The music of the Dominican Republic describes its people, passionate and lively. One of the country’s most popular genres is merengue. Native to the Dominican Republic, merengue incorporates swift beats from the güira scraper, maracas percussion, accordion, tambora drum and saxophone to get the hips moving.
The aggressive Caribbean sound is believed to have influences from Haiti and Africa, but many prefer to exclude these theories, as Dominicans normally denounce any ties to either country. The genre’s pioneer was Johnny Ventura or “El Caballo”. In the 1960’s he successfully brought merengue to an international stage and paved the way for current popular artists like: Sergio Vargas, Milly Quezada, Ruby Perez and El Jefrey.
Like merengue, the Dominican form of music known as bachata is homegrown and part of the nation’s popular culture. Known for its high pitched guitar sound, bachata is normally played with a guiro scraper, bongo drums, claves (hardwood sticks used for percussion) and one or two guitars. The music style was originally considered “Bolero” (slow paced Latin love song), but after taking on influences from merengue, son and ranchera; bachata developed a style all its own. In 1961, Jose Manuel Calderon recorded what many consider the first bachata singles with “Borracho de Amor” and “Que Sera de mi”. Today, recognized names such as Anthony Santos, Frank Reyes, Aventura and Yoskar Sarante fill the airwaves. Although bachata is a home grown music, in general, Dominicans are puzzled when foreigners visit with bachata spins on the dance floor. For the most part, Dominican dance Bachata “pegao” (very close) with no spins.
Salsa also has a large following in the Dominican Republic but it is not rare to see the dance floor clear when a salsa song is played. In general, Dominicans are more comfortable dancing merengue and bachata. So, if you really want to impress the dance floor, polish up on your salsa steps before visiting the Dominican Republic. Two of the better known Dominican salseros are Sexappeal and Michel.
Much of the county’s youth has adopted more modern forms of music like reggaeton, electronic, rock and hip-hop. Another fairly new genre with a very large following is “mambo callejero” or street mambo. The very popular, Omega, is by far the most influential and popular singer in the genre at the present moment.
Out and about in Punta Cana, you’ll find a mix of every genre at the clubs. Some clubs have sections for specific music, but in general, you’ll listen to an entire scope of music from Latin beats, to reggaeton, to electronic and hip-hop.
TJ MurrayBavaro, Dominican Republic
TJ Murray is a writer/photographer and an expert on travel in the Dominican Republic. He has wandered the country's furthest reaches and smallest corners and has a passion for highlighting his favorite destinations through travel articles and photography. When TJ isn't traveling in the Dominican Republic, he is trekking in South America or surfing where he lives in Bavaro, Dominican Republic.