Romantic Music and Songs
The bolero makes up part of the abundant treasure of romantic compositions of the Dominican Republic. It is to be noted that long before this style as a genre, and specifically since the middle of the 19th century, this type of Dominican composition, with tightly woven melodies and lyrics with a refined poetic sense, is highlighted in documents of the era. Composers, whose names have been forgotten in history, wrote a collection of songs called the “Romanzas” (Romances). We have these beautiful pages of lyricism thanks to their careful collection by Professor José Dolores Cerón. They were also recently researched and connected with their authors by the academic and musicologist Miguel Holguin Veras.
Later, beginning in the thirties, new popular compositions categorized as boleros appeared in the country written by esteemed authors. Three of them have reached the highest pinnacle of respect in the Dominican musical realm for their permanence over time: Luan Lockward, Salvador Sturla and Manuel Sánchez Acosta. Throughout the following decade and supported by the Voz Dominicana, the national radio station, the country was introduced to a flood of prolific composers of songs and boleros whose cultural richness remains untouched by the effects of time and generations, unlike the newer trends, though they may seem to penetrate the culture more deeply.
From then on, the production of ballads and romantic boleros has remained constant, in number as well as in quality. One must understand, however, the challenge that music faces in a general sense, with a world in crisis, full of transformational events, one after the other. The musician-composer works under the inescapable influence of technological currents, fascinating and at the same time disturbing, that impose consumer desires at odds with creative thought. This conflict is even more notable in the realm of popular music, with all the weight of the market that restricts and manipulates it.
Santo Domingo has offered its answer to the challenges and objections of the restless society of today, joining lyrics of intense love or of suffering and abandonment with the simple melodies of yesterday, without pretentious or complex harmonies. The genre called bachata has caused the best and unanticipated impressions in other latitudes, even in the furthest ones, though always under the protection of the communities of Dominicans abroad, who stand together with their hearts still fixed firmly in the country.
The bachata sings and weeps, though more the latter than the former, because in sadness lies its best weapon of penetration. It is, in effect, a cultural expression that, before being disdained by academics and music purists, should be pondered by all. And it should be contemplated even more by those who study social movements and responses of the people when their individual and citizen interests are challenged by the harsh difficulties of life.
By: Rafael Solano, Santo Domingo. Summer 2005