While the merengue is probably the best-known kind of popular music coming from the Dominican Republic, there is an almost underground support for a type of music called bachata, which originated in the countryside as the songs of the poor and uneducated. Because of its humble origins, the sophisticated inhabitants of the capital, Santo Domingo, rather looked down their noses at the music, which entered the big city with the constant migration of farmers from the country into the poorer sections of the capital. For many young people, however, it seems that bachata has a reverse snob appeal. Its popularity as the authentic expression of the Dominican people has steadily grown over the years. Discos in the D.R. now feature nights of bachata which are well attended. In many respects it resembles the Cuban son or Mexican ranchera.

As the lively swinging beat immediately identifies the merengue, thebachata can be identified right away by the prominence of the guitar or its smaller sister, the requinto, which has a rather thin sound. The bachata guitar is plucked forcibly creating a sharp attack and makes the style immediately recognizable. In bachata bongos are used instead of the tambora which is found in merengue. The güira or scraper has replaced the maracas as the other percussion instrument.

Bachata lyrics may be full of sexual innuendo, but almost always the topic is heartbreak or unrequited love. For that reason it is often called música de amargue, or music of bitterness. A famous song by Luis Segura, one of the most popular exponents of bachata, is about his love for his mother and her sorrow. One verse from a song of Juan Luis Guerra called Bachata Rosa provides an example of frequent topics.

Ay, ayayay, amor
eres la rosa que me da calor
eres el sueño de mi soledad
un letargo de azul
un eclipse de mar, pero...

Ay, ayayay, love, 
you are the rose that enflames me
you are the dream of my solitude 
a lethargy of blue 
an eclipse of sea, but... 

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