Bachata is that sweet, syncopated, lovesick music full of guitar plucks, bongos and güiras that you hear blasting from cars and Latin clubs today. But as recently as the late 1980s, it was frowned upon in its native Dominican Republic for being rustic and vulgar. But it grew anyway, and was championed by Dominican artists like Anthony Santos (one of the first bachateros to go mainstream) and Juan Luis Guerra.
Joan Soriano is a reminder of that. “El Duque De La Bachata” (“The Duke Of Bachata”) is an example of the earthy, unpretentious, undiluted bachata that was forced into a corner so long ago in favor of more “sophisticated” sounds. Whether he’s talking about having his heart broken or about falling out of love, Soriano sounds honest and to the point, and so do his guitar licks. The seventh of 15 kids and an exceptionally talented musician whose music moved him from the countryside to Santo Domingo at 13, Soriano is an essential piece of bachata’s story.
Today, we consume pretty-boy bachata: It’s polished, calculated and, by mainstream standards, photogenic. But when you hear Soriano’s raw interpretation of bachata, you can’t help but wonder how such a beautiful sound was kept quiet for so long, and marvel at its resilience.
They play three songs:
“Me Decidí A Dejarte” Joan sings. he has a beautiful voice and really interesting and enticing guitar picking style. I get a kick out of the backing vocals with go “Pero no” “No!” in a rather high, almost girl-group sound.
“Aunque Sea A Escondidas” The woman with his sings lead on this. She also has a pretty voice and this song is much more mellow than the other two. Joan stands in the back and sings harmony vocals.
“Cuanto Lloré” One more shift of locations as the second guitarist moves to the mic. His voice is a little deeper but just as lovely. Joan sits next to him. This song is heavier than the other two. It has a really catchy happy guitar riff. The other guitar plays a kind of rapid chugging style. When he and Joan duet on vocals near the end of the song it sounds really amazing–their voices are in perfect sync.
[READ: February 11, 2016] Dragon Puncher
I love James Kochalka. I love his deceptively simple artwork. I love that he does his very cartoony style for both his kids books and his highly-inappropriate-for-kids adult books–DO NOT GRAB THE WRONG BOOKS BY MISTAKE!
But I think of all of the things he’s done, the Dragon Puncher series is my favorite.
For this series, he takes photos and integrates them into his story. But in addition to drawing crazy cartoons on top of wonderful photorealistic backgrounds, he also integrates his family members as characters.
For instance the Dragon Puncher’s face is the face of Spandy, the family cat. Meanwhile, the other main character, Spoony-E’s face belongs to Kochalka’s son Eli (he was 3 at the time). And the dragon’s face is that of Kochalka himself. They are hilarious.
Dragon Puncher struts through the landscape seeking the sneaky dragon. Then he trips over a brown hairy thing whose name is Spoony-E. He carries a wooden spoon everyone (evidently Eli loved spoons at the time). Dragon Puncher is angry and shouts everything “I WILL DESTROY YOU!” (evidently Spandy was a nasty cat and would hiss at kids, so this makes it even funnier).
Spoony-E is a sweet little creature and he wants to help. He shows off what a good fighter he is with his spoon (and almost loses to a butterfly).
Dragon Puncher finds some dragon drool and then the ferocious dragon comes along (Kochalka is suitably hilarious as the dragon). They fight (watch out for the tail). And the fight only brings our two heroes closer (maybe).
I’ve read this book many times and it never fails to make me laugh.