Bachata guitar playerMusical genres tend to suggest tangible definitions of theory and practice. However whether people actually understand these is another question. To an untrained musician, classical music may typically be thought to be synonymous to Mozart, Bach, Beethoven or any of the great composers. While for others, classical music may be in reference to anything that is orchestral or which falls under ‘art’ music. In contrast, classical music for those who frequently listen, perform or teach it would say that it is post-Baroque and pre-Romantic, covering a time frame of compositions between 1750-1830[1]. These differing responses only demonstrate conjecture or misguided information on the part of the untrained musician and acquired knowledge on the so-called trained musician. Similarly, if one were to survey people’s definition or quiz them about the origins of Bachata music here in Australia, we would find contrasting opinions, reflecting people’s knowledge, experience or lack thereof. Does this mean that knowledge of style or its culture is prerequisite for appreciating and experiencing music – particularly that which has originated in foreign countries?

Certainly some will agree in favour, saying that unless an individual has had the benefit of specific social and cultural experiences, the music belonging to that culture cannot be understood in the context in which it was originally created and performed[2]. And so aiming to play an Indian Sitar, Balinese Gamelan or even dance Bachata in the attempt to ‘experience’ another culture would by definition to some be impossible without being immersed in that culture. In stark contrast, others have suggested that music of all people must be approached aesthetically, seeing that “[one] can get the maximum benefit from ALL music”[3], regardless of ones understanding and experience in a culture.

DancingTango music for example, is a dance style that is internationally practiced yet commonly known to have its origins from Argentina. Here is an example of a dance that to an Argentine Tanguero (a person who dances Tango) is not only considered a musical style, but a very important and essential part of life and where at one point in time majority of the Argentine population “deeply identified with tango music, considering it a true expression of their way of life”[4]

Being culturally diverse, Australia has adopted new styles of music and dance, and while the Sydney population has a predominantly large Hispanic

Community, we could safely say that those religiously attending classes and socially dancing to ‘latin music’ each week do not solely comprise of Hispanics. Instead, people of all backgrounds and cultures – ultimately Australians, are committed to enjoying and experiencing these so-called ‘foreign’ dances, including Bachata each week. Surely their experience is not in the ethnographic sense, as some would arguably define cultural experience. Nevertheless, Salsa and Bachata have inevitably become subcultures in Australia as a result of adopting and practicing these dance forms.

bachata festival performanceAs with Salsa, one can find Cuban style, New York style or LA style to name but a few. It may not be surprising to hear Aussies in the near future refer to Australian Bachata as SydChata or BrisChata. But if that’s just too cheezy, then alternatively the more conventional city names such as Sydney Bachata or Brissy Bachata will become the new jargon in reference to Australian Bachata style and culture.

If you don’t know much about the origins of Bachata or quite possibly have no idea about the story behind the lyrics, then don’t fret; you can always call a friend or do a little bit of research. But in all seriousness you who dance, perform or even just aesthetically appreciate the music, are part of the growing community creating and shaping a new and Australian Bachata culture.

[1] Grove music online

[2] Draisey-Collishaw, R. (2004). Issues facing multicultural policy in the field of music education. Canadian Music educator, 45, 17-21.

[3] Reimer, B. (1989). Music Education in China: An overview and some issues. Journal of Aesthetic Education, 23, 65-83.

[4] Granados, Y. (2001). A pianists guide to the Argentine Tango. Unpublished Doctoral essay, Univeristy of Miami, Florida.

Article written by Lesley Cid. Lesly is a popular salsera / bachatera in Sydney. You can find her dancing her way around the Sydney salsa nightclubs

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