Before I even bored a plane for my trip to the Domincan Republic, my friends joked about how I would come back and constantly barrate them with stories. Each and every one they imagined would start with me ranting, "When I was in the DR..." The thing is they were right, know that Im back I do this all the time. So simply to spite them thats how I'll start this story too.
When I was in the DR, I learned alot. I learned real compassion, that the seemingly theoretical agapic love truly exists, that technology is the main indicator of a countries success, that I need to take more time to stop and enjoy life, and that I need to be more thankful for the blessings and choices that Ive been gifted with. Just as my friends theorized how my storytelling would go, so too could someone have guessed all the above listed lessons. However there was one thing I learned that I did not expect and that is the uniting power of music.
When I left I knew about as little Spanish as someone could with only taking two years in high school. I communicated through awkward hand gestures and broken spanglish. But some things in life dont require such formalities and break down the barriers of language. From the moment we stepped off the plan we were greeting with a up tempo electric guitar and steady bass. Music is incorporated into every aspect of Dominican life. City kids only hangout outside shops with radios (or in clubs where the decibal level can be felt as you walk in the door). Their best advertisments on the radio are made to put to music. The different styles of music that exist in mainstream Domincan culture are distinct but not unique from what I hear at home. Merengue is king in the DR. It has an uptempo 1,2 beat that is perfect for their fast and improvisational dancing. Bachatta is a close second. This sound has a 2.5 beat that similar to alot of R&B. The self proclaimed Kings of Bachata, Aventura, are one of my favorite bands. On their recent album they even recruited Akon and Ludacris to transform their sound. Reggaeton is another big player especially in clubs and among the younger generation. This equivalent to rap is what the more is becoming more and more popular down there with Wisin and Yandel and Daddy Yankee being the stars.
When I was in the DR I saw houses with one bedroom for 8 people that had bigger stereos than at my house. Some may call this stupid and wastful and it might be. However I believe music is the thing they love more than anything else. The thing that can bring a smile to a little girls face when shes living in a house with a dirt floor. When I was in the DR I met a kid named Juan and we talked about what Domincan music we both liked as we walked and worked all morning. I had to leave him to go eat with my group but when I came back in the afternoon he had dug out his sisters mp3 player and told me we had to listen to a song. This song was a combination American hip hop and Domincan bachata which made a great fusion of sounds. Juan then said to me, "Es como nos" or its like us. He was absolutely right I brought went down to the DR and taught Dominicans about American culture and they taught me new an incredible amount that has already been incorporated into my lifestyle.
When I went to the DR I learned that cultural differences are alot smaller than cultural similarities. Music is my example of that.