Songs In The Key Of… Dominican Republic

11 February, 2018 in Features, Interviews

Santo Domingo

Santo Domingo: the capital and largest city in the Dominican Republic. Pic: Jose Juan C/Wikimedia Commons

Santo Domingo-born singer-songwriter, formerly of super-group Gonzalez, Diego Mena takes us through a playlist of his country’s finest alt-rock artists

The Dominican Republic is not exactly known for its exquisite, first-rate crop of alternative music artists, and it should be. Music as a language in itself is the ultimate, boundless expression of the human essence and each and every one of the established and emerging creative forces listed here represent the Dominican ethos in an exotic, fun, intelligent, exciting neo mix of rhythms of worldwide appeal.

“The music of the end of last century is what is known in DR as the Alt Dom movement, and over the past few year it has experienced an exponential growth well worth paying attention to. Some of these great local non traditional talents have chosen to settle in other countries in the pursuit of global exposure and opportunities, and that only adds to the power of their craft and their message as true Dominican music rebels. After 14 years as a career musician in vibrant Santo Domingo, I find myself in Toronto for that very same reason.

“So here I give to you, in my view as a fellow singer-songwriter, in no particular order, the 10 best artists the Dominican Republic has to offer the world of indie rock music.”

To listen to the whole 10-track playlist in one go, check out the Songwriting Spotify Profile


LEONA – CAROLINA CAMACHO
“A mixture of Caribbean rhythms with Taino elements (Tainos were the native population of the island, still very palpable in the local folklore in every way). Delightfully innovative musical aesthetic filled with powerful African colors and flavour. Currently living in Mexico City, MX.”


RETUMBA – MULA
“Electronic trio, Dominican folklore meets beats and synthesizers. They have toured Colombia and Mexico with great success and are a staple and huge fan favorite on the Dominican festivals circuit.”


PLEGARIA – JONATAN PIÑA DULUC
“One third of former band El Trio, going solo in 2017 with Drip/Culebra, Jonatan surprises and breaks the mould with his organic and thoughtful instrumentation. A very interesting, innovative, experimental concept.”


PLÁTANO DE LA CIUDAD – EL GRAN PODER DE DIOSA
“A precise, perfect blend of folk, roots, ska, merengue and son (Cuban traditional music). A beautifully finished musical aesthetic and the definitive sound of what the new dominican music brand could end up sounding like worldwide in a not so distant future.”


SABANA DE LA MAR – ALEX FERREIRA Y EL FRENTE CARIBE
“One of the best known, beloved singer-songwriters of the new generation. Currently living in Spain, his work is applauded and recognised all over Latin America. His latest creative phase took him deep into the heart of the Dominican rural towns, to study and adopt the musical jewels hidden underneath and make them his own, much like what Dominican folklorist supreme Luis Diaz did before him. Clean, beautiful electric guitars bring merengue, bachata and son to the next level.”


LOVEWARE – BACAYNE
“Currently living in Barcelona, electronic music DJ and producer Genaro DeSantis presents his second musical project under this new name (previously called Tomadu). His style is defined by a powerful mix of synthesized bass, deep soulful beats and high melodic pulsations.”


VICEVERSA – SOLO FERNANDEZ
“These indie rockers are a local pubs and clubs favourite. They’re young and their style is refreshing and modern. Their first EP is recently out and consists of three good, solid songs, carefully, skillfully drafted – dance groove without forfeiting substance.”


LEAVE IT ALL – THE CAT LADY
“Another promising indie force from Santo Domingo, their style is minimalistic rock with outstanding, careful guitar work and lyrics in English. A great hope for international recognition. They have notoriously played the Isle of Light Festival and continue to solidify their stand and expand their fan base with every exquisite, unforgettable performance.”


EL MOSQUITERO – RICCIE ORIACH
“Some call him the natural heir of local modern folk icon Rita Indiana. His sound speaks for itself. Riccie emerges from the underworld of Alt Dom music and the elements of salsa, son and guaracha (an old rural Dominican rhythm) mixed with electric guitar distortions are his trademark – a sort of Hector Lavoe meets Chico Trujiillo. He tours the island regularly and his mass appeal attracts everyone, from music connoisseurs to the simplest of people.”


PARADISE – MAMEY GENIUS
“DJ, electronic producer and guitarist known for his distinctive use of effects pedals. This project by multi-talented Johnny Kamaleonic (formerly with auro&CLEMT and Tango Whisky Man) now presents himself in a more intimate format. He takes the stage surrounded by synthesizers, laptops, guitars and a drink at hand, giving his performance a cool, fun vibe.”


Diego MenaWith three acclaimed solo albums under his belt, plus the outing under local super-group Gonzalez, Diego Mena has solidified his position as one of his generation’s finest craftsmen of pop melodies in the Dominican indie music scene. Find out more at diegomena.net

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