In 2001, World Music Network put out a joint Rough Guide to Merengue and Bachata. This year they’ve decided to take both kinds of music and deal with them separately. The merengue disc came out in April, and now we’ve got the bachata one sitting warmly in our hands smothered in pinkness and roses. Did we need to hear from these musicians all over again? Well, yes. The old Rough Guide put the two genres in the same pot and the result was a Dominican musical stew without a clear boundary between one style and the other, but when they’re on separate compilations the differences between the two become brilliantly sharp. Merengue is salsified dance music, all trumpets and triumph. Bachata is a more moderate country style with quickly-fingered metallic guitars and tapping percussion slightly reminiscent of Cuban son. The bachateros’ voices are sometimes vinegary and the lyrics sentimental. This Rough Guide begins with acoustic tracks and moves on to songs that were produced in a smoother modern studio style, from Teodoro Reyes’s peppy “Dos Mujeres” to Monchy and Alexandra’s “Perdidos”, which sounds like a North American pop ballad. It’s a good overview, and nice to see bachata being given space to show off its strengths away from the shadow of its attention-grabbing neighbour.
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// Notes from the Road
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