“The Bronx is probably the most unique place certainly in this country with respect to talent, and I would say maybe in the world.” – Tommy Mottola on Romeo Santos with HBO
Today Romeo Santos‘ fans are being greeted by the singer’s PORTL Inc hologram in the predominantly Dominican neighborhood of Washington Heights. The dual purposed HOUSE OF BACHATA pop-up NYC location invites attendees to screen parts of both the legend’s new Pa’lante! HBO Max specials. Beside sponsored vendors like Presidente and The DREAM Project DR, clips of ROMEO SANTOS: KING OF BACHATA and ROMEO SANTOS: UTOPIA LIVE FROM METLIFE STADIUM beam contributing to the community with education and entertainment.
HBO Max’s opening sentiment for the ROMEO SANTOS: KING OF BACHATA documentary validates the premise of the next hour and a half for its open-ended viewers.
“The Bronx is the only New York City borough with a majority [Latinx] population. 22% of Bronx residents are Dominican, one of the highest concentrations of Dominicans in the country.”
An in-house museum walkway emphasizes Santos’ República Dominicana-born genre with artifacts and written histories. Locals can quickly identify with the neighborhood barbershop and HBO bodega stations. For some, the sight of elders playing dominoes adjacent to congas at the HOUSE OF BACHATA entrance is illustrative of Caribbean immigrant tradition. Still, no matter ticket holders’ racial background — guests witness the subtleties which made the bachatero who he is.
With the note of Santos’ documentary insertion, the legend and a fellow Dominican Bronxite chat on-screen about bachata, salsa, merengue, and bolero. The film’s supporting voiceover from Joel Martinez — better known as The Kid Mero — is placed fittingly against the sight of public housing, bustling intersections, and trains speeding uptown. These men have grown to make that environment, including a neighboring Nuyorican Marc Anthony, proud.
“That is how he wakes up in the morning. ‘What didn’t I do today… to represent my people better? [I want to] put this music that has changed my life in the best position possible.’ That is just that way he is, and not everybody is like that,” the top-selling salsa artist affirmed of Santos.
Alongside screens, the pop-up props art and hangs odes to Santos’ roots with authenticity. A significant portion highlights the value in his preceding Aventura struggles. Despite any concrete obstructions, Latinx NYC communities are known to create their own reassurance. Santos embodied this viewpoint through his pop-up. Among modest amenities, the Dominican-dedicated HOUSE OF BACHATA embraces the beauty of a courageous culture in Spanglish.
The songwriter’s revered hometown is an enlargement of his music. The Bronx, Santos’ proclaimed “un pequeño mundo” (a little world), houses 1.4 million residents — some of whom are his most prevalent bachata supporters. The eight-time Premio Lo Nuestro awarded crooner asserts to his series audience, “I knew as much about Biggie, Tupac, and HOV…” [as I knew about Spanish-language artists]. Naturally, Kid Mero promotionally asked Santos to explain to the masses, “… in your own words, what does bachata mean to you?” And the highest success within the genre responded in Spanish, “…music of bitterness, pain, and blues.”
This mentioned hymnology is global and supports the HOUSE OF BACHATA’s second film, ROMEO SANTOS: UTOPIA LIVE FROM METLIFE STADIUM. For those growing familiar, the framework of the iconic backdrop is as follows:
“On September 21st, 2019, Romeo Santos put on a bachata show at MetLife Stadium. With approximately 80,000 people in attendance, it was a sold-out concert.”
Santos considers more than show ticket sales — the chart-topping artist united a few pioneers who opened doors for him through music. The celebrated UTOPIA Tour date was recorded alongside Raulín Rodríguez, Zacarías Ferreíra, Joe Veras, Luis Vargas, El Chaval, Frank Reyes, and Cardi B. Opening the concert with the sentiment, “Dominicano soy…” who and what Santos represents is not left to ambiguity. He loves his people.
To add, that same year, the soul-bearing musician embarked on his Gira Del Pueblo Tour. It was here Santos performed free shows in small towns across the Dominican Republic. These small towns are where bachata was born. Kid Mero narrates Santos’ experiences while in the Dominican Republic, even introducing the original bachatero José Manuel Calderón to HBO audiences. The notable late-night host and writer explained using hip-hop terms, “He’s Grandmaster Flash, and Romeo is like JAY-Z.” Retracing the sound’s rise to international recognition — budding islander talent is likewise displayed.
In this fashion, HBO will be hosting the HOUSE OF BACHATA Open Mic Night with the Uptown Collective tonight. The effort’s call-out is to “…celebrate poetry and lyricism.” Santos provided the associated platform to embrace artists — the way his island always welcomes him. Tap the link above to RSVP.