The Duke of Bachata

Joan Soriano's first guitar was made by hand from a tin can and fishing line. Today, this charismatic musician from the Dominican Republic plays a steel string guitar and heads a musical group that tours internationally.

Soriano’s fall tour in the United States will include an appearance at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 10, at the University of Dayton Kennedy Union Boll Theatre. The performance is part of the University’s ArtsLIVE series.

Soriano is known as the “Duke of Bachata,” reflecting the admiration his peers have for his skills with bachata — a style of music that originated in the poor, rural neighborhoods of the Dominican Republic. Once disdained, bachata is today one of the most popular types of Latin music.

Soriano was captivated by bachata as a child, hearing it first on the radio and then teaching himself to play. As he said in an interview with the Miami Herald, “Bachata music isn’t something you read. The true bachateros, the ones who are the roots of the music, they don’t know how to read music.”

One of 15 children, Soriano left school early to help farm the family’s land near Santo Domingo. He had little education and no firsthand experience of what it might take to become a musician. Still, inspired by the music, he formed a makeshift band with a few of his siblings and began to perform at neighborhood events. At age 13 he left for the city to pursue his dream.

Although he found employment as a session musician and met some of the “masters” of the bachata tradition, Soriano struggled for years to make a name for himself. Perhaps as a result, a soulful quality anchors his music, even as he plays the infectious Afro-infused rhythms that make him a favorite among dancers.

The story of Soriano’s journey is documented in Adam Taub’s 2009 film, The Duke of Bachata. Soriano also was featured in Alex Wolfe’s documentary, Santo Domingo Blues and is on The Rough Guide’s Bachata compilation. His first international release, El Duque de la Bachata, won Best World Beat Album of 2011 at the Indie Acoustic Project Awards.

Soriano’s performance is funded through Southern Exposure: Performing Arts of Latin America. Southern Exposure is a Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation program in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts that brings contemporary and traditional performing arts from Latin America to U.S. audiences.

Tickets are $18 general admission; $15 for seniors, military and University faculty, staff and alumni. Admission is free for University students and children under age 8. Advance tickets are available by calling the University Box Office at 937-229-2545 or visiting the ArtsLIVE ticket website

- Eileen Carr, ArtsLIVE coordinator

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