The Caribbean is often celebrated for vibrant music scenes that revolve around dancehall, reggaeton, dembow, and soca, among other genres. In the Dominican Republic, specifically, the dembow scene continues to conquer global airwaves and blast up the charts. At the same time, however, a glowing indie scene has been flourishing, reflecting a rich culture of alt-rock, trap-soul, and R&B-led sounds unique to the island. Many of the Dominican Republic’s indie acts are known for incorporating other Black-rooted genres, such as bachata, gagá, hip hop, jazz, and reggae, into impressive fusions that have been getting them noticed.
This mix of influences has history: Regarded as the Father of Dominican Rock, singer-songwriter Luis Diaz combined Haitian and Dominican homegrown genres with rock, reggae, jazz, and blues, pioneering a movement in the Seventies and Eighties that created a blueprint for Dominican rock while destigmatizing genres such as palos and bachata, which were often ostracized in the country because of their Black, rural, and countryside roots. Later, Xiomara Fortuna carried the torch, becoming the queen of fusions and a prominent voice for Afro-descendent music. The influence and contributions of these artists, along with figures like artist-composer, folk percussionist, and alternative music historian José Duluc, inspired many bands and acts, including the experimentalist Rita Indiana in the 2000s. Parallel to that, Shimola, JN3, T.Y.S and Alex B, L.R and Shadow Blow shook the island with their take on U.S-inspired hip-hop and 2000s-style R&B melodies, carving out space for romantiqueo in the rap Dominicano scene.
Now, the Dominican indie scene is growing even more and expanding internationally. Today’s community of independent artists are captivating the masses both on and outside the island with exciting blends of electronic, house, pop, R&B, and electro psych sounds, and they’re taking things to a new level. Here are some of the acts you need to know, and some of their best songs yet.
Mula, “Ven Vamos”
Sonically, “Ven Vamos” takes listeners through a futuristic, mystic ride. From its dreamy intro to its merengue transition, which highlights the country’s tambora (Dominican percussion), the song goes through a rhythmic metamorphosis, incorporating synths and a heavy bassline. It’s daring selections like these that have made Mula — comprised of producer Rachel Rojas and twin sisters Cristabel and Anabel Acevedo — such exciting household names.
Solo Fernández, “¿Por Qué Eres Así?“
Since appearing on the scene in 2017, Solo Fernandez has become a crucial part of the alternative movement’s revival in the Dominican Republic. Today, the group consists of Gian Rojas, Freddy Navarro, and Ricardo Montilla, and they’ve made it their mission to feed hungry rock purists. On “¿Por Qué Eres Así?,” Rojas uses the melancholic tones in his voice to evoke a little nostalgia, and delivers his lyrics over a pop-rock beat suited for dancing and letting go.
La Marimba, “Suéltame”
Women’s issues continue to be a major issue in the Dominican Republic, which has failed to decriminalize and amend its abortion ban. The island has also struggled with creating a safe environment for young girls, who are still forced into abusive marriages, and to protect women against violence and discrimination. This powerful track, from the artist La Marimba, serves as an act of resistance and a cry of freedom for Dominican woman. The rage and tension in her voice builds over a mix of folk percussion and guitar, creating an anthem of female liberation for modern times.
Adan and Hache, “622”
Both Adan Alberto Jimenez and Bryan Argenis Taveras have independently made names for themselves as songwriters and producers. They’ve often experimented with other genres and focused on romantic productions, but the two forces teamed up for the EP Jetblu earlier this year. On the standout track “622,” they narrate the trials of a modern-day relationship that starts on social media through a series of likes and reactions, and later intensifies when the people involved finally meet in person.
Tangowhiskyman, “Head Full of Voices”
Psychedelic band Tangowhiskyman, made up of vocalist-guitarist Frank Antun, bassist Albert Bustamante, keyboardist Ryan Ureña, and drummer Ariel Ovalle, embody the spirit of eclecticism, creating kaleidoscopic, neo-psychedelic soundscapes. Inspired by bands like Pink Floyd, the song “Head Full of Voices,” from the band’s 2022 album The Wait, celebrates unbridled experimentation and embraces different textures and layered, melodic vocals.
Pororó, “Pa’ Lo Callao“
Hailing from the neighborhood of Villa Mella in Santo Domingo, this band creates music that honors the ancestral traditions often ostracized across Latin America. Made up of vocalist/guitarist Arnold Martínez, guitarist Joel Rosario, bassist Daroll Méndez, percussionists Anyel Domínguez and Tery Sanmaray, and keyboardist Abel De La Rosa, Pororó delicately riffs on blues and celebrates sounds unique to their hometown and Afro-descendants heritage, all while showing off brilliant Caribbean musical fusions.
Martox, “Entre El Futuro Y El Pasado“
Dominican singer-producer duo, Martox broke into the spotlight after the legendary Juan Luis Guerra supported their rendition of his 1998 hit “Amapola.” Vocalist Juan Miguel Martinez and producer Eduardo Baldera are the two up-and-comers behind the multi-directional act, which makes music inspired by jazz, R&B, synth-pop, funk, nu-disco, and more. Their track “Entre El Futuro y El Pasado” continues their latest line of funk and groove sounds, blending percussion beats and funky guitar riffs.
Singer-songwriter SNENiE made a major impact on the island when she launched her debut single “Florecer” in 2018. Since then she’s enriched the scene with tracks that speak to deeply emotional experiences of heartache, healing, and love. With “Adentro,” she pairs her sweet, soft-spoken melodies with a gentle groove, and enlists Solo Fernández frontman Gian Rojas for the chorus.
El Gran Poder de Diosa, “El Remedio“
El Gran Poder de Diosa has become synonymous with ancestral healing music. The collective often combs through stunning traditions found across the Latin America diaspora while combining homegrown sounds native to the island, such as traditional merengue and bachata, with electronic, alternative, and reggae influences into their work. The song “El Remedio,” which features powerful vocals from vocalist Marlene Mercedes, is representative of the work they do. The composition shines a light on a specific remedy they’ve found for healing: love.
Letón Pé, Nikola, “Echá Patrá“
Both Letón Pé and NIikola have created a lane for themselves by letting their imaginations run wild with electronic music, Caribbean genres, R&B, and synthwave. All of these experiments make it onto Letón Pé’s recent EP La Caleta and Nikola’s project Embeleso. The women linked up for their collaborative single “Echà Patrá,” a track that opens up with a melancholic intro and morphs into an energetic, upbeat number.
Yellow Outlet, “Lluvia Eléctrica”
The duo formed by Maria Taveras and Cristian Guillé is recognized for its bold use of pop-synths and funk guitars. Taveras also stands out with her smooth, idiosyncratic voice as she flips back and forth in English and Spanish. On “Lluvia Eléctrica,” the band time-warps the listener back to the gentle electropop of the Eighties and Nineties.
Inka, Evaristo Moreno, “Party De Palo“
Rapper Albreydy Alberto Holguin Roque intimately understands the power of helping to educate listeners through music. “Party de Palo” is the first single from his upcoming debut album Villa Mella, and the track finds Inka honoring the Villa Mella sector of Santo Domingo as well Dominican Palos through a socio-political lens. He dedicates the opening verse to Black women who work in agriculture, specifically naming Florinda Soriano. Known as “Mama Tingo,” Soriano was stripped of her land by the government and became an activist and leader in the movement of reclaiming land before being murdered while fighting for her land.
OkeiFlou featuring Emm Silverio and Lena Dardelet, “Novacane”
Después De La Fama, a collection of R&B, trap-soul, and slow jam sounds, finds the songwriter-producer OkeiFlou telling stories about life after fame: He describes the good and the bad, the moments of bliss and bittersweet realities, the romance that can lead to heartbreak, and the personal awakenings that occur while living in the limelight. These ideas are best reflected in “Novacane,” a sleek track alongside two of the scene’s rising acts Emm Silverio and Lena Dardelet.
GioBulla, “Me Recuerda A Ti“
As a diaspora kid, singer-songwriter GioBulla has used his lived experiences in both the U.S and the Dominican Republic to highlight his bicultural identity. The result is an array of influences that have positioned him easily in the U.S Latin world of R&B en español and the island’s indie scene. “Me Recuerda A Ti” is one of his most exciting tracks, produced by WellyP.