Guest Author - Karin Norgard
Bachata originated in the bars and brothels of the Dominican Republic. A relatively newer social music and dance, it became recognized as a distinct music and dance genre in the early 1960s. The term bachata could refer to a lower-class party where bachata and other music was played; the word was also used as a derogatory term for trash, in reference to bachata's seedy beginnings. Originally associated with lewdness and the lower class, it gradually gained wider acceptance and has only more recently become popular and more mainstream. However, it still lags behind the more commercially viable salsa and merengue in popularity. It is said to have developed from the Cuban bolero, with many similarities to the blues.
The basic steps in bachata consist of a step-together-step-tap for every four beats of music. For example, the gentleman would begin with left-together-left-tap (the lady, as in most social dances, begins on the right foot) and then complete the same sequence beginning with the right foot. Women often lift or roll the inside hip on the fourth beat in place of the tap, and men may also do so to a lesser extent. The majority of Latinos and experienced Latin dancers often dance the steps in place, which allows the ladies in particular to dance with sensual rolling hip motion. Bachata usually does not include as many turns as the other Latin dances, but dancers often borrow turns from salsa and merengue and incorporate them into bachata.
Bachata music is recognized by the distinctive sound of the acoustic or electric guitar. The segunda, electric bass guitar, guira, and bongo drum round out the list of instruments that are typically featured in bachata. The introduction of the electric guitar to modern bachata increased its popularity and accessibility. Bachata sometimes includes English as well as Spanish lyrics, as with Aventura's 2002 crossover hit, Obsesión. A lot of today's popular bachata music is fused with R&B, hip hop, rap and reggaeton. The majority of bachata singers and bands are male, as is typically the case with Latin music genres. A few of the most popular bachata artists and groups today include Aventura, Monchy & Alexandra, and Anthony Santos.
To get familiar with today's most popular bachata music and artists, get Bachata #1's, a compilation CD with some of today's best bachata hits. To read the only book that covers the history of this Dominican dance, read Bachata: A Social History of Dominican Popular Music by Deborah Hernandez. To review and/or purchase, click the links below.