Bachata Clásica 101: 25 Songs You Need to Know to Be a Real Bachata OG

Lead Photo: Art by Alan López
Art by Alan López
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Megastars Romeo Santos, Juan Luis Guerra, and Prince Royce have taken bachata to renowned stages across the globe. Chart breakers Drake, Enrique Iglesias, Usher, Chayanne have dipped their toes in bachata crossovers to reach new audiences. Way before hitting glamorous magazine covers, selling out arenas, and singing about Fukuoka, bachata was the song of working-class people living in the slums and the countryside of the Dominican Republic.

The first wave of bachateros was condemned by the upper echelons of Dominican society for its direct connection to cabarets, prostitution, and alcoholism. Bachata was the voice of those who needed to cry out their sorrow with stories of desamor, sung with whiny vocals and steely guitar notes, quite similar to the beginning of jazz and blues in the United States. It wasn’t until the late 80s that the genre began to gather mass appeal when Luis Días, Sonia Silvestre, Victor Victor, Blas Duran, and Juan Luis Guerra updated the sound and helped it get radio airplay and TV time. In 1991, Juan Luis Guerra’s album Bachata Rosa received a Grammy Award for Best Tropical Latin Album, an achievement that sparked controversy with the old school bachateros who didn’t consider Juan Luis Guerra’s style to be real bachata. In the early 90s, Anthony Santos, Raulín Rodriguez, and Luis Vargas revolutionized the genre by shaping the bachata sound still played today.

We’ve put together a playlist to pay tribute to the founders and ambassadors of bachata. Listen here. Bachateame mamá!