Guest post by Renee Fournier
Each year the folks at the American Folk Festival try to introduce you to new and unfamiliar music. To broaden your cultural horizons and provide you with a little something you may not otherwise hear.
Bachatera Andre Veloz is poised and ready to do just that at this year’s festival on the Bangor Waterfront.
Part Latin hip hop, part blues with a bit of jazz thrown in for flavor, Bachata music often was denigrated by the elite in the Dominican Republic as being associated with rural underdevelopment and crime.
Like rap in the United States, Bachata began as a music of the poor and dispossessed.
Veloz first remembers hearing Bachata music while taking showers, using a bucket, in the backyard of her Dominican Republic home.
She has vivid memories of her grandmother dancing around the house and yard to the music.
Originating in the shantytowns of the Dominican Republic, it reflects the social and economic dislocation of the poorest Dominicans.
Derived from the Latin American tradition of guitar music, Bachata emerged in the 1960s only to be denigrated by the media, mainstream musicians, and middle- and upper-class Dominicans. Its lyrics were often about hard drinking, women troubles, illicit sex, and male bravado and the music was considered vulgar and useless by some.
By the 1980s, the music had spread around the world and came to be appreciated for its social importance and its musical technicality.
Since those early days of hearing Bachata music, Veloz has become a noted vocalist in New York City and has worked hard breaking into the male-dominated world of Dominican Bachata.
She plays gigs throughout the city, combining traditional Bachata with a bit of influence from the likes of Ella Fitzgerald.
In her biography, she references a Spanish saying, “De musicos, poetas y locos todos tenemos un poco,” which is loosely translated to mean that, “we are all part musician and poet and just a little bit crazy.”
Veloz hopes she has an extra tablespoon of all three.
To help support her music career, Veloz teaches in the New York City school system.
The Bachata music industry is largely dominated by men and Veloz is dedicated to finding a place in the genre for women.
“I want to show the younger girls who listen to my music that you can go beyond the standard love songs. I think I have something important to say, and I hope that I can reach some ears. I want to leave a legacy that a woman can survive in this industry and genre, and I want women to keep striving for that. It’s not easy,” she said.
Her performances are guaranteed to open your eyes, move your feet and send you home just a bit more familiar with culture of the Dominican Republic and the true message behind Bachata music.
Renee volunteers for the American Folk Festival, sits on the Board at the Bangor Humane Society and lives in Bangor with her husband.