Another one of the major changes I have encountered in embracing American culture has been an instrumental one; music. Growing up in an environment attending weekly parties involving immense dancing sessions, Dominican music has been dear to my heart. Having an emotional incompetence to speak my feelings, Dominican music was the paramount form of acceptable expression, and dancing to that expression – well that was the ultimate weekly therapy session that cured all sentiment in a passionate manner.
The most prevalent and traditional music of Dominican Republic; bachata, merengue, salsa; each type of music had a specific dance, and from the time I was born, I remember my father embracing me and dancing. Needless to say, music was a very important part of any traditional Dominican household, and for me it was quite the joy that it was for everyone else.
Bachata, popular guitar music from Dominican Republic is said to be a variant of bolero, a romantic music dealing with love and lost love according to iasorecords.com. Bachata is the music I hold closest to my heart because I always remember my father listening to bolero. Because the stories in the bachata songs are similar to the ones in bolero, with its faster moving music and dance, bachata became a much more attractive music to me.
Merengue (it means whipped egg whites and sugar in Spanish) is considered the traditional dance of the Dominican Republic. Merengue has an unsophisticated feel with clear and constant rhythm. The dance of merengue (please note merengue dance ends at 1:03) is less structured than the dance of bachata; allowing the dancers to dance at the rhythm that they wish to.
Salsa music, a traditional Cuban music that now holds a Puerto Rican sound with its smooth, polished sounds follows the jazz structure while incorporating lengthy instrumentals breaks to showcase the ability of the particular musician according to salsagente.com. Though salsa music is not as big of a part as bachata music is in the Dominican culture, it is certainly a type of music to which Dominicans enjoy dancing to. Because the steps in salsa music are much more sophisticated to classify it as a ballroom dance, it is not a dance that is not traditionally easy to master. I will mention too, that salsa does also mean sauce in Spanish (funny huh!)
Now that you know a bit of history on the traditional Dominican music, let me tell you that the change in my daily musical choices drifted when I became a Dominican-American 16 year old. As any teenager, I rebelled against the music that my family listened to, mostly because it did not define what my friends considered ‘hip.’ At that time and while rebelling to everything else that involved authority figures, I dabbled into different types of music: reggae, rock n’ roll, indie music, country music, and rap. And I am sure you can all guess the type of music I became most attracted to: rap music. A chanting of lyrics often with inappropriate language, the verses became attractive to the 16-year old angry girl I had become, pushing out the forms of music that I grew up listening to and loved. However! this blog is about my evolution, so it is important that I share that piece with you as well.
While rap music is not the first choice in music that I would make today, and while it is in many ways different than any Dominican music I was accustomed to, it did teach me a lot of things. For the most part, however, rap music helped me through the emotions that I could not explain, it helped me realize that others go through what I was going through as a teenager and that I could get past it… I could work through it (mostly because I associated every song as a story of the rapper’s past); the same effect Dominican music has on me. Music is a large part of my life, in difficult moments I turn to music, in moments of happiness, I turn to music. See, in my opinion, the thing about music is that it speaks all languages, we can all relate to some of it and it has many similar effects on each one of us; making it a universal language.