Nuevo Culture

Is Juan Luis Guerra Embracing ‘El Sonido de la Calle’ in His Latest Single?

After being accused of not liking “el sonido de la calle” in the Dominican Republic, Juan Luis Guerra appears to embrace those sounds in his latest single, “Mambo 23.” The music video for the song boasts influences of dembow, trap music, and more.

As a Dominican music legend, Guerra has explored genres like bachata, merengue, salsa, pop, and more in his timeless classics over the past four decades. One genre that Guerra had yet to experiment with is dembow music, which Black Dominican artists created in the country’s underground music scene. El Alfa, Tokischa, Kiko El Crazy, and others have helped the genre go global. 

In 2020, Guerra was captured as he noticed his daughter listening to dembow music. With a surprised reaction to hearing one of Kiko El Crazy’s songs, he says to Paulina Guerra Vega, “Remember you’re attending Berklee.” Guerra was referring to Berklee College of Music, which he also graduated from in 1982.

In an interview with El País last month, Tokischa said Guerra wasn’t a fan of dembow music. While talking about racism against Black Latine artists, she implied that he looked down on music that comes “from the streets.”

“There is a great artist, Juan Luis Guerra, who does not look at us,” she said. “Because for him, the genre of the streets is a shame. So we had to go outside to search.”

On the same day the interview was published, Guerra released his new single “Mambo 23.” The song opens with a funky dembow beat. In the party song, Guerra then explores elements of genres from the streets, like merenhouse, electronic bachata, and trap rhythms. He also added a symphonic touch to it. The music video shows a janitor busting a move to the genre-bending track.

“Mambo 23” appears to be the first taste of a new era in Guerra’s music career. It will be interesting to see if he continues to explore genres like dembow or if he will collaborate with the artists who proudly represent those sounds. 

Guerra is set to have a homecoming concert in Santo Domingo in February 2024.