We offer Bachata classes as part of our 6 week courses usually Wednesday nights in Watford. Our special Latin dance workshops cover Bachata and Cha cha cha as well.
History of Bachata
Bachata is popular guitar music from the Dominican Republic. Now overwhelmingly successful among Latinos in the United States and worldwide, Bachata took shape over a period of about forty years in the bars and brothels of Santo Domingo, not gaining acceptance in its native land until about ten years ago. Young groups like Aventura have a similar relationship to original Bachata as Rock Bands do to the blues, which has languished in the shadow of its more commercially viable descendant. The word Bachata originally denoted an informal party where guitar music was generally played—only later did it come to signify the music itself, and then in a denigrating manner. Bachata began to be associated with another world, that of prostitution, poverty and delinquency. The reasons for this are many and complex and involve the conflicts within Dominican society around poverty and wealth, tradition and modernity, as well as genuine bad faith on the part of other elements in the music industry. So strong was the stigma against Bachata that only one national radio station would play it. While this situation was deplorable and extremely difficult for the musicians involved, it also helped to consolidate the genre. Confined to the brothel and the neighbourhood, Bachata began to tell the stories of that world, the experiences of the lover of a prostitute, the poor country boy who gets to the city and gets ripped off, the plight of the barrio dweller without light or water—all replete with slang and sexual double entendre. From about 1970 to about 1990, Bachata was thoroughly unique among Latin American musical genres in its free expression of the underground life of a nation. This free expression naturally provoked even more fiercely the contempt of the Dominican mainstream., Bachata is listened to throughout Latin America, and is probably the most popular kind of Latin music in New York City today. It has been fused with other styles, like Vallenato (Monchy y Alexandra, among others) and R&B (Aventura), with great success. After Durán’s innovation bachata’s popularity began to soar, as Anthony Santos and other bachateros used the new style to record more acceptable, romantic songs. The influence of merengue became marked in the rhythm and the guitar lines of the music, and in fact modern bachata was first made popular by the bachateros’ merengues rather than by their bachatas.
Several middle class musicians, notably Juan Luis Guerra, also experimented with the form, and were so successful that the music began to be accepted by all sectors of society. In its current form, bachata is listened to throughout Latin America, and is probably the most popular kind of Latin music in New York City today. It has been fused with other styles, like vallenato (Monchy y Alexandra, among others) and R&B (Aventura), with great success. . In fact, the parallel between bachata and the blues is marked. Although bachata developed out of, and bachateros play, a variety of different rhythms, notably including merengue, the music which is specifically called bachata is a variant of the bolero. The bolero in Latin culture has traditionally been a romantic music, dealing with themes like deception and lost love. The bachatero, like the bluesman, sings about pain and trouble; one difference, though, is that while the bluesman hops on a southbound freight and keeps moving, the bachatero gets as far as the neighborhood bar and looks for solace in a bottle of rum in a dark corner! The genre has passed through several phases since José Manuel Calderón recorded what is generally recognized as the first bachata single (“Borracho de amor” and “Que será de mi (Condena)”) in 1961. Indeed, long before Calderón, guitar music was the music of choice in the places of ill repute which became home to Bachata. The guitar and guitar music like bolero and son were also the staples of the campo, the countryside, and with the death of dictator Rafael Trujillo in 1961 a number of musicians left the campo to record in the capital. The dictator’s family had virtually monopolized the music industry in the country, and when he was killed entrepreneurs began recording the first generation of bachateros. At this point the music was not yet referred to as bachata, but rather as “bolero campesino”. The word Bachata originally denoted an informal party where guitar music was generally played—only later did it come to signify the music itself, and then in a denigrating manner. When Calderón recorded, Bachata was essentially a type of bolero, very little different from the Puerto Rican, Ecuadorian, Mexican and Peruvian music that inspired it. In subsequent years, the music began to define itself as a genre which, while still based principally on the bolero rhythm, is easily distinguishable from it. In order to understand these changes it is useful to divide the genre into the following categories, each of which roughly corresponds to a time period: