is a form of music and dance that originated in the countryside and
rural marginal neighborhoods of the Dominican Republic. Its
subjects are usually romantic; especially prevalent are tales of
heartbreak. The music is
in 4/4 timing and is influenced by rumba and Son, while remaining of
Derived from the Latin
American tradition of guitar music, bachata emerged in the 1960s.
While popular radio filled the air waves with meringue and salsa,
bachata musicians were forced to develop their own system of producing
and distributing their music. Juan
Luis Guerra won a Grammy in 1992 for his album Bachata Rosa
allowing bachata to gain legitimacy and international recognition. The
bachata that has gained popularity is produced with electronic
instruments and exhibits masterful use of the guitar. It is often
faster than its predecessors, and is very danceable; in recent years,
Dominican television stations have produced vastly popular bachata
dance contests for broadcast.
In 2004, the Dominican
group Aventura was probably the best known bachata group worldwide,
with its single "Obsession" having dominated for a long time
radio play both in major US latino markets, Puerto Rico, and the
Other artists of note
include Anthony Santos, Raulin Rodriguez, Zacarias Ferrera, and Joe
Veras, just to mention a few of the currently most popular.
For instruction on how to
perform basic Bachata, download and read the FREE document entitled
"Bachata Baisics and Lady's Turns.pdf".
The following text was taken from the book "Bachata, A social
history of a Dominican popular music", published by Temple
University Press in 1995, written by Deborah Pacini Hernandez.
The music that today is
called bachata emerged from a long-standing Latin American tradition
of guitar music, música de guitarra, which was typically
played by guitars with percussion provided by maracas and/or hardwood
sticks, bongo drums, or a gourd scraper. Sometimes
a large thumb bass was included as well. When
bachata emerged in the early 1960s, it was part of an important
subcategory of guitar music, romantic guitar music -as distinguished
from guitar music intended primarily for dancing.
As musicians began speeding up the rhythm and dancers developed
a new dance step, bachata began to be considered dance music as well.
musicians drew upon the Cuban bolero, Mexican rancheros and corridos,
Cuban son, guaracha and guajira, Puerto Rican plena
and jibaro music, and the Colombian-Ecuadorian vals
campesino and pasillo- as well as the Dominican merengue,
which was originally guitar-based.
the development of a Dominican recording industry and the spread of
the mass media, guitar-based bands were almost indispensable for a
variety of informal recreational events such as Sunday afternoon
parties and spontaneous gatherings that took place in back yards,
living rooms, or in the street that were known as bachatas. Dictionaries
of Latin American Spanish define the term bachata as something which denotes fun,
merriment, a good time, or a spree.
However, in the Dominican Republic, in addition to the
emotional quality of fun and enjoyment suggested by the dictionary
definition, it referred specifically to get-togethers that included
music, drink, and food.
The musicians who played at
bachatas were usually locals - friends and neighbors of the host,
Sometimes renowned musicians from farther away might be brought
in for a special occasion. Musicians
were normally paid only with food and drink, but a little money might
be given as well.
Parties were usually held on
Saturday night and would go on until dawn, at which time a traditional
soup was served to the remaining guests. Because
the music played at these gatherings was so often played on guitars,
the guitar-based music recorded in the 1960s and 1970s by musicians of
rural origins came to be known as bachata.
word bachata also had certain lower class associations - upper-class
parties would never be called bachatas. In
his book Al amor del bohío (1927), Ramón Emilio Jiménez, a
distinguished Dominican "man of letters" and "writer of
manners," described a bachata in terms that reflect how such
gatherings were associated by the elite with low-class debauchery and
"The ‘bachata’ is a center of attraction for all the men, where
the social classes as those who attend them are leveled and where the
coarsest and libertarian forms of democracy predominate. The
most elegant figures of the barrio are there, daring and audacious. The
setting of these dissolute pleasures is a small living room
impregnated by odors that seem conjured to challenge decency....In an
adjoining room a guitarist plucks and unleashes into the contaminated
air of the house (a) blazing street-level couplet, to which a singer
with a well-established reputation as a "second" makes a
duo, provisioned with a pair of spoons which he strikes to accompany
Among Dominicans there
is considerable disagreement as to exactly when the term bachata
came to refer to a particular kind of music. According
to bachata musicians themselves, it was in the 1970s that the
guitar-based music they recorded came to be identified by the term bachata,
which by then had lost its more neutral connotation of an informal (if
rowdy) backyard party and acquired an unmistakably negative cultural
value implying rural backwardness and vulgarity.
For example, on hearing one
of these recordings, a middle- or upper-class person might say
something like "¡Quítate esa bachat!" (Take that bachata
off!). By using the term
in this way, a style of guitar music made by poor rural musicians come
to be synonymous with low quality. The condemnation fell not only upon
the music and its performers, but upon its listeners as well; the term
bachatero was used for anyone who liked the music as well as for
musicians and was equally derogatory.
the late 1970s and 1980s, the worsening social and economic conditions
of bachata's urban and rural poor constituency were clearly reflected
in bachata. The
instruments remained the same, but the tempo had become noticeably
faster, and the formerly ultra-romantic lyrics inspired by the bolero
became more and more concerned with drinking, womanizing, and male
braggadocio, and increasingly, it began to express disparagement
As bachata's popularity with
the country's poorest citizens grew, the term bachata, which
earlier had suggested rural backwardness and low social status, became
loaded with a more complicated set of socially unacceptable features
that included illicit sex, violence, heavy alcohol use, and
disreputable social contexts such as seedy bars and brothels.
bachata was a musical pariah in its country of origin, the Dominican
Since its emergence in the
early 1960s, bachata, closely associated with poor rural migrants
residing in urban shantytowns, was considered too crude, too vulgar,
and too musically rustic to be allowed entrance into the mainstream
musical landscape. As
recently as 1988, no matter how many copies a bachata record may have
sold -and some bachata hits sold far more than most records by
socially acceptable merengue orchestras - no bachata record ever
appeared on a published hit parade list, received airplay on FM radio
stations in the country's capital Santo Domingo, or were sold in the
principal record stores. Bachata
musicians appeared only rarely on television and they performed only
in working-class clubs in the capital.
In contrast, even second rate
merengue orchestras were given lavish publicity and promotion, and
they entertained at posh private clubs and nightclubs.