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Music and Understanding Youth in the Dominican Republic
On the heels of hip-hop culture there is another popular genre that has taken the island by storm. Reggaeton or ‘Rap en Espanol,’ from neighboring Puerto Rico, is popular in other parts of the Caribbean and Latin America, but it is only recently that it has exploded onto the Dominican scene. Reggaeton has a distinctly urban flavor, and its fast-paced danceable beats, street-life narratives, and catchy choruses make it the perfect party music.

Becoming hugely popular in 2003, after the release of Tego Calderon’s album, “El Abayarde,” Reggaeton speaks of the hard street life that most urban youth deal with on a daily basis, and tries not to hide the realities of the drugs and violence which plague these communities. Though Reggaeton has come under fire recently for its crude portrayal of this urban lifestyle and its misogynistic lyrics, it is easy to see why the genre has captivated youth in the Caribbean, and the rest of Latin America.

The topics which are dealt with in the music, along with the clothing, language, and accessibility of the artist has made Reggaeton a voice for urban youth who have been ignored. Reggaeton has been able to, with its Spanish lyrics, give Latinos an urban voice. It has also carved out a genre that millions of youth living in the United States can finally call their own, and it has crossed the language barrier by being able to reach that portion of the population that doesn’t speak English, therefore giving them an even bigger microphone with which to voice their concerns.

The genre of music also acts as a portal through which outsiders can understand many the many problematic situations associated with urban life, but unfortunately, the same gritty lyrics that make the music so popular amongst the youth makes it an unattractive and vague concept for outsiders to understand, therefore alienating them further from the society in which they live.

Contrary to the hard street beats of Rap and Reggaeton, a vastly different type of music to come to the island is Electronic music. Long popular in the many resorts of the island that catered to mostly European tourists, Electronic music, and its many sub-genres, have become extremely popular in the club scene amongst youth, becoming one the fastest growing genres here.

This has been made evident by the arrival of many world famous DJ’s in recent years, and the high attendance at their shows. Paul Oakenfold, DJ Tiesto and Chus & Ceballos have played marathon shows deep into the morning light, and because of their popularity here they are poised to return to the island. Although there is a certain class status distinction associated with the genre and its followers, and an association with an underground club drug scene, the genre continues to grow. And though drugs aren’t essential in the Club scene, it is important to know that they are present. Drugs like Ecstasy and Cocaine have become more readily available at these events, but it is the chic aura surrounding the music, and its European roots that draw many to enjoy the music.

“Boncheros,” as they are called, spend the night partying away at many of Santo Domingo’s trendiest bars and nightclubs, or can be found at “bonches,” (parties) dancing through the night on some of the islands beaches.

American rock, though not as strong as other genres on the island, continues to be very popular, though it isn’t the revolutionary spirit of the past that drives its popularity these days. Rock has a strong history here dating back to the American military presence and revolutions of the 60s, but this brand of rock is vastly different. Bands like “Good Charlotte,” “Linkin Park,” “Metallica” and others are popular, and just like their Electronic or Hip-Hop counterparts, the genre provides an outlet for this group of teens.

“Los Metal” or “Punk,” (pronounced ‘Ponk’) mimic the style of clothing of their rock idols, and at quick glances can be mistaken for regular American teenagers. There haven’t been many rock concerts on the island because of the lack of mass interest, but the internet has been the key instrument in connecting these youths to the music they love. The internet has been the tool that has connected the island to the rest of the Caribbean and the global world, and has allowed youth here to join that global community.

At the core of who the Dominican people are there are certain cultural links which connect Dominicans of all walks of life. Bachata and Merengue have done that for many years. These musical genres are racial, cultural, and historical manifestations of “Dominicanness,” as they combine, with their instruments and lyrics, the European, African, and Indigenous roots of the island. But it is now the beats of Electronic, Hip Hop and Rock along with those genres that are representing the youth.
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