[Originally published in Dominican Times Magazine Issue #3; Spring 2002]
Although he was born and raised in the Bronx, singer Anthony Santos always liked the bachata beat. He believes that because of his good relationship with his father. “My mother is Puerto Rican and my father is Dominican. I was influenced by the music I heard at home. The first bachateros I listened to were Blas Duran, Luis Vargas and Teodoro Reyes among others. Then I started writing when I was about thirteen.”
Anthony Santos is his real name, not to be confused with “El Mayimbe,” the other bachaterothat bears the same name. To avoid controversy and confusion with “El Mayimbe,” his stage name, Romeo, is now being promoted as his middle name.
Anthony is the lead singer for the group, Aventura. The band is composed of eight young adults. The members that appear on Aventura’s latest CD cover are Lenny Santos, Max Santos, and Henry Santos. Although it might sound like they “all” are related to Anthony, Lenny and Max are not. Their first album Generation Next, is an inviting compilation of the sounds and essences of bachata with a Spanglish twist. The lyrics in this production were written by Anthony Santos and the arrangements were done by guitar player Lenny Santos.
How the band came together
“At first, I met the other guys that are not the Aventura band. It is a funny story. The band, only four musicians back then, had another name. I met one of the guys that used to play in the band. I sang him a little bit from El Mayimbe, Anthony Santos’ repertoire, and he really liked it. They had the band, but they didn’t have the singers. My cousin, Henry Santos, and I had the voices, the lyrics and the songs, but we didn’t have the band. They needed a singer and I needed a band, so we got together.”
I like anything that has to do with guitars. I wasn’t good but I knew that’s what I wanted to do
Anthony’s parents’ opposition to joining the band
“At first my mother didn’t want me to be in a band, because I was young and still in school. I told my father and he didn’t want me to do it either. However, I started going to practices. I kept going, I just never stopped going.”
The concept of the image of Aventura
“Julio Cesar gave the group the image. He told us that we were good and that we were original, but needed an image to become popular. Julio had created the covers for albums such as El Niño Mimado and Confundido of Fernandito Villalona. We were young and didn’t know much about dressing. We were around 14 years old and we dressed like they dress in the ghetto. Julio mentioned how bachata was becoming very popular. People liked it but some didn’t accept it, because of the way it was presented. The image of bachateros was usually, without offending anyone, a person with a guitar, who was not so great looking or had an afro. That’s what was usually seen in the bachata scene. That has changed. It’s not just because of us, but because of many other bachateros. Julio gave us an image that international groups have. He advised us to dress casual like most young kids do and be ourselves.”
The idea behind Generation Next
“The idea was there about what we wanted to record. However something was missing, which was even more important: A song that would stay in people’s minds. Almost everyone has sung about love. Bachateros always sing about the woman leaving or about when she is going to come back. As a composer, I didn’t want to take away that style, because that’s the music of bitterness. One has to be careful how one tries to be different. Sometimes you want to be so different that you might end up messing up the whole album. You could mess up the concept of what you really are about.”
In the CD Generation Next, we basically needed a boom. We recorded the song ‘Cuando Volveras,’ originally in Spanish, into Spanglish. The producers asked me: ‘How would you sing that song in English?’ At first I said ‘In English?’ It would sound like it doesn’t make sense. I sing in English but I never thought of singing bachata in English. At the studio I was improvising on, ‘Cuando Volveras,’ the English vesion. It was written right on the spot, and became our most popular song.”
Aventura is what?
I dont’ consider us bachateros, even though Generation Next is a bachata work. We are simply artists. It’s not that I have anything against bachateros
The song about abortion
“The song ‘No lo perdona Dios,’ which people call ‘El Aborto,’ deal with abortion. It’s not a song for or against abortion. It’s a story that I wrote. The girl left because she had an abortion, and thought that the guy wasn’t financially ready to have a child. It is one of the strongest songs in the album.”
Merengue and bachata should not be compared
“People would say that a song is not a merengue, because the lyrics might sound like nonsense. I believe all songs make sense. Even if it’s a song that just says: Maria, Maria, Maria, if it gets to people it must be because some meaning comes out of it. I like the ‘street merengue,’ the way we call it here in New York. I think differently than the people that say that something won’t make it. If you put effort and get the right promotion, you can have a hit. When you listen to something different, at the beginning, your first thought might be that it’s not going to work.”
If you compare all kinds of music, for example, bachata to opera, we could never say that one music is categorically better than the other. You’ll always find that for Latinos, they think the bachata is better. On the other hand, if you ask someone that listens to opera about how they feel about bachata, they might tell you that they don’t like it. People have their own taste. Once you enter a studio and play an instrument, even if it sounds weird, it’s music. If someone is more creative in the process, that favors them. I like all kinds of music because the differences in music is what makes music better. There are days that I like to listen to a song with good lyrics and other days that I just want to hear a guy screaming. All kinds of music represent something and none should be put down.”
First bachata group to succeed out of New York
“After we came out, I saw some groups, mostly young, that are doing the same thing as we are. That favors us. We feel good about it. I motivate them. It’s a hard business. There are a lot of things that we have that other groups don’t have.
We are the first bachata group that is young, that sings Spanglish, and that is from here, from New York
Possibility of a crossover
“There is a possibility that I might put the song ‘Cuando Volveras’ in techno to capture a certain audience that doesn’t assimilate the rhythm of bachata.”
About the next production
“The next production is coming out in about two to three months. We demonstrated that something different could be done and that it can work. In Generation Next, the song ‘Cuando Volveras’ was the main focus. We only did this one in Spanglish to see people’s reaction. We felt that some Dominicans might have gotten offended since bachata was never sung in English. We have another nine songs in Spanish in that album. It’s weird how people, including Dominicans, ended up liking the Spanglish version better than the Spanish one. For the next production we are going to have at least four songs in Spanglish, because that’s what Aventura is known for – the guys who sing Spanglish.”