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From the ground up: An interview with the Duke of Bachata

The Duke of Bachata, @SorianoBachata, playing @MDCLiveArts Friday.

Dominican musician Joan Soriano is known as the Duke of Bachata, but he's hardly royalty.

Soriano grew up on a farm in the Dominican Republic, where most of his siblings helped his father work the earth. He might have followed the same path, if it weren't for a guitar one of his older brothers built from a metal can.

"My brother left to work with my dad, and when I saw the guitar, I grabbed it and began to play," Soriano recalls. "My mom was cooking, and heard me playing the guitar. I thought she was going to get mad, and my brother would hit me when he arrived, but the opposite happened."

Soriano joined his brothers' band, which often played bachata for their neighbors. More than three decades later, Soriano, 43, lives in Santo Domingo and has become an established bachata singer-songwriter who has performed across the United States. He will appear Friday, Jan. 29, at the Koubek Center in Miami.

Music is his career, but getting there wasn't easy. Even after Soriano got his first guitar, he was still expected to help on the farm. At 13, he approached his parents after a long day spent working under the sun.

"I am not going to live off agriculture," he told them. "This is not my job."

He moved to the capital to live with an uncle, and began playing in bars and clubs around town. But by the time he released his fourth album in 2010, "El Duque de la Bachata [The Duke of Bachata]," he still lived in a house with no running water.

Yet he says he never considered another line of work.

"Sometimes, you think you're not going to have work to do," he says. "But then, a contract appears out of nowhere, and if you have a second job you can't work on it right away. Besides that, I like playing music."

Since 2010, he has moved into a new house, but he is still saving to buy his own property.

Like most bachata, Soriano's music is melancholic and often romantic. His finger-picked guitar, often the dominant sound in his songs, is accompanied by his soothing voice and bongos and other Latin instruments.

The title song of his latest album, "Me Decidi [I've Decided]," tells the story of how a husband decides to leave his wife.

"I had this neighbor that mistreated her husband, and the husband was always tolerating it," he says. "And then one day, he decided to leave her. He woke up and decided it was enough."

Joan Soriano will perform 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 29, at the Koubek Center, 2705 SW Third St., in Miami. Admission is $10, free for children 12 and younger. Call 305-237-3010 or go to MDCLiveArts.org.

bduarte@sunsentinel.com, @babicorb

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