Redefining a Male-Dominated Genre, Andre Veloz’s “Bachata-rengue” Speaks to the Dominican Woman Experience
The multi-genre singer describes her musical journey from the Dominican Republic to New York City and back again. And how she is reinventing bachata, whether you like it or not.
"I'm bossy," says Andre Veloz. Case in point: That time the kindergartner turned her desk into a stage, standing on it, twirling and forcing her kindergarten classmates to hear her sing.
Whether or not she believes it's a good quality, it's an attribute necessary to survive in male-dominated spaces. Veloz's sassiness is just one of the ingredients for conquering a genre often described as "for the hurt man."
Known as music for "whiners," the sounds and lyrics that enrich the bachata genre embodies the pain and suffering of the poor, heartbroken person - a "corta vena" (cut veins) song, three-string guitar, "guira," and tambora drum is said to create the perfect bachata. The genre's inclusion of women reflects the music industry as a whole: There's very little representation. The one woman who has achieved success in the genre outside of the Dominican Republic, Alexandra Cabrera de la Cruz, did so as half of the duo Monchy and Alexandra - alongside a man. The duo were the first bachateros to appear on Sabado Gigante, a Univision produced show that aired nationwide.
Adopting the nickname "La Fosforera" which means "a happy woman," Veloz believes in making bachata that isn't just tied to romance, which can be seen as an act of rebellion considering the genre's roots.
Those who discovered the St. Croix–born, Dominican Republic–raised singer from her 2018 viral hit, "Eta Que Ta Aqui," might think she's an overnight success. But the singer has been actively working in music for approximately 16 years. The song, which means "this one here," a Dominican phrase/expression that is said when one is not down for a night out or deciding to stay home - the idea of creating a song about that scenario came from her good friend Lenin Compres. The track was produced by Veloz and husband John Chapman with instruments and production by Barcelona-based musician Dery Gracito.
The song, which is a fusion of bachata and merengue, or bachatarengue, earned her a nomination for Revelation of the Year for the Soberanos Awards in DR, and it resonated with the Dominican woman experience. Veloz explains she already has her tubi – a wrapped style that protects a blowout…and quite honestly an essential act of keeping it laid. Following, the lyrics go "Eta que ta aquí anda en una bata Y de casa no se va a mover," translating to "This one here is in a nightgown and not moving from her home."
She was raised in Santiago and Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, by a family that she describes as party animals. "Being Dominican, you're always surrounded by music. Music to clean to, music to cook to - for everything you need music," she shared with CHICA. Naturally, La Fosforera admired women like those of Las Chinas del Can, an all-woman merengue band.
Her appreciation for bachata bloomed late. In her early years, she sang in English, genres like jazz and the blues are highly regarded in the country. She covered the likes of Billie Holiday for anyone who would listen, later experimenting with rock en Español. At 16, she would charge to sing at hotels and any bars that allowed minors to perform. When she turned 20, she decided to make the big move to New York City.
"New York, aside from New Orleans, is the holy mecca of jazz. So I came with the mentality that I was going to sing jazz and blues," says the artist, who moved to the Bronx.
"Migrating as an adult is one of the toughest things to endure, and partly I understand that everything happened the way it was supposed to happen. I don't believe I would have gotten anywhere in the Dominican Republic - even though it's the mecca of my music. I was meant to move to New York and go through my struggles. The city humbles you, big time. It grabs you and drags you - whatever ego you have disappears," she says.
Veloz began to play in piano bars, and found herself performing bachata: "You're playing for them, you're an entertainer. And people like to listen and sing along to songs they know." It was then that she realized she had a deep knowledge in the music- since most requests were songs she knew from back in her homeland - and she began to embrace it.
In the Dominican Republic, she has been embraced by her male peers in el urbano genre, like Vakero, and even collaborated with Don Miguelo for the remix to "Eta Que Ta Qui," which isn't surprising considering it's a little easier for a woman to make it in the urban field. Bachata, however, is a boys club. And she is focused on creating a space for herself in the genre. This includes singing about the realities of what everyday women go through.
Her latest "Fina (Intermitente)" - fina meaning "classy" and intermitente as "intermittent" or "sporadic" - is an ode to the women who have the best of both worlds: ratchet and bougie. The song was inspired by a post by Dominican comedian Ariel Santana, which spoke about a woman who swears she fancy but after a few drinks is willing to eat fried pork rind and finger foods. The post spoke to her heart: "That's me. It's also my mom, we swear we fancy… Of course, I know how to behave … in certain places for the most part."
Watch "Fina (Intermitente)"
One example: "The act of taking the centerpieces at parties, is a naca [tacky] act - and I can't stop doing that." Veloz is unapologetically naca and embraces all aspects of it.
The video was shot in Los Minas, Dominican Republic, the neighborhood of video director Gabriel "Gabs" Lantigua. Indeed, Veloz headed back to the birthplace of bachata to represent her fresh female update and spread the inspiration.