Bocina culture is synonymous with the boisterous streets of the Dominican Republic. As a generation raised by heavy-bass genres like Merengue, Mambo, Dembow, Reggaeton and EDM, it’s no wonder that Dominicans of today honor their love for music through coros. In Dominican vocabulary, a coro, is a pop-up party that draws its energy from a group of like-minded individuals and that can take place anywhere: the park, a friends apartment, your marquesina, or the block.
As early as 2008, Dominicans have taken to YouTube their competitive sound system triumphs, their custom cars and their extremely loud van coros. This rather expensive auto lifestyle is the passion and pride of millions of Dominicans all over the world, including the Dominican Diaspora in New York City.
What street car racing is to American culture, sound system van parties are the version of this to Dominicans. These outdoor music freedom parties have infiltrated Dominican culture as a staple for the exchange of dance, music and traditions. Led by proud musicologists, van sound system parties take place in small towns in D.R. where local police aren’t stirred about loud music, heavy drinking and partying until sunrise. Hundreds of people gather in big open spaces (typically parking lots) to watch their favorite musicologists compete for the loudest and best sound in front of a team of judges.
U.K. Film Director, Sean Frank explores this underground community, and the struggles Dominicans in New York City face as they transplant their music culture to their respective boroughs in his latest short documentary, Más Fuerte. The narrative follows leaders of the van sound system community in Queens, The Bronx and its roots in the Dominican Republic to share the bold personalities that run the streetcar phenomenon.
“The first time I saw one of the vehicles in person, I was struck by the creativity and ingenuity of the vehicles- majestic beasts in their own rights,” says Sean.
Inspired by the passion around these sensory experiences, Sean and his team researched the fringe community of auto vehicle owners across the boroughs of New York, the Dominican Republic and beyond. The discovery of the weird and wonderful world of auto-fit shops, car scrap yards and the deserted parking lots that exist in Flushing, Queens and The Bronx (where the community of musicologists go to let loose, show off and make noise) inspired Sean to tell this story.
Recounting his first experience with this sound system scene, Sean shares “hearing them takes the sensory experience to another level – I had never heard anything so loud, I could physically feel my insides vibrating.” Sounds like a first time indeed at these no restriction get-ups.
Más Fuerte delves into the problems the van sound system culture faces as he recounts arrests and police complaints made by local New Yorkers while taking a look at other limiting factors that come with defending this culture in New York City. Frank also explores the car/sound customization process and introduces the skilled music technology teams that support this movement in our boroughs and in the Dominican Republic alike.
Last month, Presidente Beer and Boiler Room TV partnered up to premiere Más Fuerte at an outdoor petrol facility in Long Island City. The live-streamed rave brought the sound system van party location to life to pay homage to this overlooked lifestyle and share this experience with New Yorkers who look to immerse themselves in other cultures.
Hosted by Maluca Mala, guests enjoyed Presidente beers, Dominican food and a line-up that included performances by A. Chal, El Mayor Clasico, and Tali Goya and DJ sets by DJ Prostyle, DJ Enuff, and Nina Sky. This could easily be classified as the loudest party that most of us have been to. Presidente anticipated this and handed out earplugs for guests overwhelmed at the vibration of heavy bass.
Despite its popularity, street sound culture in DR continues to be a subculture that has to watch it’s back for legal ramifications and restrictions; especially, in the U.S. Presidente and Sean Frank are bridging the gap of this nuanced community and its importance to Dominican society.
Más Fuerte is available to watch online here.
Ghislaine Leon is Afro-Latina writer and storyteller from New York City. She’s used her voice as a contributor for outlets such as Remezcla, ArtleadHER, and HelloBeautiful.com. Follow her on Instagram @fearlessleon.