When thinking about Dominican music, it’s probably predictable that what first comes to mind is a bachata melody from Romeo Santos or an old perico ripiao classic from Antony Santos. Yet, besides what has hit the airwaves on the Latin market inside North American radio stations, there are other ways and genres in which Dominican artists express themselves.
The island has a huge DIY punk-alternative rock scene with bands like Bocatabu that often go unnoticed. One of them is the prominent La Armada, a group made up of five guys aiming to deconstruct colonization, racism and our crooked politics. On the heels of their new album, Anti-Colonial Vol. 1, guitarist Paul Rivera and bassist Juan Marte spoke with Noisey about their new project and message. Here’s what we learned:
1. Their Origins: La Armada first established in the city of Santo Domingo (the Dominican Republic’s capital) in 2001. They moved to Chicago in 2008 after playing at the city’s Latino Punk Fest in 2007. It’s worth noting that Chicago has a well-known DIY latino punk rock scene with indie labels like South Core Records and Shaman Records.
2.They went against their musical roots at first: In the beginning of their career they admitted to rejecting their Dominican culture for a more Americanized sound, later to use their roots again for songs like “Unquenchable” which have the palos influence of African descent.
“It’s funny, we grew up with punk rock, kind of rejecting our own culture. When we first got into punk it was like, fuck Dominican culture, fuck tradition,” Marte said. “Now that we’re immigrants and we’ve been living in this country for 10 years almost—you go through a process where you go back to your roots and everything you went through musically before you got into punk rock.”
3. They support human rights organizations: Among their musical talents, La Armada also creates zines for sale in efforts to support the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
4.Their Anti-Colonization movement: Their music is heavily based on denouncing European colonization, but more so the effects that has had on modern day life. Essentially, highlighting the prison industrial complex and police brutality.
“We addressed issues like the police state inflicting harm in underdeveloped communities, the for-profit prison system and its benefiting from incarcerating immigrants, as well as subjects like xenophobia and the destruction of the environment. All forms of control and thus modern day colonialism over groups of people,” Rivera said about their new album.
5. They are vocal about their political beliefs: And of course, they aren’t shy about expressing their distaste for President Donald Trump through their music. Like their song “Fire.”
“As a band that is always traveling and playing very small towns in red states, we always knew that there was a very strong possibility that he could win,” Rivera said of Trump. ”The song started out almost like “Hey, you should pay attention to this because this is a real threat. This is a real thing that can actually happen,” and, lo and behold, it did.”