The Rhythm of the People: A Glimpse into the History of Dominican Bachata

The beginning was rough.

Dominican bachata is a captivating and rhythmic music and dance genre that is an integral part of Dominican Republic’s culture. We believe that the bachata we know today was born nearly a century ago and was popular in the villages and rural areas of the Dominican Republic. Initially, bachata was a local form of music through which people could share their struggles, joys, and heartaches. Essentially, it was the music of ordinary people, and they sang about love, loss, and everyday life.

An interesting fact is that early bachata was very different from the music we know today. Not only were the instruments different—such as maracas, bongo drums, and acoustic guitar—but the lyrics were often quite harsh and, at times, even vulgar, lacking lyrical or sentimental context. In simple terms, bachata was initially stigmatized and not considered high-quality or valuable music.

How it all Turned Around:

In the 1980s, bachata underwent a transformation. Artists like Juan Luis Guerra infused elements of merengue and pop into the genre, giving it a more polished sound and making it appealing to a broader audience.

Native artists like Juan Luis Guerra and Juan Soriano also began to write more lyrical and sentimental lyrics, giving the music a much more refined and beautiful meaning. Great examples of songs like these are «Bendita Tu Luz» by Juan Luis Guerra and «Que Pasará Mañana» by Juan Soriano, which have truly captivating lyrics that beautifully express the feeling of being in love with someone. This modernization helped bachata move away from its negative associations and gain people’s acceptance.

Want to hear how bachata sounded at the time? Try listening to artists like Juan Soriano, Juan Luis Guerra, Hector Acosta El Torito and Kiko Rodriguez.

Influences on Dominican Bachata:

Dominican bachata, while having its unique roots and characteristics, has been influenced by several other dance forms and musical styles over the years. Some of the key influences include bolero and merengue. The bolero, a slow-tempo Latin dance and music style, has had a significant impact on the development of bachata. Bachata’s early roots show similarities to bolero music, particularly in its romantic themes and melodies. The Dominican Republic’s national dance, merengue, has influenced bachata’s rhythm and musical structure. This influence can be heard in the lively beat and syncopation of bachata music.

Bachata as We Know It Today:

Since the 1980s, bachata has gone through its most significant evolution! It became a global sensation in the 1990s and 2000s, leaving its homeland, the Dominican Republic, to influence the worldwide dancing and music scene. Many modern artists began creating bachata songs with electronic elements and often featuring romantic and highly danceable tunes.

One of the most memorable contributions to this era was Aventura’s hit «Obsession.» Another song with a very similar sound and closer to modern bachata, «Te Extrano» by Xtreme, was released around the same time.
To add to the global interest, a couple of now-famous dancers, Ataca and Alemana, recorded a bachata dance to “Obsession”. The video was published on YouTube in 2009—over 15 years ago—and became a worldwide sensation. Today, this dance has been viewed more than 101 million times! Ataca and Alemana are now world-renowned bachata choreographers and performers, credited with shaping the basic bachata step as we know it today: 1-2-3-tap.
​In the following years, bachata dance continued to be influenced by many other great dancers and choreographers, such as Korke and Judith, the creators of Bachata Sensual.

Today, bachata is not only celebrated in the Dominican Republic but has become an international phenomenon. It’s an essential part of Latin dance culture, with enthusiasts and dancers from all around the world embracing its sultry rhythms and lively dance steps. The history of Dominican bachata is a testament to its resilience and its ability to bridge cultures, bringing people together through its entrancing melodies and inviting dance beats.

Ewa Trela

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