VIVA/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Wednesday, June 15, 2016, 4:34 PM
A splash of color in an otherwise drab block, the restaurant/bar Tilila is home every other Sunday to the soulful voice of bachata singer Andre Veloz.
It is in this cozy casita and in other Bronx bars where the Dominican-born artist, one of just a handful of women who have made their mark in this male-dominated genre, has honed her bachata chops.
Veloz was no more than 5 years old, sitting in the backyard of her house near Puerto Plata, when she heard a bachata song for the first time.
“The woman that used to take care of us was pouring water over me in a tub as they were playing ‘Tu tienes todas las cosas que Dios hizo linda en una mujer,’ ” recalls Veloz.
“I started singing the song and she was like, ‘No, no, no. Las niñas no cantan eso — girls are not supposed to sing that music.’ ”
For fans of Romeo Santos or Prince Royce this might come as a surprise, but during most of the 1970s and early 80s bachata was taboo, especially among the middle and moneyed classes in the Dominican Republic. It was music born in the brothels — music of the campesinos.
“If you listened to bachata, you were automatically low class,” says Veloz,” who performs with her band at SOB’s (204 Varick St. in Manhattan) on June 18.
“My country has a thing of wanting to whitewash our African past and the same with bachata. We want to whitewash our taste in music and not admit how much we enjoy it because it comes from the lowest rungs of society.”
Despite her early introduction to bachata, Veloz gravitated towards rock and pop as a teenager. She started a garage band with some friends and played music by the hit churning groups of the day, Nirvana, The Cranberries and Oasis, among others.
It wasn’t until she left the Dominican Republic in 2004 and moved to New York that she rediscovered and embraced bachata.
Andre Veloz performs with her band at SOB’s (204 Varick St. in Manhattan) on June 18.
Andre Veloz performs with her band at SOB’s (204 Varick St. in Manhattan) on June 18. (HANDOUT)
She began singing with the multi-talented musician and composer Pin Bencosme in bars and restaurants around the city. But even in her new home she found a certain resistance to traditional bachata, also know as bachata roja.
“When we were first trying to get gigs, we would do a lot of bachata rosa, Juan Luis Guerra stuff,” says Veloz.
“It was more palatable, more accessible. Even now, I find you still have to dress it up with other genres or styles. It has to be bachata pop or bachata jazz.”
Veloz has been working on a new batch of songs that have a noticeably harder edge and are more connected to traditional bachata. It’s a process that has evolved from the days when she simply put music to poems.
Despite the dearth of female voices, Veloz is hopeful that in 10 or 20 years there will be more women writing and singing bachata.
In the meantime, she is happy to lead the charge.
“Music, from the perspective of a strong woman, that’s what I want to bring to the table,” says Veloz. “I want to sing bachata from the point of an independent woman, sure of herself, who is not always getting her heart broken.”
Philip Klint is an anchor and producer for NY1 Noticias