The History of Bachata and where it originated
Bachatas' history originated in the Dominican Republic. But it only got its name in the 1970s after a historically turbulent period.
The music, influenced by several musical elements, had very deep links to the Cuban Bolero. A very romantic music in which they sang about heartbreak, love stories and romances. Due to its guitar-heavy music, comparisons were often made with blues. A genre which dealt with similar topics at the time.
The distinctive rhythm and love songs were especially popular in the countryside. Here the latin-american music played in dodgy bars, questionable establishments and backyards.
Dictator Trujillo prohibited the rural vulgar music
Now the music spread from the countryside into the capital Santo Domingo. Something, Rafael Trujillo Molina wasn't happy about. The dictator of the Dominican Republican was a fan of Merengue and despised Bachata. Music pervaded by sexuality was't something that government or high society found acceptable. Bachata, now a worldwide known latin dance, became a forbidden music genre.
Music with unacceptable lyrics about sex and alcohol was an art form of low standing. This decision by Trujillo held back Bachata for decades. Only after he got killed in 1961, musicians started to create first official records.
How Bachata was born
While the music developed, its name followed much later. First known under Bolero or "guitar boleros" it was later known under the genre "amargue". A word you translate with "bitter" or "blues music", closing the circle to our earlier comparison. The word Bachata described a reunion or party. People would come together to dance on the street corner, in parks or behind the house. Yet very little we know about the start of the official Bachata name. Luis Seguar, one of the early Bachata artists said once:
"Here people call it bachata, but I don't know what they want to imply with that. Because for me they are not bachatas, but a music that I consider is ours, what we call romantic bolero. I don't know why they give it that name here, because I never call it bachata, but romantic song."
Bachata moves to radio stations and the US
After the downfall of the dictatorship came the rise of Bachata. The first bachata singles (“Borracho de amor” and “Que será de mi (Condena)”) came out in 1961 already. All around the country, radio stations started playing the music. And with the spreading of "Bachata" came also its success. Luis Segura's song "Pena" which became one of the most famous bachata songs of its time, gave it the final push. Until today his song is part of the Bachata history.
Many others followed his example: Blas Durán recorded the first music with an electric guitar in 1987. And artists like Anthony Santos or Juan Luis Guerra made Bachata socially acceptable. At that time Bachata had already migrated to the US. Up until the late 90s it became a huge hit on the US East coast. Especially in NY Bachata was able to attract latinos and Americans alike.
At that time many famous Bachata songs were created:
- Luis Segura - Pena (1964)
- Marino Perez - La esperaré bebiendo (1986)
- Blas Durán - Consejo a las mujeres (1989)
- Luis Vargas - El acurrucaito (1989)
- Juan Bautista - Asesina (1997)
- Antony Santos - Pegame Tu Vicio (1999)
- Frank Reyes - Tú eres ajena (2000)
- Aventura - Obsesión (2002)
- Dominic Marte - Ven tu (2004)
- Monchy & Alexandra - No es una novela (2006)
Bachata is taking over the world
Now the world was ready for Bachata and the band Aventura had its chance. Bachata became a worldwide phenomenon when the group landed a hit with the song "Obsesion" in 2002. From here on, Bachata spread and in the mid-2000's it attracted fans across the globe. This was also the time Bachata developed into new directions.
While traditional Dominican Bachata remained, other currents like Bachata Sensual, Moderna or Bachatango started to gain popularity. Now there are huge Bachata festivals as well as workshops and classes everywhere. Major artists with hundreds of thousands of fans tour around the world to spread the joy of Bachata to songs like:
- Romeo Santos - You (2011)
- Shakira & Prince Royce - Déjà vu (2017)
And since 2019 Bachata is on the list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, part of the UNESCO and therefore now true Bachata history.
What is typical Bachata music?
So, what is typical Bachata music? If you see the music genre as a band, you usually have at least 5 members.
The lead guitar, a rhythm and bass guitar, the famous bongos and the güira. The latter is a percussion instrument which looks a bit like a cheese grater. It gives the music the distinctive Bachata sound we all know and love.
- Bachata A Social History of a Dominican Popular Music - Deborah Pacini Hernandez (1995)
- Bachata and Dominican Identity - Julie A. Sellers (2014)
- The Dominican Republic: A National History - Frank Moya Pons (2010)