Posts in Dominican Republic
You've Come A Long Way Bachata

Que Fria! By Randy OrtizFrom the dusty floors of the local Dominican dive to sold out seats in Madison Square Garden, Bachata has seen it's fair share of criticism and huge success throughout its history. I remember the big Bachata boom and when I first started liking it (early 90's) where it welcomed acts like Antony Santos and Luis Vargas amongst others, also the overall opinion folks had in DR years ago told by my father. He used the term "música de barra" which translates to bar music, according to him you would only hear that in places where the alcohol runs as loose as the women did. Not necessarily family friendly or a place that people spoke highly of, it was embraced by campesinos and mostly ignored by middle-class or those with money. In recent years it has skyrocketed into something that goes beyond being enjoyed only by Dominicans or Latino people.

Bachata songs are mostly about heartbreak or love and some have incorporated more modern-day electronic instruments into its bitter-sweet sound as well, to best compare the type of lyric or basis you can say it's our version of country music or Blues. From its beginnings and ties to the bars it was perfect to go along with your visit to heartbreak city, it was also looked down upon in society due to its nature and sound. It went under the same bashing/scrutiny Rock, Punk and Hip-Hop went thru and some people from older generations still won't think of it as good music. When you first listen to a Bachata song the first thing that you'll notice is the high-pitched guitar play and bass which dictate the dancing rhythm (step 1, 2, 3 front, step 1, 2, 3 back) and swaying of the dance floor. By the time the 90's came around it already went thru certain transitions, from bar music to double entendre (Luis Segura comes to mind) to highly requested party music and now stadium acts.

It's gone from Ramon Cordero being the faint backdrop sounds of a heartbroken man looking down at a bottle to Romeo Santos selling out MSG and the concert being played on HBO, quite a gigantic feat for a genre from a small tropical country. Now you see people from all sorts of backgrounds AND countries enjoying what many of us have been for quite some time, no longer is its home a place of sadness and despair. I'm sure the roots were firmly placed in releasing the pain from within but now it's all sorts of emotions and stories, it can be highly infectious and loved once heard.

It shows the power of music and natural progression of society embracing something which was unnecessarily frowned upon and that my friends is a beautiful thing.

The Kids of Los Salados

LS_ECOn Presidents Day we found ourselves in Dominican Republic driving around one of the most dangerous and often (purposely) forgotten neighborhoods in Santiago called Los Salados finally visiting 'El Comedor'. Los Salados is a town where drug spots are plenty and the violence is akin to the showdowns in the old west. It's not really a place where tourism is booming, the sound of guns and 'puntos' is home to the kids there. We visited the group of children that we usually donate school supplies, bikes or whatever they currently need to make it. This was the first time we were going to meet them in person and both my wife and I were super excited.

EC_LS2We were greeted by a small group of kids as they worked on an art project, respectful little ones placed in bad circumstances. While sitting there we saw the good the bad and the worst and it bought us a moment of sadness mixed in with joy. After the group finished their name plate project we had a chance to interact with a few and while some immensely shy, you can tell these were good kids deep down that got dealt a shitty set of cards. It was lunchtime and some of the older school kids were starting to arrive in their uniforms (blue shirts and khaki pants), as they came in they passed by giving us the innocent curious side glance wondering who we were. We had a little girl immediately come to us and said "welcome to 'El Comedor', I hope you enjoy your time here", one kid even asked me what team I was from in the NBA... I chuckled and told him I was just tall but I don't think he believed me. There was also Andy... quite a handful but the overall opinion was that he was Autistic, we didn't know for sure because his mom didn't have enough to take him and get examined but the signs were there.

EC_LS1 As the two dedicated cooks were preparing lunch for the kids (rice, beans and insanely delicious coleslaw, donated water) my wife and I fixed up the bags we bought the children with school supplies and candy or merienda. Before eating there was a prayer and then down the hatch it all went, we sat there wondering what breakfast they had if any or what was their previous meal. To sit there and see these kids eating and appreciating every single grain of rice was heartbreaking because it showed how little they have and how much we have here. After lunch was done they sat on a long bench and we started to give out the little bags we brought, they lit up and damn near made us tear with happiness. To know that we can give and add something positive to these kids is amazing, to see it in person and their vivid reactions is a true blessing.

EC_LS3 After the baggie giveaway kids were being kids, they were running around, trading candy with each other and the ever-present "he doesn't want to share it with me!" haha. Andy stomped on a few Hersey Kisses thinking they were bang snaps, little boys were trading the Avengers pop rock candy for different heroes, some came back for more candy obviously and all was well. They all said thank you and after hanging out for a while longer they started to go back to their reality, us wishing we could keep them in this temporary happy state longer and sad to see them off. We left with a few more questions, hopefully future answers and glad we saw them in person, now it's time to get more of what they need and send it over! We have been blessed with our fortunate lives and to help others that are worse off only makes sense, if you can do the same or even a little, do it because it will make a difference no matter how little you think it is.

We ALL need to do our part in this world for a better future and realize when we have it good.

What's Going On Dominican Republic?!

Image courtesy of WGMeetsToday is a bit saddening... I've been reading a good deal of DR news and media issues going around recently, unfortunately it seems that Dominican Republic is in need of some major society help and restructuring now more than ever. It doesn't help that there's a poverty issue as well, the youth concentrate on materialistic ideals and certain media personalities are acting a fool publicly. Couple these issues in with lack of knowledge in certain instances and you can have a major problem with delinquency, energy spent on the wrong things and shameful portrayals in the media. It truly makes me sad to see this unfolding because it's a beautiful country and I know my Dominicans are better than this. We tend to be a bit loud and usually ready to party but in the end you will find people who are kind, honest, family oriented and always willing to help someone. Certain family ideals are being tossed out the window because money is at dire need, dishonest (muggings, robbery, drugs) work is rampant at an alarming rate from what I keep seeing/reading... but where do you go and make things better? More and more kids are hitting the streets with horrible (if any) schooling and bad intentions, I think it might be wise to concentrate on getting thru to them before we try the adults. Corruption in government isn't new especially in the Dominican Republic but with strong young voices in positive action, I think things can start to turn around for the better and much of the crime can turn towards a productive future which can disseminate throughout the country. Yes the adults are the ones in positions to dictate but the youth can truly make a change as it seems they are in control of society right now, the problem is that the older folk (set in their ways) just wrap it up with "damn kids messing everything up" but don't help or see why they do it. I am vowing to do my part to help with what I can from the US to the country I love so much and care about, I will be looking up resources to get something started over there for a brighter day for kids as they are the ones that will govern in the future.

If anyone has any information that would prove beneficial to this cause, please email us with it and hopefully less misguided youths stay in the streets. If you are an organization or group interested in collaborating feel free to inform us about your company or movement.

El Terror Luis Días... I Found It!

So today had just turned totally awesome. I found something that I got from Luis Días (El Terror) when I was getting lessons and practice from him to learn how to play the guitar at Rufi Records in Washington Heights. He is known as the Father of Dominican Rock and is responsible for a good amount of hits from Fernandito Villalona (one of the biggest from DR), composed with Juan Luis Guerra and other artists. I can't believe I found this and it was inside my Beatles Complete Scores book which makes sense. This is something that I personally can cherish and know that he also affected me in more than just hearing his music. I thought I lost all his paperwork and immensely happy that I found this!

It doesn't have his name on it at all but I know it's him and that's enough for me.

O Romeo Santos, Wherefore Art Thou Stylist

So Romeo Santos of the world famous Bachata band Aventura has gone solo and released his album which is mostly great, yet there is this annoyance I have with him or shall I say his stylist. Since the second Aventura album his wardrobe folks (or person) have been slowly chopping at his style to end up looking like a flamboyant 80's reject drug dealer. The music has gone from ok to fantastic and even has caught the attention of big artists Usher and even Lil Wayne (yeah I know...) but while his clothing has marginally improved, the whole tight suit and cheesy jackets are as bad as his "yessir" or "lemme find ouuuut!" quips. I think it's time to update that stylist or let them know they don't have to dress him all silly like that. It's part of the complete package as an artist to strive and show your best with what you also wear most times (esp. in Bachata), all I'm saying is let the brother look the part that he's in and not like a 'just got rich' hick with Pepe Jeans on. I'm a fan of Aventura and Romeo's music all the way but wow their fashion and design presentation has been underwhelming, at least their videos have gotten A LOT better. Check out one of my favorite videos below for 'Su Veneno,' it's the Bolero version of the Bachata hit which I think sounds better than the original in my opinion.