The music festival that took place in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic the 15th of August, set out in its latest edition to promote tolerance, diversity and to rescue a forgotten historical landmark of the city, Montesinos Beach, armed only with good vibes, a killer lineup and an audience craving for good music and fresh venues.
The event took place in two stages: the main one, Pineapple Bay, a seaside platform that featured a mixture of sounds and rhythms that would have made my Dominican grandma proud, with music genres going from: merengue, gagá, bachata, cumbia and reggae to more contemporary styles like reggaeton, rock and indie rock.
These sounds were brought to life by the powerful performances of artists like Cesar Pineda, El Gran Poder de Diosa, Rawayana, Alex Ferreira y el Frente Caribe, Los Cafres, Cultura Profetica, Mark B and the kings of “perreo,” Alexis y Fido. That combined with the tropical breeze and the sand on the festivalgoers’ feet made it almost impossible to stand there and not bust a move.
The second stage fittingly named The Bohio–the Taíno name for hut–was decorated to appear like a native settlement with a funky twist. DJ booth and wood flamingo included, we can refer to this area as the eternal dance floor, where the audience moved nonstop to the insane beats delivered by Sound of Montecarlo, Rampue, Blond:ish, No Regular Play and Stacey Pullen, until the sun was out and the city slowly, and probably a bit hungover, started to wake up.
On my arrival I was torn between the two stages, trying to catch up with different groups of friends and having some serious case of FOMO from the performances that were taking place on the opposite side of the party. But thanks to the fact I had recently lost my smartphone and didn’t have any other choice but to let go and enjoy, it wasn’t long before I had entered in what I think is the true groove of the festival: focusing on the music, vibe and view.
One of the big hits of the night was the Venezuelan trippy pop band Rawayana, who backstage were pleasantly surprised to have such a warm welcome from the Dominican public on their first time in the country.
“It definitely is a great feeling to get out there and that the people knows the band and sings along with you. Trying to make music with its own identity, this proves that if you are honest with what you do, the music finds a way to get to others“ said Alberto Montenegro, lead singer of Rawayana.
Santo Domingo is a city that is growing like an Olympic athlete on some serious steroids; every inch of the city is being build into a new fancy mall or condo. On more than one occasion, you get the feeling you’re living in a true concrete jungle.
That’s why the idea of Shaveurlegz (organizers and producers of the show) bringing this festival from Punta Cana, aka tourist paradise, where it regularly took place, to Santo Domingo was a risky but worthwhile move, because it reminded us capitaleños that we live in a caribbean city that actually has some contact with nature. Enjoying great music and being able to sit down by the shore while eating ceviche and tacos–god bless food trucks–was epic. Just don’t dare to swim in that water.
The festival took place in Playa Montesinos, named after Friar Antonio de Montesinos who told the Spanish colonizers to chill the f*** down and preached against the enslavement and harsh treatment of the Indigenous people during the XIII Century. A massive sculpture of Montesinos overlooks the small beach that over the years had been neglected in its quality of landmark in the city’s history. If one kid that went to that party googled the guy in the statute and learned something about Dominican history, I consider that a win.
Back to the music.
Seeing songwriter and musician Alex Ferreira’s new project Alex Ferreira y el Frente Caribe on stage really struck a chord with me. Growing up in a household where perico ripiao and merengue were the official everyday soundtrack and listening in 2016 to a band that incorporates and honors those and many other typical genres, like bachata and bolero, was a treat for my ears.
The melodic voices of Nicole Santiago and Mariela Pichardo, combined with the percussions of Boli and Ricardo El Menol Toribio, made the perfect combination with Ferreira. People actually rushed to the stage curious to see if what they had heard on spotify could be matched live, and they weren’t disappointed.
When I talked to Ferreira and Toribio about the new project, they both agreed that this was about creating instead of destroying.
“The purpose is to bring something new as an alternative to just criticizing what is currently happening in music,” explained Ferreira when talking about the music scene in DR.
After Frente Caribe, came in Cultura Profetica–a Puerto Rican reggae band and an audience favorite, celebrating its 20 years on stage. Cultura is a staple in the Latin American music scene and honestly, I thought I was over them because I had been to many of their concerts and couldn’t be surprised. Well, I was wrong.
The guys brought the house down; the crowd sang every song. I don’t know if any other band that night united the hipsters, reggaeton junkies and techno lovers like Cultura Profetica did.
The kings of perreo.
A complete throwback to my college years, the reggaeton singers Alexis y Fido helped justify my outfit of short shorts and platform sneakers. With songs like “5 Letras” and “Bartender,” they got the crowd dancing “Hasta Abajo” following every move of their dope backup dancers that gave a lesson or two on the art of perreo and sandungueo.”
The Pineapple Ball was a celebration. It was truly electrifying seeing how people enjoyed themselves– transmitting the sense that we need more cultural spaces like this in the island that invites collaboration between artists and celebrates music in all of its forms.
You can check out all of our photos from the event here.