"[A]n important work on many levels. [Hernandez'] writings trace the impact of political upheaval and rural migration on the development of bachata and Dominican music in general [and analyze] issues of sex and gender as expressed by bachata's mostly male interpreters." --New York Latino "Deep in the shadow of the glamorous merengue, the Dominican Republic has nurtured a music called bachata whose history parallels the blues'. With consummate skill, Deborah Pacini Hernandez sorts out the many forces that have shaped this style from the bottom up. This book is an explanatory wonder that integrates music, politics, geography, history, media, global and local culture." --Charles Keil, State University of New York at Buffalo, author of Urban Blues and Polka Happiness "This is a profound contribution to the understanding of contemporary Latin American and Caribbean culture. Pacini uses her study of a dynamic and increasingly popular form of Dominican music to draw a remarkable portrait of a society in transition. Combining the best in modern cultural theory with an intimate familiarity with grassroots culture, Pacini's book provides unique and richly nuanced perspectives on the vicissitudes of modernization and urbanization." --Peter Manuel, City University of New York, author of Caribbean Currents: Caribbean Music from Rumba to Reggae
Like rap in the United States, bachata began as a music of the poor and dispossessed. Originating in the shantytowns of the Dominican Republic, it reflects the social and economic dislocation of the poorest Dominicans. Derived from the Latin American tradition of guitar music, bachata emerged in the 1960s only to be denigrated by the media, mainstream musicians, and middle- and upper-class Dominicans, mainly because the lyrics often about hard drinking, women troubles, illicit sex, and male bravado were considered vulgar and worthless. While popular radio filled the air waves with merengue and salsa, bachata musicians were forced to develop their own system of producing and distributing their music. Not until Juan Luis Guerra won a Grammy in 1992 for his album "Bachata Rosa" did bachata gain legitimacy and international recognition. Deborah Pacini Hernandez traces the impact of political upheaval and rural migrations on the development of bachata and the Dominican music industry. Her multi-disciplinary study analyzes the changing attitudes about bachata and its principal musical competitor, merengue.
She considers issues of sex and gender as perceived and expressed by bachata's mostly male musicians, especially in the context of changing patterns of marriage. Exploring how bachata like rap became respectable and even fashionable, Pacini Hernandez offers a unique perspective of five decades of social, economic, and political change in the Dominican Republic. Deborah Pacini Hernandez is Assistant Professor and Associate Director at the Center for Latin American Studies, University of Florida.