Music and Politics: Benedictine College Professor Reveals the History and Romance of the Dominican’s Bachata

Music and Politics: Benedictine Professor Reveals the History and Romance of the Dominican’s Bachata

Friday, February 27, 2015

In conjunction with Dominican Independence Day, February 27, the day in 1844 when the Dominicans won their independence from Haiti, Dr. Julie Sellers, assistant professor of Spanish at Benedictine College and a federally Certified Court Interpreter, has announced her latest book, Bachata and Dominican Identity / La bachata y la identidad dominicana. Published by McFarland, a leading independent publisher of academic and nonfiction books, the work is about a music genre from the Dominican Republic that is closely identified with Dominican nationalism. The book, which is completely bilingual (English and Spanish), is currently available from McFarland and on Amazon in a variety of formats.  

“This book is my effort to write a history of bachata and to describe how that genre has evolved to become a symbol of Dominican identity,” Sellers said. “The reader will learn not only about bachata's history, but also about Dominican history and worldviews, and how they are so intricately intertwined.”

Sellers explained that bachata is a guitar-based romantic music that originated in Santo Domingo's urban shantytowns in the 1960s and has become one of the hottest Latin genres today. She said the genre includes several styles, which she describes as typical, romantic, and modern/urban. 

She said José Manuel Calderón is recognized as the very first bachatero and the typical bachata is more the original sound from some of the earliest musicians. Romantic is typical but a little softer and focused on more romantic themes. Modern and urban bachata styles are produced by Dominicans and Dominican-Americans in the United States and usually include some English. Many Dominicans at home and abroad have now embraced bachata as synonymous with national identity, but the genre carried a social stigma for decades.

Sellers interviewed musicians and producers to give bachata's history and development interwoven with the socio-political context of Dominican identity. In the book, she argues that bachata's early disfavor was a result of the political climate at the time and deeply rooted ties between class and race, and proposes that the genre's growing popularity and ultimate acceptance as a symbol of Dominican identity arise from its instrumental and lyrical innovations, the growth of the lower class, and a devoted following among Dominican expatriates.

“My interest in the Dominican Republic and its culture began in 1993 when I first traveled there as part of Kansas State University's International Community Service project,” Sellers said. “That summer was my first introduction to a culture and people I love, and I've been going back ever since.”

Music Samples:

Typical Bachata -

José Manuel Calderón:

Luis Segura:

Romantic Bachata

Joe Veras:

Frank Reyes:

Modern & Urban Bachata


Prince Royce:

Toby Love:

Founded in 1858, Benedictine College is a Catholic, Benedictine, residential, liberal arts college located on the bluffs above the Missouri River in Atchison, Kansas.  The school is proud to have been named one of America’s Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report as well as one of the top Catholic colleges in the nation by First Things magazine and the Newman Guide.  It prides itself on outstanding academics, extraordinary faith life, strong athletic programs, and an exceptional sense of community and belonging.  It has a mission to educate men and women within a community of faith and scholarship.