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Xiomara Fortuna
In trying to discover the country's musical and cultural roots you can look no further than the work of Xiomara Fortuna. Fortuna, a native of Monte Cristi, has been considered one of the country's most progressive musicians. Her work spans almost 30 years and during this time Fortuna has managed to venture into the depths of Dominican tradition while at the same time heavily incorporating the African influenced music of the DR. It is her ability to fuse these aspects of Dominican culture and heritage into her music that have made her work important in the development, definition and progression of Dominican identity. In speaking with her you can understand how her own upbringing has guided her musical career. In a country where being white or light skinned is revered Fortuna exclaims, "ever since I was born I knew I was Black, it's obvious isn't it? My family let me know this at a very early age and they insulted me when we would fight by calling me names. I couldn't deny it. I'm not an idiot to be that confused." Fortuna says that of course she was angered by the things that would be said about her, or what she would be compared to because of her dark skin color, but little by little she went on to defend herself, exploring the advantages that being Black had. She would say proudly, "my color is beautiful, I am the most beautiful Black person in this house, my hands, my arms, my eyes, my teeth. I am strong!" And she says that as soon as she discovered herself, and was aware of who she was, she liked it. It is this defiant, yet confident attitude, which lead Fortuna to incorporate the Black African traditions of the DR into her music. But that is not enough. Fortuna recognizes that in the DR there are many who play music but are not artists and she recognizes her power as a teacher saying , "that the artist has the key to teach in their hand." Adding to the obstacles in the diffusion of traditional music is the fact that the majority of artists are interested in making money and being famous, and not teaching. Fortuna adds that these musics should be incorporated into the curriculum, as they aren't now, and that the time will come for Dominicans to define their identity. Asked why traditional and African based sounds aren't heavily accepted in the DR and Fortuna explains that African musics have a relation to religion and that these musics have been categorized as demonic, as something evil, but reminds us that the DR's popular and traditional musics have their roots in these "demonic" celebrations, people just don't know it.

Fundacion Cultural Bayahonda
The Bayahonda project, which was at its peak in 1997, cited its mission to strive to revalue Dominican identity through different cultural and artistic offers. It was one of the first projects in the DR to attempt to reconstruct Dominican cultural identity through various cultural manifestations at the community, regional and national levels. The project also looked to strengthen the relationships between the DR and Haiti as well as tapping into the support of the Dominican community in the US and abroad. The CD, Musica RaicesVolumen I, counted on the participation of such artists as Enerolisa Nuńez, David Almengod, Maracande Grupo de Congos de la Cofradia del Espiritu Santo de Villa Mella, Xiomara Fortuna and Kaliumbé, La Reverenda and el grupo Hermandad Cultural de Villa Mella, Grupo de Gagá del Batey La Ceja , Duluc and Dominican, Mercedes Cuevas, Grupo Los Paleros de Nigua, Guibo and Grupo Los Paleros de Nigua, Senaida Jansen, Marilí Gallardo, Ochy Curiel and Luisa Mateo. But in retrospect the importance of this project cannot be understated. The musical compilation, which included the raw talents of typical Dominican artists with no professional training or practice, represented an ideal model of what Dominican "identity" is. It was the fusion of old and new, folk and modern, African, European and indigenous cultures all in one place.

Roldan
Roldan Marmol, one of Xiomara's colleagues, has been one of the musicians at the forefront of the movement to reconnect Dominicans to their cultural roots. Roldan explains that since he was a child he was interested in nature and it was his studies that lead him to where he is today. When he was 17 he went out to the campos of the DR to explore nature, getting his first taste of culture at the bateys and when he entered the UASD University he met up the likes of musicians Dagoberto Tejada, Jose Duluc and Jose Rodriguez. He adds that in 1997 the CD Musica RaicesVolumen I was released and this was a revolutionary and impacting album in the redefinition of Dominican identity and culture. He adds that with no official support the CD sold more than 20,000 copies and became widely popular in the discos of the DR and abroad. He adds that the importance of this album was noted when popular musician Kinito Mendez re-made one of the songs into a merengue hit. But Roldan explains that in Santo Domingo the original version of the song, true to its traditional roots, was more popular in the discos than the remake, adding to the notion that Dominicans would be willing to accept their roots if they were presented with them. Unfortunately individualism within the music industry hasn't allowed for their to be cooperation though the Bayahonda Fusion Project, which produced the Musica Raices album, was one of the few examples where artists have gotten together. For Roldan there is a lack of vision in the DR with regards to the future of music and culture. State Ministries have failed to take advantage of opportunities presented to them in order to bring these sounds to the classroom. Academics in the DR have also balked at the importance of these cultural sounds because to them it still represents that counter image of what they want portrayed as "Dominicaness," as they still consider it Black, Haitian or African. But 2008 is a key year in changing all that. Concerts and cultural events planned for 2008 hope to express the positive virtues of ‘negritude' within Dominican culture and unite artists from across the DR, the region and the world. Roldan adds "globalization has taken us somewhere and we have to take advantage of that!" For this artist the ultimate goal is to get this music, these sounds and this culture out there. In the end he hopes that these efforts will in some way shape what is to become of "Dominicaness."

Redefining identity
Identity is a very personal thing. It is no one's place to tell another who they are or how they should define themselves, after all that would counter productive. But, at the end of the day trying to define Dominican identity will require all parts of the country's cultural roots to be placed on the table for those curious eyes to see. Once the public has been presented and educated about their roots it is their prerogative to go about the process of defining their identity. But, not until that process is underway can Dominicans begin to fully understand what it means to be "Dominican."
 
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