In the Dominican Republic – the land of merengue, bachata, dembow, and all things tropical – an exciting new scene is beginning to emerge. Young, forward-thinking producers and beatmakers are breaking into the fields of hip-hop, R&B, and EDM, genres not usually associated with the sunny Caribbean country. But while we’re just catching on, the movement has progressed locally in a way that even distinct regional differences have begun to manifest, with Santo Domingo DJs favoring larger-scale house music, and Cibao DJs going for smoother, loungier sounds.
The diversity of this musical microcosm is staggering. The SoundCloud rabbit hole will lead you to dreamy trap from DJ José Alejandro Reyes, to beachy beats by Martox, and DOOB, whose music is best described by his hashtags, like #Mambeat and #ClitorisShakingMusic. SoundCloud has also made it easier for DJs who have relocated (like Munkz and Sagz, who have gone on to live in NYC and Buenos Aires respectively) to remain active members of the community, where collaboration and remixing are an essential part of the process. The collaborative nature of this group of musicians is such that on any given occasion, someone may cover or remix a track, only to have it remixed again by the next guy.
Diego Raposo, one of Santiago’s rising stars, is a perfect example of the “it takes a village” mentality. With features on DJ José Alejandro’s EP, enlisting half of Santiago for his new release with hip-hop group La Ñapa, and his unique and sensual solo work, Raposo is the kind of musical mind constantly cranking out new beats and rhymes. We talked to Diego to gain some insight on the scene, the names to watch, and the direction it’s all taking.
The DR has a rich musical tradition, but it’s not exactly known for its electronic music. Can you tell us a bit about the scene and how you became involved?
Well, you know, there are a lot of interesting things happening right now, with huge diversity in genres. We have producers making trap, EDM, and tons of experimental stuff, and it’s always changing. Right now, my own sound is a kind of electronic-tinged R&B and soul, even though I started out making more exclusively electronic dance tracks. When you’re starting out, there’s a lot of musical back and forth, but I think I’m finding a cool middle ground.
Do you have a super cool DJ name?
In the beginning, I went by Himi Jendrix [laughs]. It was a silly play on words, but that’s how I put out my first few tracks. As time went on, I decided to use my own name to avoid copyright complications.
Considering the DR’s musicality, do you think your work has been influenced by your surroundings?
Not really. I don’t really draw from traditional Latin music, though you can definitely find parallels in the rhythms. But I will say that here in the DR, we’re pretty chill people, and the laid-back mood of my music reflects that, even though we kind of have a reputation for being all over the place. Personally, I’m a big fan of chillwave. I follow artists like Washed Out, Toro y Moi, and Dream Koala, though they lean more towards the indie side of things.
Nek is a pretty important electronic music collective down there. Do you work with them at all?
Though I’m not actually a member of Nek, I’ve known Hugo, Dr. Funk, and the crew for a while. We all see each other out at parties and regularly share music over SoundCloud. Back in 2013, I put out an EP under the Himi Jendrix moniker through their label. They’re known for organizing awesome monthly events and often tap different core members to play, and they even bring in acts from abroad. They got Super Flu to come back in May and Goldroom last year. They’re definitely helping to grow the demand for electronic music. You’re hearing a lot of techno and tech-house at the clubs now, largely by their influence.
What are some local DJs we should know?
I’m friends with these guys, Martox, who come and hang out at the studio all the time, since Santiago is small and we’re practically neighbors. These guys are the real deal! You should also check out José Alejandro Reyes, Adriano Sang, and Erik Rodriguez, who now goes by Sagz. There’s definitely talent and a scene here, but we’re lacking in terms of exposure. The guys at Nek are opening a lot of doors for the community, but some of the smaller, more experimental acts are still struggling to be heard.
How would you like to see the scene change?
I would really like to see venue managers motivated to help start something new. Not just the super-hyped ragers, but spaces for newer, weirder, more experimental sounds. There’s also a bit of a slight regional divide. The capital is making house music and turning up, where we in Santiago are putting out much more laid-back stuff. I think there’s room for everybody.
What can we expect from you next?
I currently use a lot of instruments when recording, but I want to start incorporating more live vocals into the music and move away from samples. I’m trying to go for a fuller, more structured sound in my solo projects, though that may take some time since at the moment I’m doing a lot of production work for local hip-hop artists. I actually just finished recording some vocals with some friends for a project called La Ñapa, which has a really cool underground hip-hop feel to it. Think Whitest Taino mixed with some J.Dilla and The Roots.