Black Atlantic: Joan Soriano (Dominican Republic)
During the last half-century, the intoxicating sounds of bachata have emerged as one of Latin America's most popular musical strains, a spellbinding distillation of disparate African and Latin influences. Shaped around the snap and shuffle of steel-string acoustic guitar and bittersweet songs of romantic yearning, bachata has transcended its initial second-class status in the Dominican Republic, yielding both a dance style and a host of preening young stars. But Joan Soriano, the self-named "Duke of Bachata," is the most dazzling and daring of them all, delving into the traditional origins of the sound.
The seventh of fifteen children and the anchor of his family's band, Soriano escaped the countryside outside of Santo Domingo as a teenager, moving to the city to learn from the country's bachata greats. During the next two decades, he shaped a style of his own, infusing the bittersweet lyrics with a keen spiritual longing. His bright guitar playing is as fluent and articulate as his voice is magnetic and interpretive, with a world of feelings wrapped inside every phrase. "When you hear Soriano's raw interpretation of bachata," raved NPR, "you can't help but wonder how such a beautiful sound was kept quiet for so long."