dominican version of the blues; with lyrics that reflected such dire and troubled lives, bachata became known as the music of bitterness or sorrow.
Jose Manuel Calderon: The first recognized bachata singles (“Barracho de Amor” and “Que Sera De Mi”) were recorded by Jose Calderon in 1961 although it was a decade before the word became commonly attached to a musical genre. In the 1960s, merengue continued to reign supreme in the Dominican Republic and ‘bachateros’ had no reliable outlet in higher social circles nor in the media. It was still embarrassing to be caught listening to bachata and musicians attracted to the genre would often sneak out at night to perform in clubs and bars where bachata was popular.
Modern Bachata: Modern bachata can be dated to sometime in the 1980s. At the time, bachateros were singing lyrics full of sexual innuendo and double entendre. In fact, bachata’s first superstar, Blas Duran, was king of this type of lyric. Duran simplified the music, making it easier for dancers and added electric guitar to his song “Consejo A Las Mujeres” in 1987. The tune became a huge hit, paving the road to bachata’s acceptance by a much wider segment of the population.
Bachata Turns To Romance: By the 1990s, bachata evolved the way music is prone to evolve, mutating and fusing with other genres. In the case of bachata, fusion occurred most often with the country’s dominant genre, merengue.
It was artists like Anthony Santos and Luis Vargas that, during this decade, focused bachata’s themes to the romantic, so much so that by the 1990s the genre dealt almost exclusively with love, most often unrequited or disappointed love.
Monchy & Alexandra: Even with the gradual gentrification of bachata, no one outside of a Dominican population was listening to the music. It took the duo of Monchy & Alexandra to raise international awareness of the music. Monchy (Ramon Rijo) and Alexandra (Alexandra Cabrera de la Cruz) started singing together in 1998 and their complimentary voices together with some clever pop-style arrangements made their albums and international tours huge hits. In the process, it opened the door to an appreciation of bachata by non-Donimican Latinos. (The duo broke up - 9/08).
Bachata in New York: Bachata originally reached the level of popularity that it enjoys today in New York rather than in the Dominican Republic, embraced by a Dominica migrant population that was less class conscious and eager to embrace the music of home. Influenced by rock, R&B and modern popular genres, bachata remains a dominantly romantic music.
Aventura: The group that is currently holding sway over the hearts and minds of bachata lovers is Aventura from the Bronx. Even with the addition of some urban elements, their music remains firmly in the realm of traditional bachata and is helping to win more and more Latin music fans to this distinctive Dominican musical tradition.
If you're interested in a first-hand examination of the history of bachata, told by the artists that were instrumental to the genre's rise to international prominence, Luis Vargas' Santo Domingo Blues is a film not to be missed.
The current popularity of Latin Urban music is quite significant. In fact, this genre includes some of the most famous Latin music artists and performers around the world. Artists such as Calle 13, Daddy Yankee, Ana Tijoux, and Wisin y Yandel belong to this music style. Let's take a look at some of the most influential Latin Urban stars.
Mala Rodriguez: Spanish singer La Mala Rodriguez became the first female artist to receive the Latin Grammy Award for Best Urban Song. She owes that trophy to her hit song "No Pidas Perdon" included in the album Dirty Bailarina. Her style is mainly defined by Hip-Hop sounds.
Orishas: Orishas brought something totally different to Latin music producing amazing tracks that combined Rap and Hip-Hop with traditional Cuban rhythms in a very innovative way, which was quite different from Puerto Rican Reggaeton. If you are looking for a classic Latin Urban music album, you better get your hands on Orisha's A Lo Cubano.
Romeo Santos: Before moving into a solo career, Romeo Santos had reached the top of the world as a lead singer of the Bachata boy band sensation Aventura. Although his music falls into the grounds of Bachata, Romeo Santos is also an artist that belongs to the Urban field thanks to the Latin Pop and R&B sounds he has incorporated into his latest songs. His single "Promise," featuring Usher, is a good example of the Urban appeal Romeo Santos is building around his music.
Tego Calderon: Tego Calderon is one of the most iconic artists of Reggaeton music. He is one of the artists that has remained loyal to the original sound of Reggaeton. His debut album El Abayarde created a music star out of this Puerto Rican artist. Some of his best songs include "Pa' Que Retozen," "Metele Sazon" and "Punto Y Aparte".
Tito El Bambino: Since the late 1990s, Tito El Bambino has been defining the sounds of Reggaeton and Latin Urban music. Before moving into a solo career, Tito El Bambino produced various hits while he was a member of the duo Hector Y Tito. After the duo experience, Tito El Bambino has produced new music that combines Reggaeton with other genres including Latin Pop and Merengue. His hit song "Llueve El Amor" reflects the new influences Tito El Bambino has brought to his Urban style.
Chino y Nacho: With their music, Chino y Nacho are also shaping the sounds of the Latin Urban genre. This Venezuelan duo combines a romantic style with all kinds of rhythms ranging from Reggaeton and Rap to Salsa and Merengue. Their single "Niña Bonita" was the breaking point that launched this duo to the international scene.
Ana Tijoux: Chilean rapper Anita Tijoux is one of the most interesting stars of the Latin Urban field. Her music is defined by the sounds of Hip-Hop and her elegant rapping flow. Her album La Bala consolidated this singer as a leading star in the Urban and Latin Alternatice fields.
Pitbull: Pitbull is one of today's most popular Latin Urban music artists. This Cuban-American rapper has consolidated a unique style that combines Rap, Dance and Latin Pop music. Recently, he has produced various hit singles alongside stars like Shakira ("Rabiosa"), Enrique Iglesias ("I Like It") and Marc Anthony ("Rain Over Me").
Daddy Yankee: This Puerto Rican artist has created a whole brand around himself. Daddy Yankee is, in fact, one of the most influential Latin Urban music artists today. Although his sound was mostly Reggaeton at the beginning, his latest works have been influenced by other rhythms such as Dance music and Merengue. Hit songs by Daddy Yankee include "Lo Que Paso, Paso," "La Despedida" and "Gasolina," one of the best Reggaeton songs of all time.
Wisin y Yandel: Wisin Y Yandel are the most popular duo in Latin Urban music. These Puerto Rican artists gained worldwide exposure with their album P'al Mundo, which included hit songs like "Rakata," and "Noche De Sexo". Although their style is mainly defined by Reggaeton, the duo has also borrowed influences from Hip-Hop.
Calle 13: If there is one name that defines Latin Urban music in a perfect way, that name is Calle 13. Since the release of their hit album Residente o Visitante, this Puerto Rican duo has dominated the Urban genre for the past five years. That production included "Atrevete te te," one of the most popular songs of the Latin Urban music scene. Calle 13's album Entren Los Que Quieran received 10 nominations for the 2011 Latin Grammy Awards. Their music combines Reggaeton with various music styles.
Don Omar: Don Omar gained worldwide fame as a Reggaeton superstar right from his very first album The Last Don. Since then, this Puerto Rican artist has been constantly producing hit after hit. Despite being influenced mostly by Reggaeton, Don Omar has also became an innovative artists whose music includes all kinds of rhythms. The video of his hit single "Danza Kuduro" has become the most watched video for an artist in Spanish language in YouTube.
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