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

Freddie Gibbs performs during a Tiny Desk concert, on Sept. 26, 2019. (Mhari Shaw/NPR) Mhari Shaw/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Mhari Shaw/NPR

Freddie Gibbs And Madlib

The enigmatic and reclusive producer Madlib joins hard-hitting emcee Freddie Gibbs for one of the most memorable Tiny Desks of the year.

Raphael Saadiq with Lucky Daye performs during Tiny Desk Fest, on Oct. 31, 2019. (Mhari Shaw/NPR) Mhari Shaw/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Mhari Shaw/NPR

Raphael Saadiq

The godfather of 21st century soul electrified NPR's Tiny Desk Fest audience, with a little help from rising R&B star Lucky Daye.

Sheryl Crow performs during Tiny Desk Fest, on Oct. 29, 2019. Mhari Shaw/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Mhari Shaw/NPR

Sheryl Crow

Sheryl Crow's Tiny Desk Fest concert included a handful of early hits that have become pop standards.

Megan Thee Stallion plays a Tiny Desk Concert (Laura Beltran Villamizar/NPR). Laura Beltran Villamizar/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Laura Beltran Villamizar/NPR

Megan Thee Stallion

The budding superstar debuted a new song with Phony Ppl and performed hits from Fever and Tina Snow during the first night of NPR's Tiny Desk Fest.

Black Uhuru plays a Tiny Desk Concert. Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Black Uhuru

The influential reggae group, whose name means "black freedom," brought songs of solidarity and love to the Tiny Desk.

Mereba performs during a Tiny Desk concert, on Sept. 17, 2019. Mhari Shaw/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Mhari Shaw/NPR

Mereba

A nomadic storyteller with a cross-genre style ranging from folk to rap, Mereba slays the devil in her solo set behind the Desk.

Carly Ray Jepsen performs during Tiny Desk on Nov. 13. (Photo by Mhari Shaw/NPR) Mhari Shaw/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Mhari Shaw/NPR

Carly Rae Jepsen

The singer brought a sparkling pop-disco vibe and a lot of swagger to the sun-filled Tiny Desk.

Igor Levit performs during a Tiny Desk concert, on Oct. 15, 2019. (Mhari Shaw/NPR) Mhari Shaw/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Mhari Shaw/NPR

Igor Levit

The insightful pianist offers a Beethoven bonanza, ranging from the mesmerizing pulse of the popular "Moonlight" Sonata to flashes of wry humor and tender beauty.

Snarky Puppy performs during a Tiny Desk Concert on Sept. 12, 2019. Emily Bogle/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Emily Bogle/NPR

Snarky Puppy

The jazz, funk and gospel improv group brought jams and joy to the Tiny Desk.

Burna Boy performs during a Tiny Desk concert on Sept. 16, 2019. Mhari Shaw/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Mhari Shaw/NPR

Burna Boy

The Nigerian singer and songwriter is one of the biggest African artists in the world and a pioneer of Afro-fusion, an inescapable sound this year.

Back To Top