Across the Dominican Republic and New York City, a community of underground musicologists and engineers have committed themselves to transforming cars, vans and SUVs into gargantuan, roving speaker systems. These custom automobiles and their music-obsessed makers were profiled in a short film, Más Fuerte, released in conjunction with Presidente.
Sean Frank directed Más Fuerte, which examines the differences and similarities between the speaker van aficionados in the Dominican Republic and those in the Dominican communities scattered across New York City. In the Bronx and Queens, there are a host of music fans and auto body shops dedicated to outfitting cars with walls of speakers, though it’s often hard for owners to show off their sound systems due to noise restrictions and police crackdowns. In 2016, one Queens resident, Nelson Hidalgo, had his van impounded after several noise complaints came in, including one from the bullpen of the Mets’ baseball stadium.
“That was a great achievement,” Hidalgo says in the film. “Although, I didn’t want to be heard at Shea Stadium, I’d prefer to be heard at the White House.”
In the Dominican Republic, speaker vans have a bit more freedom roam, though their parties have been increasingly pushed from major cities to smaller towns, where there are fewer restrictions. Más Fuerte captures the remarkable scenes from one such rager, complete with a shot of two women sitting in front of a wall of booming speakers, their hair flying all over the place.
“For us, playing music is like playing a sport,” says Jose Bonilla in the film. “I started with something small, and every day since I say, ‘This is the last one.’ But, after a while I get tired, I want to have something different. When you have one of these sound systems in your vehicle you constantly want to make changes and add a equipment… You want to have something different. Something bigger.”