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Home » The Arts

Roots, Rock, Batey
Submitted by dr1guide on August 1, 2009 – 12:13 pmNo Comment

El_BateyEl Batey is just one of the many fusion bands on the Santo Domingo underground music scene. With their distinctive sound they have set themselves the challenge of looking to the future of the city’s musical movement without forgetting its cultural past. Their distinctive sound mixes Afro-Dominican grooves with political commentary rarely found in the Dominican musical landscape.

As Cigua, Batey’s energetic lead singer, steps to the stage, the raucous applause from a dedicated fan base rings out. The audience squeezes into Encuentro Artesanal, one of the many small theater houses located within the Colonial Zone. The spot is cramped, smoke fills the air, and the energy is palpable. The lights dim slowly and spectators prepare for the show. After moments of waiting the crowd turns from calm to anxious. They’ve come for a show and Batey will make sure they get one.

After the first 10 seconds on stage the audience realizes this isn’t their mom and dad’s merengue house band, blowing out bluesy danceable tunes about sunny days on the Malecon. This is the newest generation of Dominican artists, redefining the concept of what Dominican music is, what it isn’t and what it could be.

The music that Batey plays is a mix of African beats, with Haitian rara, Dominican gaga, American rock and Palos, all in one blend that Cigua compares to a “sancocho” (a popular Dominican stew with an abundant mix of several types of meat and vegetables). Their music is a dash of merengue star Johnny Ventura and bachata’s Frank Reyes, mixed with some Jimi Hendrix, a taste of Bob Marley and topped off with a little bit of Dominican mambo. This is the new generation of Dominican music: you just have to know where to find it.

As the energy picks up, the dancing starts. The drums speed up. The guitar riffs are strange, harsh, loud and melodic. They speak. The horns blare to a fever pitch and a once still Saturday night is now a raucous cage of energy. The show is in full swing. The sweat drips, legs become tired, throats turn dry and yet the audience is almost powerless against it all. They keep dancing and jumping. This is Batey.

To add fuel to the fire, Cigua, with his face covered by his trademark locks, brings out a large horn typically used in gaga musical festivals. He blows. The crowd responds. Cigua recites poetic verses into his microphone as the music of old mixed with new wails in the background.

Just as the music reaches a frenetic climax the band slows the pace to an almost even crawl. The crowd now reflects on the jams they’ve heard. Jose Carlos beats away on the drums and Fernando lets the guitar cry into the night. The crowd is at ease with tonight’s show. Cigua explains, “This is music. This is also Dominican music. We young people are speaking through the music.”

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