Luis Vargas

En el año 1987 comenzó un nuevo capítulo en la historia de la Bachata cuando Blas Duran introdujo innovaciones estilísticas modernas como la guitarra eléctrica y las grabaciones multipista. Luís Vargas fue el primero de un grupo de bachateros, todos de la frontera dominicana del norte con Haití, que siguió el ejemplo de Duran para tomar ventaja de la viabilidad comercial que se le dio a la bachata por el nuevo y más moderno sonido.

Antes de Vargas, la frontera, o “la línea”, no había sido conocida por producir guitarristas célebres1. Duran es de Nagua, una ciudad vacacional del norte de San Francisco de Macorís, y muchos de los bachateros importantes de la era del requinto acústico eran de los campos de alrededor de San Francisco o Nagua. Sin embargo la línea había sido la provincia del merengue típico, merengue tradicional tocado con güira, tambora y acordeón. Es importante que bachateros de la frontera, como Vargas y su gran rival Antony Santos, hayan llegado a ser populares cuando el merengue de guitarra estaba en ascenso después del éxito que tuvo Durán con su bachata-merengue: “Consejo a las mujeres”: “Consejo a las mujeres”.

Aunque la música de Vargas es el producto de diferentes influencias, su temprana carrera no puede ser separada de la de Blas Durán. Al igual que Durán, las grabaciones que hizo Vargas a finales de los 1980s contienen más merengues de guitarra que la misma bachata, y las letras son invariablemente de doble sentido. Las introducciones de guitarra en las primeras canciones de Luís Vargas como “El zapatero” y “La maravilla” son claramente inspiradas por las introducciones del guitarrista de Blas Durán: Jesús Martínez. Sin embargo el estilo de Vargas viene de varias fuentes, y evidentemente aprendió mucho de los merengues de guitarra de Eladio Romero Santos, siempre popular en el campo dominicano.

Vargas comenzó a grabar bachatas en 1982, cantando en estilo de barítono con sollozos que reflejó los estilos de Luís Segura y de su predecesor en la frontera Víctor Estévez. Sin embargo no fue hasta finales de los 1980s que Vargas ganó una extensa popularidad con su nuevo estilo de merengue de guitarra, el cual no estaba basado ni en orquesta, como el de Durán, ni era tan rústico como el de Romero Santos. También fue con estos primeros merengues que hizo su verdadero impacto en la bachata. Interpretaciones como “El machetazo” de “El tomate” de 1988 ayudaron a comenzar una revolución en el género. Vargas ganó su primer éxito comercial a larga escala con su álbum “La maravilla”, que se puso a la venta en 1989. La bachata “La Traicionera” fue el éxito del álbum, la cual mostraba intercalaciones entre bachata y merengue, mientras entregaba algunas de las letras más subidas de tono jamás antes escuchadas en el género.

En las primeras bachatas de Luís Vargas, como “La traicionera” y “Esa Mujer”, comenzamos a oír las características de los bachateros de la frontera influenciadas por el merengue, lo que impactarían a la bachata moderna. Se comenzó a tocar el bongo con palos en lugar de hacerlo con las manos, y en ritmos con características prestadas del merengue. De la misma manera, la guitarra principal interpretó figuras de merengue por encima del ritmo de bolero de la música. El estilo vocal de barítono con sollozos de Vargas y de otros bachateros de la frontera también llego a caracterizar al género.

Antony Santos dejó el grupo de Vargas, en el cual tocaba la güira, para formar el suyo propio, y por razones personales y profesionales ambos llegaron a ser rivales implacables. Sin embargo, es cierto que Vargas fue rápido al sacar provecho de tal rivalidad para motivos comerciales. Aunque Santos, en su camino hacia la indiscutible supremacía, estaba por lo general satisfecho por ignorar a Vargas, la mayoría de las grabaciones de Vargas comenzaron a incluir al menos una canción que insinuaba burla a su rival. Una de ellas, “El envidioso” llegó a ser un éxito considerable. Al mismo tiempo Vargas se contenía de usar el “doble sentido”. Santos y otro bachatero de la frontera, Raulín Rodríguez, demostraron por primera vez el enorme potencial comercial del estilo eléctrico moderno cuando se vincularon con letras románticas y dejaron las letras subidas de tono. Luís Vargas siguió pronto su ejemplo rompiendo sociedad con Blas Durán, quien continuó haciendo grabaciones de doble sentido. El mayor éxito comercial de Vargas llegó de la romántica, aunque ciertamente descuidada, bachata “Loco de Amor” en 1992.

En la misma grabación “Loco de amor”, Vargas hizo una nueva versión de un vallenato colombiano “Cenizas frías”, y repitió esta fórmula varios años después con “Volvió el dolor” (1997), canción que junto con “Loco amor” llegó a ser su himno nacional. El éxito que obtuvo “El dolor” inspiró a otros bachateros a buscar material en Colombia. Una generación completa siguió las huellas de Vargas con Monchy y Alexandra y sus guitarristas, Mártires de León, encabezando el camino en la adaptación de vallenatos al formato de la bachata.

La estrella de Vargas se atenuó desde “Volvió el dolor”. Aunque ciertamente es uno de los pioneros de la bachata moderna, Vargas no mostró el mismo talento que su gran rival, Antony Santos, para adaptarse a los cambios que sufrió el género. Aunque sus recientes grabaciones han tenido algo de éxito con su audiencia ya establecida, ya no es considerado, como lo fue anteriormente y por tantos años, uno de los primeros actos de la bachata. Él continúa realizando interpretaciones en República Dominicana y en la Ciudad de Nueva York, y sigue grabando nuevos materiales; pero en general es más conocido por sus éxitos anteriores como “El dolor” y “Loco de Amor”.

1. Julio Ángel, el autor de “El Salón”, nativo de Santiago, Rodríguez, y Víctor Estévez, de Castañuelas son excepciones notables.

Por David Wayne

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