El Duque de la Bachata (Iaso Records IAS-CD/DVD-005, 2010)
Joan Soriano is known as El Duque de la Bachata (The Duke of bachata). His latest recording is a double set titled El Duque de la Bachata which contains a music CD recorded live in a Santo Domingo studio and a documentary DVD.
Soriano is one of the leading figures in the rootsier version of the Dominican bachata, which is primarily acoustic. His style is characterized by melancholic and bittersweet love songs that feature percussion (bongos, guira, tambora and palos), bass, vocals and steel string guitars. The guitars are the essential element is Soriano’s sound. Soriano is a compelling vocalist and a virtuoso instrumentalist who weaves superb intricate melodies with his guitar.
El Duque de la Bachata was born in the rural countryside near Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. Joan Soriano built his first guitar from a tin can and fishing line. At age 13 Joan hitchhiked to Santo Domingo and started working with some of the island’s greatest bachata stars.
The DVD is a documentary produced and directed by Adam Taub. El Duque de la Bachata follows the efforts of Joan Soriano, who is trying to record a hit CD and widespread recognition as a musician. Soriano is well known in the local community and locals are proud of his achievements. The documentary also focuses on Soriano’s large extended family living in the rural countryside of Monte Plata. The family hopes that musical success will provide better living conditions. The documentary includes scenes of the recording sessions carried out by producer Benjamin de Menil.
“I have been a fan of bachata for a number of years and during my time at university spent a year in the Dominican Republic studying,” says Adam Taub. “It was during this time that the idea for the documentary took form. I wanted to find a musician who like the music bachata, had their roots in the rural countrysides and the marginalized neighborhoods of the Dominican Republic. I also wanted to find someone who was not well known, still struggling to make it.
I contacted bachata music producer Benjamin de Menil with Iaso Records and he told me about an artist he was working with named Joan Soriano, The Duke of the Bachata. The Duke! That sounded interesting!
I got his number and flew to the Dominican Republic. My plan was to meet many musicians on the trip and then decide who I would like to work with on a doc. Joan was the first one I met and I never searched out any other musicians!
The first day, he took me to meet his large family in the countryside and we all got along very well. Joan played music and his dad and sisters danced. I filmed with Joan that trip and on two other trips over the course of a year to get the footage for this doc.”
El Duque de la Bachata is a fascinating musical portrait of a skilled young bachata musician. An excellent introduction to rural bachata.
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Author: Angel Romero
Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music and progressive music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music and electronic music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World, Lektronic Soundscapes, and Mindchild Records. Angel is currently based in Durham, North Carolina.