Two new records celebrate Dominican bachata

The nations of the Caribbean have given the world an incredible range of musical styles from Trinidadian calypso to Jamaican reggae. Bachata is the Dominican Republic’s contribution to world music. Iaso Records recently released two albums from the golden age of bachata.

The first, Bachata Roja: Amor y Amargue, is s collection of hits that first appeared on 45-rpm singles back in the early 1980s. The sound quality varies since some of these recordings were done with a single microphone, but the earthy sounds that remind me of Cuban acoustic music jump out of your speakers.

Bachata is taking urban America by storm, but the music that has been tearing up the airwaves is the modern, electric music made famous by Aventura. The traditional songs on Bachata Roja: Amor y Amargue focus on the emotions of the vocals, precise percussion and the stunning acoustic guitar work that punctuates each tune.

The second release is called The Bachata Legends. The producers took the best singers and instrumentalists in the traditional style and put them in a modern recording studio. While hearing the classic versions is like an auditory history lesson, the new recordings stand alone with some of the best music I have heard in quite some time. Amazingly, it’s the first time that traditional bachata has been presented in high fidelity.

Edilio Paredes’ guitar work is incredible. He weaves filigreed lines that ooze soul around superb vocals with choruses that float like a doo-wop group on the corner. The rest of the band are no slouches either. Paredes’ sons play bass and percussion, proving that music runs in the family. The only downside to these recordings is my lack of fluency in Spanish. I can only imagine how this music must move a native speaker.

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