Spinner.com has a lovely piece on Puerto Plata, the 86-year-old Dominican Republic-native singer-guitarist just two years ago made what by any measures would qualify as a belated debut album, Mujer de Cabaret. The new acclaim and attention, the article argues quite convincingly, “brought to his talents and to his style of music—a lively, lilting mix of merengues and boleros that came to be known as bachata after having been suppressed during the brutal rule of Gen. Rafael Trujillo from 1930 until his 1961 assassination—is what’s behind his refreshed attitude.” Puerto Plata has now released his second album, Casitas de campo, “a collection putting the spotlight on fellow Dominican songwriters with energy gained from his unlikely acclaim of the past two years.”
The article is based on on a fascinating interview with the singer and provides links to some of the songs in his new album. Here are some excerpts. With the link to the full article below:
“When I was a child, my uncles were musicians, and when I was in the house I remember hearing them rehearse that song,” says the man born José Cobles, recalling his youth in the coastal town from which he took his performing name. He talks with a hearty, delighted tone from his home in Denver — where he moved in the early ’90s to be with his daughter’s family and worked mostly as a carpenter — translated by his producer, Benjamin de Menil. “The song is about the sort of afternoon breeze, the time of day when the temperature is changing and getting cooler and there’s somebody who is remembering his lost love.”
It’s a literal remembrance of a lost love for Plata — it had been 50 years since he’d heard the song, written by Piro Valerio, a native of Santiago, the Dominican Republic’s second-largest city after Santo Domingo, and he conjured it entirely from memory, a testimony to how in the two years since the debut he has become a living archive of music that was nearly gone, something he never considered possible. He credits the affection from a growing world of fans for the reconnection.
“Before the first album, I was semiretired from music,” he says. “And, of course, everything has changed since then. It’s been an incredible experience to play theaters with large audiences and hearing the applause — not something I would have expected to happen.”
But there’s one place it hasn’t happened: the Dominican Republic.
“We have yet to have him perform in the Dominican Republic,” explains de Menil, though Plata does go back to the island roughly once a year to visit family. “We tried to do some collaborations with the government, especially with the consulates in the U.S. and overseas. And it’s been a lukewarm reception.”
For the complete article, which includes details of Trujillo’s repression of bachata music, go to http://www.spinner.com/2009/11/03/puerto-platas-bachata-renewal-ready-for-a-dominican-republic-ho/