Salsa and Afrocentric beats form the backbone of Dominican Republic’s music. But more and more genres are gaining popularity in the eastern half of Hispaniola. The Isle of Light festival in the capital of Santo Domingo brought together DJs, alt rockers, merengue legends and more. And dedicated music historians such as Irka Mateo are bringing time-honored traditions into the 21st century. Here are five bands and singers you need to know.
Playing what she calls “Mestizo music,” Irka Mateo has earned worldwide accolades for her dedication to the preservation of the Dominican Republic’s indigenous music. Her brassy voice and neon outfits accentuate the jumping taino drums and the Latin-tinged accordion. Songs such as “Vamo a Goza” twist and turn like a bird in the flight. Mateo is a peacock and one of the most substantive artists in the republic.
If you’re going to be a young gun in the rap game, you ought to pick an alias with might. Luis Sepulveda went full throttle with the moniker Versace—fitting for his adopted home of the glitzy West Palm Beach, Fla. He raps in Spanish in a carefree cadence, sometimes Auto-Tuned and always over crisp electronic hooks. His bio notes that his birth parents both died at an early age, but we bet they’re smiling down upon the fresh talent.
The romance of merengue lives in Yoskar Sarante, a longtime purveyor of the bachata scene. It’s a Dominican genre that originated in the 1960s and evolved into one that combatted civil rights inequities and feelings of loss. Since his youth, this 46-year-old has been charming audiences with his smooth tenor and his infectious personality. His latest single is “Dile a él” (“Tell Him”). (Thanks to Listin Diarioand About.comfor the recommendation.)
Reggae, merengue, acoustica—it’s all within El Gran Poder de Diosa. The veteran performers made a splash at the 2016 Isle of Light festival, attracting curious travelers and native Dominicans alike. The group’s Eddy Nuñez also enjoys a hearty solo career, but it’s together that this collective soars. Dig their white uniforms and hypnotic rhythms. (Thank you to Consequence of Soundfor the info.)
Citing everyone from Metallica to the Killers as influences, rock band Quattro have been impressing the republic for a half-decade. Vocalist Coki croons like Nick 13 of Tiger Army, and Surya Cabral’s guitar work is spacey and fantastic. They’d make a great opening act for Deftones or their ilk. The EP Vulevas a Caer is available for free on Soundcloud.
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