If you haven't yet heard of Romeo Santos, you may definitely want to keep your eyes and ears open.
Already referred to as the "Bachata King," the young Dominican singer whose specialty is the romantic, oftentimes sorrowful bachata style is leaving his imprint on the music world.
Santos used to be the frontman of the popular band "Aventura," which in the 1990s introduced bachata to New York and made it a popular music phenomenon. However, Santos is doing pretty well in his new solo career. His first album lead Billboard's list of best-selling Latin albums for five consecutive week, according to MetroLatino.com.
Now the bachatero is taking the popular genre one step forward. His new album is a compilation of Spanish and English songs with some music industry megastars: Lil Wayne is featured on "All Aboard" and R&B superstar Usher joins Santos in "Promise."
The collaboration with Usher was an instant hit. Interestingly enough, however, "the original (Spanish version) has definitely (taken) over," even for English-speaking fans, said Usher according to USA Today.
Bachata is "a cultural movement that I wanted to be associated with," Usher told USA Today. "It was a new experience for my fans as well as for (Romeo's)."
His bilingual/bicultural debut album "Formula, Vol. 1" was released on Nov. 8 and the album's first single, "You," spent seven weeks at No. 1 on Billboard's Hot Latin Songs chart during the summer, according to Billboard.biz.
Still, bachata hasn't always enjoyed this much appeal.
The genre originated in rural Dominican Republic. The word bachata refers to a social-gathering where friends and family would party until dawn. The musicians playing were usually friends of the host and would be compensated with drink and food, customarily a traditional sancocho stew. The music was initially criticized by Dominicans and other Latino Americans as vulgar. Many associated bachata with debauchery and misbehavior.
The first sounds of bachata were guitar-based, with percussion provided by maracas or a maraca-like instrument called the güira. Bachata was slower than other guitar-based genres and it was typically played by trios or quartets with three or four guitarists.
In the 1990s, bachata moved away from acoustic guitar and incorporated the electric steel guitar, speeding up the rhythm. It became dance music at its best, rapidly gaining popularity with mainstream audiences. It was no longer perceived as distasteful by many.
The themes, however, remained the same -- stories about romance, heart-break or love that never blossomed.
For Santos, bachata is only part of his gig.
In 2011, the bachatero was signed by Overbrook Entertainment, Will Smith's production company, to be the star of an ABC sitcom about a second-generation Dominican-American torn between his traditional roots and his new life. According to Billboard, the show will focus on a Dominican American (Santos) and his conflict between his father's more traditional customs and his own ideas of what it means to be successful in America. "It's very similar to my relationship with my real father," said Santos according to USA Today.
Santos, whose family is originally form Dominican Republic, was born and raised in the Bronx. He grew up listening to Latino music. But R&B and hip-hop also influenced him. According to USA Today, in the early 1990s Santos was a church-singer when he and a group of friends decided to start the boy-band Aventura in the Bronx.
Although Santos is enjoying his solo success, with sold out shows in New York's Madison Square Garden, there is talk about the group reuniting in a couple of years.
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