“The last of a trilogy of albums and the beginning of a new story” says Vicente García about his visionary new studio work, Candela. According to this dynamic artist, it was his desire to reinvent the fire and passion of merengue and bachata, the core of the Dominican Republic’s musical culture and genres explored by him in his previous two albums Melodrama and A La Mar (3 times Latin Grammy Awarded in 2017). Garcia wants to make his native musical influences a key part of a new global musical aesthetic. “I wanted to experiment with merengue and mix it up with different genres and rhythms, use electronics like Juno synthesizers, mix bachata with trap, bachata with James Blake, with dub and reggae,” said García. “It’s the way I always dreamed I wanted to make music, you know?”
Candela is a riveting 15-track journey into the soul of Dominican music, led by one of the island’s most creative new voices, and nimbly supported by producer Eduardo Cabra (Visitante of Calle 13), his partner in crime on 2018’s vanguardist Latin-electronica project Trending Tropics. It shifts gracefully from the loping bachata-trap of “Ahí Ahí” to the edgy elegy about the Taino natives of “Maguá,” and the lyrical Afro-chourses of “Detrás del Horizonte”. It even features an unusual attempt at using English lyrics in merengue—the infectious “Palm Beach”—that dramatizes the intersection between North and South that flows through all of García’s music.
Vicente García originally came on the scene after spending many years touring with and opening for his mentor, merengue-bachata legend Juan Luis Guerra. But after the release of his first album, Melodrama in 2010, García found himself at a crossroads. He felt being pushed by the music industry away from his singer-songwriter roots and toward the mainstream bachata of Aventura and Prince Royce. “I started thinking about just being a songwriter for other artists,” said García, who proceeded to write for Mexican pop band Camila’s Mario Domm.
Still, García felt unfulfilled and began to immerse himself in researching the Afro-Dominican roots of the music, visiting outlying areas like Cibao and Villa Mella, where he found fraternal groups dedicated to preserving magical religious drumming traditions, discoveries that had an effect on his singing style, which up to then had been most influenced by r&b, soul, and the American pop-master Paul Simon. “But I didn’t know what to do with what I’d learned about Dominican folk music, until I met Eduardo Cabra,” said García.
Cabra had just finished work on his first album with Colombian pop-folkloric group Monsieur Periné on the Grammy-award winning Caja de Música, and immediately took a liking to García’s mindset. “He made me believe that there was another way to do pop music, that I wouldn’t have to do a commercial merengue album,” said García. Working with Cabra, García released A la Mar in 2016, as well as their experimental project Trending Tropics in 2018, using guest vocalists ranging from Bomba Estereo’s Li Saumet to Calle 13 vocalist turned solo artist iLé.