Sound Field


Bachata: Why You’re Hearing This Dominican Rhythm Everywhere

Bachata music comes from the Dominican Republic in the 1960's but thanks to newer acts like Romeo Santos and Aventura, has blown up internationally. We visited the Mexican-American band La Santa Cecilia to learn how they mix latin genres with pop and rock. Join Nahre in learning about this distinctly latin rhythm as she attempts to create her own bachata fusion song.

AIRED: January 03, 2020 | 0:09:29

(plucky music)

- [Narrator] We visited the Los Angeles

based band La Santa Cecilia

at their concert in New York to talk about

their single, "Winning", which uses elements

from Bachata as background for a poem

about the evils of social media.

- I wear rainbows as skirts,

two cowboys build a fire,

there's a guy eating a flower--

- Describing "Winning" musically, huh?

- Yeah, it's like a, like a pop-rock,

Bachata, spoken word.

- Punk rock. - Punky, rocky song.

- So what is Bachata?

- Bachata is a Latin American music genre

from the Dominican republic that is

rising in popularity across the world.

Just look at bachatero Romeo Santos,

the face of Bachata for many.

(singing in foreign language)

He has billions of views on YouTube,

and he's performed a sold out show to 80,000 fans

at New Jersey's MetLife Stadium.

I have to admit I had never heard of Bachata before

and especially with the genre's blurring,

it's kind of hard to tell what exactly is Bachata or not.

Later on I'm going to attempt to create

my own Bachata track, but first let's break down

the musical DNA of what makes Bachata, Bachata.

(bachata music)

We interviewed La Santa Cecilia about

how Bachata has inspired them.

This is what they have to say.

- To me Bachata is like, like, a bolero,

and I grew up singing boleros with Pepe,

that's, I mean, that's what we played when we were younger.

All these beautiful romantic ballads,

and he plays a requinto and,

but it's also very (speaking foreign language),

it's traditional, right, too so...

- Definitely traditional.

It's like a Caribbean kind of rhythm,

- Yeah, yeah!

I mean, there's a lot of artists like

Juan Luis Guerra who has been an influence for us,

and it's just like a danceable kind of rhythm

that we're used to.

- It's music that's played in cantinas

where people are drinking and feeling things in a very,

like, sensual, sometimes passionate,

very meaningful way,

so, it's like music that men listen to and cry

and dance, and, you know,

it's kind of one of those kind of

like Bohemia kind of things

that inspires us a lot in the band.

(slow Bachata music) Yeah, because the, the main feature

on the verses is a spoken word part,

and then, and then if you're listening carefully,

you'll notice that there's a Bachata

rhythm underneath the verse.

(all laughing)

- Can I borrow those?

Come on, come on!


- Thanks, appreciate it.

- Thanks, baby.

(bright music)

- So where did Bachata come from?

It was born in the Dominican Republic,

and for much of its history,

it wasn't held in such high regard.

In those days, Bachata songs used

acoustic instruments, like this.

(lively singing in foreign language)

(lively singing in foreign language)

(lively singing in foreign language)

From 1930 until 196one

the Dominican Republic was under the control

of dictator Rafael Trujillo.

During his three decade rule,

Trujillo censored a lot of the creative arts,

and only sanctioned music was recorded.

During this time, however,

a live music scene flourished,

and this is where Bachata was born.

Within six months of Trujillo's assassination in 196one

the first Bachata track was recorded

by Jose Manuel Calderon.

These early Bachata songs used equipment

recovered from government radio stations.

Listen to this early track by Rafael Encarnacion.

(lively singing in foreign language)

This song has a one, six, two, five, one chord progression

which is a common chord progression

found in Bachata music.

At the time, though, the music wasn't

yet known as Bachata,

instead it was considered to be a form of bolero,

which is an older, Latin style of music

that has similarities to a jazz ballad.

A defining feature of this is the bass line

with this type of rhythm.

(bright piano music)

Which emphasizes the, and three, four,

(bright piano music)

(lively singing in foreign language)

These uniquely Dominican bolero songs

were given the name Bachata

by the upper class to disparage the music.

The word Bachata is Caribbean Spanish for an informal party.

During this time, Bachata music was often

associated with poverty, crime, and sensuality,

and found little air time on the radio or television.

Another ingredient in Bachata is the rhythm,

commonly known as El Martillo, or The Hammer.

Commonly played on the Bongos,

it has a lot in common with the Bongo rhythm of bolero.

Unlike most rhythms, it emphasizes

the four instead of the one.

(bright music)

When Bachata modernized, its guitar solos

began to employ Mambos,

or short, repeating rhythmic melodies.

You can also call them grooves.

Bachata is music intended for dancing.

Where old fashioned Bachatas were danced more slowly,

the introduction of these Mambos

made it possible for dancers to enjoy Bolero's

sensual romanticism, and Meringue's upbeat energy

within the same song.

Listen for the mambos played by Antony Santos,

a defining figure in the evolution

of modern, electric Bachata.

(bright music)

(lively singing in foreign language)

Another important aspect of modern Bachata

is a rhythmic pattern commonly played by the lead guitar.

It's arpeggiating triads,

and it goes one, two, three, one, two, three, two, three.

One, two, three, one, two, three, two, three.

It's unique because it's dividing

the group of four quarter note beats

into two groups of three eighth notes.

One, two, three, one, two, three.

Plus a group of two eighth notes,

Two, three.

One, two, three, one, two, three, two, three.

And as you can hear,

it's naturally emphasizing the fourth beat.

(lively singing in foreign language)

That arpeggiation has become a signature element in Bachata.

Listen to it in Medicina De Amor, by Raulin Rodriguez.

(lively singing in foreign language)

In the 1990's, Bachata went through another big shift.

Aventura, a New York band led by Romeo Santos,

fused Bachata with Hip Hop, R&B, and Rock,

and even sprinkled English into the lyrics.

The result was a new urban style of Bachata.

(lively singing in foreign language)

With Aventura's success,

Bachata became an overnight, world-wide pop sensation.

The urban style of Bachata, centered around New York City,

has since dominated over Bachata's

expanding, world-wide audience.

Many fans of Bachata outside of the Dominican Republic

don't even realize that other forms of it exist.

So what's next for Bachata?

It's not going to stop evolving, that's for sure.

Nowadays, artists are recording

bachatas also in English and Italian,

and many are reinterpreting pop songs

from various traditions with Bachata rhythms

For example, another bachatero from New York City,

Prince Royce, has a major hit

of a Bachata version of "Stand By Me" by Ben E. King

♪ When the night has come ♪

Some Bachata fusions are more experimental.

Let's go back to "Winning", by La Santa Cecilia.

Upon first listen, it sounds nothing like

the bachatas we've listened to so far.

But it contains many of the elements that we mentioned.

For example, it has the one, two, three,

one, two, three, two, three

arepeggiated pattern played by the guitars.

It also has the one six, two, five, one chord progression

and there's even a bongo playing a Bachata beat.

♪ No filter, chocolate, strawberry shakes, follow me ♪

♪ New year send me ♪

(lively singing in foreign language)

♪ GoFundMe, your post has been deleted ♪

♪ #Winning ♪

♪I can find no inspiration, neverending information ♪

♪ Always stuck in purgatory ♪

♪ 'Cause I'm addicted to your story ♪

In the spirit of fusion I'm going to remix the song

"Kriye Kriye" into a chiptune track

inspired by retro video game music.

I think a lot of the patterns and progressions used,

(keyboard notes chiming)

will fit really nicely with this kind of sound.

(lively retro video game music)

If you liked this episode and want more,

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