Bachata Evolution: 20 Videos That Show How 'Music of The Barrios' Changed The Game

Getty Images; Design by Jessica Xie
From left: Juan Luis Guerra, Romeo Santos & Prince Royce

While you’re 1-2-3-hopping your way across the dance floor, you’d be surprised to know that bachata was once considered vulgar and the “music of the barrios.”

Bachata was born in the Dominican Republic after the death of dictator Rafael Trujillo in 1961. The first artist to record a bachata was Jose Manuel Calderon, who introduced his single “Borracho de Amor” in 1962. Back then, the genre was known as a “variant of bolero,” later it was known as “amargue,” and ultimately “bachata.”

In the ‘70s, bachateros were not allowed to perform at high-end venues and were censored on live television and the radio because their musical style was associated with lower classes and crime. However, despite the lack of support and promotion, artists such as Marino Perez and Leonardo Paniagua helped the genre be on the forefront, ultimately becoming more popular than merengue. 

With the rise of the genre, many doors began to open for bachateros in the ‘80s and the ‘90s.

This is the time when artists such as Blas Duran, Luis Vargas, Antony Santos and Juan Luis Guerra began to change the game, fusing bachata with merengue, electric guitars, and other catchy rhythms.

In the 2000s, we were blessed with acts such as Monchy & Alexandra, Aventura, Toby Love and Xtreme, who all gave life to something we know today as Urban Bachata. Now, many Dominican millennials, such as Romeo Santos, Prince Royce, Natti Natasha and Leslie Grace, have taken the crown and are not only keeping bachata alive but modernizing it with their own feel and vibe.

Check out the evolution of bachata with the 20 music videos below.