This Rough Guide presents two essential beats from the Dominican Republic, merengue and bachata. With its driving 2/4 beat, merengue’s sexy rhythms, the heart beat of the Dominican Republic’s streets, encourages hips to swing in every dance hall in the Latin Caribbean and its popularity has spread to the USA and South America. From the north of the island’s countryside comes, the largely undiscovered, bachata. This soulful music of the poor and lovers, with its guitar riffs reminiscent of Central Africa and emotional male vocals, is a Latin secret worth uncovering.
The collection opens with one of the Dominican Republic’s most famous performers Antony Santos and the vibrant merengue hit, ‘Cójelo Ahí’ (meaning ‘grab it there’) and closes with a tender song showing he is the king of bachata. Frank Reyes, small town boy turned international star of bachata and merengue, brings a frenzied merengue track. Eddy Herrera, one of merengue’s leading names shows off the famous falsetto voice in a big orchestration number proving how he gets the packed stadiums of Santo Domingo swinging. Another big-band merengue sound comes from Aramis Camilo y La Organización Secreta, great to dance to with lyrics full of tongue-in-cheek innuendo.
Further major stars of bachata are featured, such as Raulín Rodriguez, who has had chart hits in New York, Miami and Mexico and Luis Vargas, who started singing and playing aged nine and released his first single when bachata was emerging from the countryside back in 1981. Pedro Veras, from the home of bachata and a musical family (his brother is international bachata star, Joe Veras) delivers a hit from his successful solo album Vida Nueva.
A track from Blas Duran shows how Dominican street slang and the traditional rhythms of merengue and bachata have been influenced by reggae, hip-hop and house in recent years to form the popular ‘rap-a-rengue’.
This release also introduces previously unknown talent in the form of Samuelito Almonte y su Conjunto Típico, discovered by the album’s compiler Joan Shenton, TV producer and Dominican Republic expert. Samuelito is a master of the accordion and travels the countryside playing wherever there is a feast or fiesta, and here plays a rhythmically complex merengue.
This long awaited Rough Guide brings together the greats of merengue and bachata with talented new artists, to supply a pulsating collection introducing a piece of the Dominican Republic to dance floors around the world.