The Latin Alternative Scene Out of the Dominican Republic

Located in the heart of the Antilles of the Caribbean Sea, the Dominican Republic fulfills that overwhelming devotion to music. Some of the most shaking rhythms on the planet have emerged in this land, full of flavor and fueled by Africa’s ancestral and essential influences. We’re precisely talking about the cradle of merengue and bachata, the two genres par excellence that historically identifies the country. Of course, Dominicans also listen to other types of music. And if that music makes them dance, even better.

In recent years, the Dominican Republic has been home to a flourishing and refreshing alternative scene. It’s a movement made up of independent bands and artists from different generations and musical backgrounds. That’s why “alternative” is seen here as a scene, not a genre. Because it doesn’t matter what the packaging is, whether it leans towards indie-folk tunes or goes into electronic beats: there’s a really strong feeling of unity between local artists, even if they come from very different universes. They’re all part of the same community, and this partnership benefits them all and helps them grow.

Many young female artists are the ones who lead this alternative scene today. It’s not a minor fact, especially considering that men traditionally dominated the local circuit almost entirely. Just check out the names that have been making buzz — La Marimba and Nikola craft avant-garde fusions, SNENiE and Covi Quintana write intimate and delicate songs, Letón Pé is a multifaceted artist willing to redefine pop with native sounds, Mula is a futuristic tropical female trio that shakes up the dancefloors, and Rita Indiana continues to be a reference for the youngest girls.


These artists appear labeled as “alternative.” But for many, it’s just a term. “It’s not a genre as such,” said Mariela Pichardo, better known as La Marimba, two years ago, just after opening for Coldplay. “The term was given to find a space, but it’s a very large universe… For me, it encompasses too many things. We’re a group of people who defend the identity of our project, regardless of whether it will be successful or not. And we’ve realized that there’s much more in the local music scene.” Full of spirituality, always prowling fast-paced regional rhythms and clinging to that percussive instrument of hers that is the güira, La Marimba emerged in 2018 with the singles “Agua Que Llegó” and “No Se Puede Apagar”. The following year she released her EP Seré. And then more singles came out, from 2020’s “Suéltame” to 2023’s “Me Voy”.

From Luis “El Terror” Días to Xiomara Fortuna and José Duluc, there’s a prehistory of the Dominican alternative scene that already combined Afro-descendant rhythms with popular music. Mixtures of different genres, rhythmic explorations, fusions between new and traditional… This driving and experimental desire is what motivates Rita Indiana. Writer and key figure in today’s Caribbean literature, singer-songwriter with a rock background and very fluent local orality, she released the album El Juidero in 2010 along with her band Los Misterios. A decade later, she raised the sonic ante with Mandinga Times, produced by former Calle 13 Eduardo Cabra.


Singer-songwriter based in Santo Domingo, Riccie Oriach is one of the valuable names of the local alternative scene. Fun and sly, unabashed by his past as a punk teenager, he exalts his Caribbean identity and embraces the breadth of the Dominican musical heritage. His songs involve a rescue of Afro-descendant rhythms, from cumbia to guaguancó, but also Afro-Dominican folk music and dances, such as sarandunga, gagá and palos. In 2017 he released his debut EP Viaje al Infinito, followed in 2020 by another EP titled Mi Derriengue. A slightly longer album, Maquiné, came out in 2021. By 2023, he released the singles “Todos Los Animales Se Drogan” and “Arregoso Vaya y Sea”. And he already has the single “El Vejigazo” in high rotation this year.


It’s worth highlighting the imprint of El Gran Poder de Diosa, La Gran Mawon and Pororó on the scene. These bands have combined traditional native music with global sounds — for at least half a decade, they’ve been unfolding a range of genres and styles, from bachata and merengue to reggae and afrobeat, sprinkled with nuances of indie rock, folk and electronica. In their most recent record, 2022’s Te Vamo’a Eperá, El Gran Poder de Diosa has set out to rescue ancient healing music. Self-defined as Afro-Caribbean fusion and as an artistic movement rather than a group, La Gran Mawon released their new album Radio Katharsis last year. Closer to the romantic song, Pororó has released a studio album, a live record and a couple of recent singles where they collaborate with SNENiE and ALEPUJI.


Heirs of that cultural agitator that is Rita Indiana, also influenced by electro-Latin combos such as Sotomayor and Bomba Estéreo, Mula is a sparkling cocktail of danceable music, from synth-pop to electronic merengue, from reggaeton to mambo, from dembow to house. Leading the trio are twin sisters Anabel and Cristabel Acevedo, who had previously shown their talent with their homemade indie-folk duo, Las Acevedo, identified by the Quisqueyan roots that make them so proud. In 2015 they teamed up with producer Rachel Rojas to create Mula and release their self-titled debut album. In 2017 they released their second record Aguas, and in 2020 they expanded their sound palette with Mundos. Their latest works were collaborations, such as those with Tonga Conga and La Dame Blanche.


If the playlist turns to electronic music and towards the dance floor, we can’t help but mention Chez Tropics. DJ, producer and new Dominican icon, Adnor Cruz is behind this global phenomenon that basically started as a backpacking adventure. As a result of his travels through Central America, the Caribbean and Southeast Asia, this young talent with long dreadlocks felt an almost instant connection with the tropical area around the world. Hence the name he chose for his stage name. “In the end, in the tropics, I feel infinite, I feel at home,” he pointed out. Tropical vibes filter into that world of electronic dance music, pushed by deep house beats, with vocal elements from soul and guitars and bass from funk and disco. Since 2017, when he released his debut single “Next To You,” he hasn’t stopped releasing new music. His 2019 Soul & Skin EP and the remixes he made with Mickey Destro for Letón Pé, Nikola and La Marimba deserve special mention.


Hit shuffle on some of our favorite alternative gems on our Eso ‘Ta Jevi playlist here.

Cover photo:La Marimba via YouTube