DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: Sueños y Pesadillas del Tercer Mundo - Toque Profundo
Updated: Feb 16
Prescient lyricism, ambitious compositions and raw energy - a debut album for the history books
If you have arrived to this page looking for a recommendation of an amazing Dominican classic, in some respects you have come to the right place. However, though one might expect a classic Dominican album to take the form of a bachata or merengue album, given that both are native to the island, we have instead chosen to highlight an album that will be synonymous with those who have fond memories of the rise of Dominican rock in the eighties and nineties. Toque Profundo were at the heart of that movement, in which Dominican music became more about saying something profound rather than simply music to dance to, which is a major transition when one considers that once upon a time the Dominican musicians were even mandated to lyrically be solely praising of former caudillo, Rafael Trujillo.
“So often as men, we are discouraged from showing affection or expressing appreciation to our male counterparts for fear of losing masculinity. I don’t subscribe to this ridiculous social norm and it feels like neither do the Toque Profundo boys.”
As a self-funded, entirely independent release, Toque Profundo had complete free reign when writing Sueños Y Pesadillas Del Tercer Mundo. One can hear the energy and vigour with which the band play, making it a no-brainer that the album became almost an overnight sensation in their homeland. What’s more, the band spoke to truths and realities about life in the Dominican Republic in what was a time in which the country’s citizens were experiencing an economic and cultural hangover from the mass-exodus of their compatriots who had gone on to seek the so-called American Dream. As such, it is no wonder that the opening song, Mi País, which was simultaneously musically excellent as well as being a lyrically amusing and astute account of the pros and cons of life in the Dominican Republic, became such a hit. The track sounds a bit like a rock opera in which lead vocalist Tony Almont brags about the joys of the country, as American backing singer Leo Susana undermines each boast by showing another reality of what life is really like. This almost Summer Nights-esque duet demonstrates the beautiful incongruities of life in the Dominican Republic that those from practically every country listening can empathise with due to dissonance between the good side and the ugly side of each place.
There are other energetic rocky tracks on show, though often taking on different subgenres of rock, which all tackle relevant themes. The practically prog-rock Abril, which starts with a funky bass and sirens, takes the listener on a whirlwind two and half minute instrumental opener before the group go onto sing about the 1965 Dominican Civil War. There is a fun hard-rock tune Y Soñó with some excellent guitar shredding on display, a wacky almost ska-adjacent tune dedicated to Nelson Mandela on Mandela, and the rather superb El Gevito is a blues-rock tune about appearance-obsessed young Dominicans with one of my favourite lyrics about ego ‘Plaza Naco es su país natal hasta que construyeron Plaza Central’ (referring to places in Santo Domingo, this translates literally to ‘Uncultured Square was his birthplace until they built Central Square’).
Yet, the rest of the album is made up mostly of ballads such as El Bolero del Biónico, Amigo and Latidos. The former starts with a circus-like instrumental and then turns into a tongue-in-cheek ballad about taxi-rides in the Dominican Republic with the rather poignant final line ‘a veces me arrepiento de vivir en mi pais’ (‘sometimes I regret living in my country’). Despite the group’s great rock sensibility, my favourite song on the album by some way is the aforementioned Amigo. Whilst it is gorgeously melodic at times, it is in fact for the lyrics that I find myself enamoured with the track. So often as men, we are discouraged from showing affection or expressing appreciation to our male counterparts for fear of losing masculinity. I don’t subscribe to this ridiculous social norm and it feels like neither do the Toque Profundo boys. The song is a really moving account of the power of a friendship and I feel like the lyrics resonates with me about how I feel towards various friends I am fortunate to have in my life.
Whilst it sounds like I am full of praise for the album I have one minor criticism which slightly impinges on my enjoyment of the record. I must admit that I am not a big fan of the vocals. I mean this as no slight on Almont, but his voice for whatever reason slightly grates on me. For this reason I struggle to consider it a perfect album. That said, lyrically and instrumentally it is superb. The band show great ambition, experimentalism and really nuance in their music. I, therefore, would recommend anyone to give this album a listen, particularly Spanish speakers, and I hope that the vocals will click with you more so than they did with me. Three decades on since the album’s release and I wonder how much of Toque Profundo’s social commentary still holds up today - answers on a postcard, I suppose.