Joan Soriano: Tiny Desk Concert With his songs of heartache, Soriano is an essential piece of the bachata story. Known as "El Duque de la Bachata" ("The Duke of Bachata"), Soriano gives a raw but beautiful performance at the NPR Music offices.

Tiny Desk

Joan Soriano

Joan Soriano: Tiny Desk Concert

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/146781438/146934539" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

In a recent conversation with the Washington, D.C.-based Latin radio personality Pedro Biaggi, I asked him about the massive growth of the bachata genre. He said it was barely present in his station's format a few decades ago, but that today, it's roughly 70 percent of what he plays.

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.

By the early 2000s, a shiny, perfectly produced Dominican-American group with boy-next-door good looks (if you happen to have very good-looking Caribbean neighbors) named Aventura got its big break with a sound that fused bachata, hip-hop and R&B. Fronted by the charismatic Romeo Santos, the group's members were romantic but also bad boys, as heartbroken as they were heartbreakers, and the public lapped it up.

Bachata has come a long way, and a lot of it sounds different than it did in the dark days when it was banned from high-society Dominican venues. As someone who became musically conscious when the genre was already exploding, I found that hard to believe, because it's simply beautiful music, lyrically and sonically. I also love bachata because its mix of repression and ultimate success feels like a symbol of Latin-American identity struggles.

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.

La Familia Soriano is Joan Soriano's upcoming album, which in addition to new material, will feature the song "Cuánto Lloré."

Set List:

  • "Me Decidí A Dejarte"
  • "Aunque Sea A Escondidas"
  • "Cuanto Lloré"

Credits:

Producers: Jasmine Garsd and Felix Contreras; Editor and Videographer: Michael Katzif; Audio Engineer: Kevin Wait; photo by Cristina Fletes/NPR

[+] read more[-] less

More From Tiny Desk

Elisapie performs during tiny desk on November, 26, 2019. (Photo by Mhari Shaw/NPR) Mhari Shaw/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Mhari Shaw/NPR

Elisapie

The Canadian singer-songwriter gives a deep, soulful performance against a sometimes moody backdrop of bass saxophone and bowed guitars.

Snoh Aalegra plays a Tiny Desk Concert (Laura Beltran Villamizar/NPR). Laura Beltran Villamizar/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Laura Beltran Villamizar/NPR

Snoh Aalegra

The Iranian-Swedish singer draws her musical cues from Brandy and Sade while racking up a list of collaborators such as Vince Staples, James Fauntleroy and, most recently, Pharrell Williams.

Laura Stevenson performs at a Tiny Desk Concert on Dec. 12, 2019. (Emily Bogle/NPR) Emily Bogle/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Emily Bogle/NPR

Laura Stevenson

Backed by a small string section, Stevenson performed three songs that sounded so gorgeous, an actual marriage proposal broke out shortly after her set ended.

Mount Eerie plays a Tiny Desk Concert (Laura Beltran Villamizar/NPR). Laura Beltran Villamizar/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Laura Beltran Villamizar/NPR

Mount Eerie With Julie Doiron

Phil Elverum shares his open wounds — of death, love and the loss of love — in close harmonies, accompanied only by electric and nylon-string guitars.

Baby Rose plays a Tiny Desk Concert (Kisha Ravi/NPR). Kisha Ravi/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Kisha Ravi/NPR

Baby Rose

At 25, she mixes the bluesy melisma of Nina Simone and the deep register of Sarah Vaughan — two of her influences — with songwriting as devastating as her delivery.

Jonathan Scales Fourchestra performs during tiny desk on December, 4, 2019. (Photo by Mhari Shaw/NPR) Mhari Shaw/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Mhari Shaw/NPR

Jonathan Scales Fourchestra

Here's a first: Steelpans at the Tiny Desk. It's true. Nearly a thousand performances into the series and the instrument has never been featured, until now.

Another Sky performs during a Tiny Desk concert, on Dec. 5, 2019. (Catie Dull/NPR) Catie Dull/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Catie Dull/NPR

Another Sky

The strength of this London band is matching message with music. There's intensity and clear intention in their use of rock as an art.

SiR plays a Tiny Desk Concert bob boilen/NPR hide caption

toggle caption bob boilen/NPR

SiR

The R&B singer from Inglewood, CA made his performance a family affair, dedicating it to his late godson, with his mother and older brother on backup vocals.

Rising Appalachia performs during tiny desk on November, 19, 2019. (Photo by Mhari Shaw/NPR) Mhari Shaw/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Mhari Shaw/NPR

Rising Appalachia

The Atlanta-based band came to NPR in a van packed with a bodhrán (Irish drum), an ngoni (West African harp) a huge gourd, a cello, a baritone guitar and more.

Jimmy Eat World performs during a Tiny Desk concert, on Dec. 6, 2019. (Catie Dull/NPR) Catie Dull/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Catie Dull/NPR

Jimmy Eat World

Jimmy Eat World showed up to the NPR Music office all smiles and no guitars. They borrowed a couple acoustics, a gong and a tambourine for a heartfelt set that included "The Middle."

Back To Top