Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

BOLERO

A universal, sentimental ballad style, rooted in Spanish-derived African-influenced fusion from Cuba, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, later Mexico. The Puerto Rican style is more closely related to its Spanish root than the syncopated Cuban. The visit of an Italian opera company to Cuba in 1842 is still heard in the high, passionate voices of the best exponents of bolero; the Cuban middle classes exported it back to Europe in a slowed-down style which held sway in salons and dance halls for decades, its influence heard in songs by George Gershwin, Xavier Cugat; there are still traces in USA country music, especially in the work of Freddy Fender, Linda Ronstadt, Maria Muldaur. (Marice Ravel's Boléro in 1927 was an instrumental experiment in orchestral dynamics, inspired by the dance hall but having little to do with the Latin style.)

In the 1950s Celia Cruz and Tito Rodriguez combined the smooth romantic qualities of bolero singing with the improvisational nature of mambos, rumbas etc; they remained among the foremost exponents on record. Bachata, originating in the Dominican Republic as a folkish, romantic descendent of bolero, Antony Santos a legendary exponent, has hit the Latin charts as played by the Bronx-based quartet Aventura, all of whom are named Santos, and who may very well cross over into the mainstream. The first collaboration by Romeo and Lenny was Generation Next in 1999. Henry, Romeo's cousin, came from DR at age 13; the others are all Bronx-born, bassist Max completing the group. Their album The Last (June 2009) was immediately the best-selling Latin album of the year, 'Obsession' an international hit. Romeo and Henry aren't related to Lenny or Max, and none of them is related to Antony.