The islands of the Caribbean have given the world a rich legacy of music and dance; from Reggae to Salsa and Zouk to Mambo, the cultural influence of this region of the world far outstrips its size or economic power. Many people from these shores have visited the Dominican Republic for its beaches and resorts, but may not be aware of the two styles of dance and music which originated there – Merengue and Bachata.
Bachata is becoming increasingly mainstream in Latin club nights around London, mainly as a counterpoint to Salsa – it’s a slower and more lyrical sound which makes a nice contrast to Salsa. Some have described it as the Latin Blues, as many of the songs have a melancholy feel to them, with recurring themes of heartbreak and love unfulfilled, while the steel guitar used in many of the songs produces an unmistakeable and distinctive sound. The dance has developed from its roots in rural areas of the Dominican Republic in the 1980s through the expatriate Dominican community in New York over the last few years. The beauty of it, though, is its simplicity for beginners, with its straightforward 1-2-3-tap rhythm, while you can add more complex moves as you go up through the levels.
We went along on Thursday evening to the DNA Club in St John’s Hill, opposite Clapham Junction Station, where we’d previously been for a Salsa class and club night. Promoters and dance school Salsateca have had so much demand for Bachata classes that they now have two teachers, Virginia and Peynao, for classes at 7.15 and 8.15 at four different levels from beginners to advanced every Thursday, alongside the Salsa in a separate room. After classes finish, Peynao takes over the decks in the dedicated Bachata room, playing sounds until 1am. What’s really good is you can mix Bachata with Salsa if you want, doing one class of each and then having the choice of whichever room you want after that. The teachers are excellent, the music’s great and the crowd is friendly – if you love Latin music and dance, you’ll love this place.
So you can get a feel for the music, we’ve produced our own Top 10 of Bachata favourites (in no particular order) which you can listen to on Spotify:
Te Perdiste Mi Amor – Thalia, Principe Azul – Katanah, Eres Mia – Romeo Santos, Fotonovela – Croma Latina, Lo Dice La Gente – Daniel Santacruz, El Amor Que Perdimos – Prince Royce, Day 1 – Leslie Grace, Con Los Ojos Cerrados – Domenic Marte, Me Encanta – Prince Royce, Mi Ultima Letra – Angeles de la Bachata
Bachata at Salsateca, DNA Club, 1 St John’s Hill SW11 1TN every Thursday
1 class – £8, 2 classes – £12 including club, club only – £5
NB DNA Club now CLOSED – Salsateca currently looking for new S. London venue