Emmanuel Hernandez

Photographer / Documentary Film Maker
   
La Academia De Bachata
Location: New England
Nationality: Puerto Rican, Dominican
Biography: Emmanuel Hernandez is a multi-disciplined photographer and filmmaker born in Carolina, Puerto Rico. He is currently based in the New England area. His work focuses on telling stories of everyday people and how their stories can inspire change in... MORE
Public Story
La Academia De Bachata
Copyright Emmanuel Hernandez 2022
Updated Apr 2022
Location Cabarete
Topics Bachata, Cibao, Culture, Culture stories, Documentary, Dominican Republic, Editorial, Education, History, Journalism, Latin America, Leadership, Multimedia, Music, Personal Projects, Photography, Photojournalism, World, Youth
Summary
My visit to the Academia De Bachata and its impact on Dominican culture 
La Academia De Bachata

During my brief visit to the Dominican Republic in February 2022, I decided to visit my second home; Cabarete, Puerto Plata. This is a place that I hadn’t seen in 20 years. Cabarete is part of the area known as El Cibao, which consists of the northern region of the Dominican Republic. I stayed in Cabarete for just a week and began to remember why I love this place so much. I quickly saw that many things had changed since my last visit and this, led my curiosity to learn more about these changes.

Improvements like; Paved streets, reliable electricity, and traffic lights were now commonplace, things that weren’t 20 years ago. Cabarete now also had a High school. I had the pleasure of visiting it briefly and was able to see the marching band students prepare for festivities that were being held at the end of February. All of these things were pleasant surprises and I was happy to see them. Even with all of these changes, the biggest one for me was seeing La Academia De Bachata.

Bachata is a musical genre that was developed from the sounds of Bolero, a genre that was very popular in Puerto Rico. The sound evolved and became part of the Dominican culture even with its difficult start due to the stigma associated with Bachata music and politics that attempted to ban it from every radio station. Even with all of the difficulties, Bachata music kept playing secretly until it became so popular that it is now heard on a global stage. La Academia De Bachata is now a testament to the importance and cultural impact that Bachata music holds. The school is located close to the entrance of the “Loma” which is referred to as a mountain area in our region. It sits in front of a bike tire repair shop and is part of the usual aesthetics of the town of Cabarete.

Once I stepped inside the premise I felt right at home. Very few things have my heart as music does. It has been a part of my life since I can remember and it has led me to meet a lot of wonderful and important people to me. When I visited La Academia De Bachata, I was pleasantly surprised. I saw and heard raw talent and I was welcomed into the environment with open arms. The instructors allowed me to photograph and talk with everyone. The students allowed me to play Bachata with them on the guitar and even partake in one of their lessons. It was surreal, and I could genuinely feel the excitement from the students and teachers and the intention of representing our music in a way that will be carried to newer generations in and outside of the Dominican Republic. The instructors were teaching all the fundamentals of what Bachata music is and the classes were divided into singers, percussion, and acoustic.

In one room on the upper level, a teacher was revising vocal theory and pitch with his students. Just outside that room On the balcony on the second floor, one teacher was standing with a guitar and all his students were around him and they all had their guitars. They were practicing “Requinto” lead guitar for the song “Por Mi Timidez” by Antony Santos. The song contains riffs known to all bachata lovers and is a staple in the genre. Downstairs two larger groups sat with 2 teachers. They were all practicing the same song but on rhythm guitar. Immediately I found myself smiling, I knew that the academy's structure was thought out. They had all students study the same piece of music to help them work together when it came time to play.

The Academia de Bachata engages children with free, intensive instruction in the traditional music of Latin America and the Caribbean. They partner with leading arts institutions to spread knowledge of Dominican musical culture worldwide. With the help of La Academia, the importance of maintaining and keeping the Dominican Culture helps us maintain our cultural roots. There are new generations that follow those that immigrated to other countries that need organizations like La Academia that keep our culture alive and well. They equip new generations with the knowledge and understanding of their roots and the role that comes with them.
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La Academia De Bachata  by Emmanuel Hernandez
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