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Dominican Bachata Founder Spices Up Tiny Washington Heights Restaurant, Every Friday Night

Edilio Paredes, one of bachata's founding fathers, has been getting 27 de Febrero diners dancing for 17 years

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Download Puerto Plata's song featuring Edilio Paredes, "Brisa de la tarde," for free, or, scroll down to watch WNYC's video.

The Venue: 27 de Febrero Restaurant, (1242 Saint Nicholas Ave.)
The 'Hood: Washington Heights, Manhattan
The Artist:
Edilio Paredes
The Beat:
Dominican merengue típico and bachata

Superstars such as Bronx-based Aventura may have made bachata one of the biggest selling Latin genres in the world, but here at the 27 de Febrero, one of bachata's pioneers dutifully performs for local crowds every Friday night in relative obscurity.

"Whoever comes to Washington Heights has to listen to bachata," says Omar Santana, owner of the neighborhood's 27 de Febrero Restaurant, which is located on 172nd Street and St. Nicolas Avenue in Manhattan. "Whatever public place, whatever restaurant you go to, you're going to hear bachata."

Bachata rules New York Latin radio, and any Gothamite will recognize the Dominican genre's clinky, rhythmic guitars and wistful tenor croon as a fixture of the city's sonic landscape. Edilio Paredes has been part of bachata's history since its beginnings in the 1960s, essentially inventing the music's signature guitar style as the house guitarist at Santo Domingo's Radio Guarachita. Back then, bachata was looked down on, thought of as music for poor country people. "Now, to say you are a bachata artist is a great honor. It used to be a disgrace," says Paredes.

As the night wears on, Paredes switches from guitar to accordion to play merengue tipico, also known as perico ripiao, the down-home predecessor to today's slick pop merengue (and the style of music on display in WNYC's video below). Tonight, the first note gets dancers jumping out of their seats, crammed between the venue's tightly spaced tables. The festivities start at 11 PM and generally don't wind down till 4 AM.

Paredes can also be heard playing and recording acoustic, rootsier bachata with the artists on the iASO Records label, such as Puerto Plata and Super Uba. The groups frequently travel abroad, but Edilio always comes back to the 27 de Febrero, where he's played every Friday for the last 17 years.

The restaurant is not the only place to catch live music in the neighborhood. Although live performances have died in many parts of New York City in the age of the DJ, the live music scene in Washington Heights is thriving.

"You can walk from one place to the other and you're gonna find it," adds Santana of 27 de Febrero. "You can't do business Washington Heights without having live music."

Contributors:

J L Aronson

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