Dominican music made its way to America in the early 20th century when US forces occupied the Dominican Republic starting in 1916. Musicians from the country emigrated to the US in the 1920s and ’30s.
Dominican musicians brought us merengue, mambo, and salsa music. They also brought us the urban bachata that became popular in the 2000s. Bachata blends hip-hop and R&B with English and Spanish influences set to a Dominican rhythm.
And just as distinct their music is, Dominicans have also made their mark on the international music industry. Here’s a list of some of the greatest and most famous Dominican singers of all time:
1. Cardi B
Belcalis Marlenis Almánzar-Cephus, otherwise known as Cardi B, was born in New York City to Dominican and Trinidadian parents.
Cardi B started her career being an Internet celebrity in 2013, posting videos on Vine and Instagram. Two years later in 2015, she appeared on a VH1 reality show about New York hip hop music and became the breakout star.
When she left the show two seasons later, she started collaborating with existing artists, such as Jamaican rapper Popcaan and KSR Group artists Josh X, Cashflow Harlem, SwiftOnDemand, and HoodCelebrityy.
Not long after, Cardi B became the first female rapper to hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart since 1998 with her song “Bodak Yellow” in 2018. Since then, she’s become an international superstar with several award nominations and wins, and songs that hit #1 as soon as they appear.
2. Juan Luis Guerra
Juan Luis Guerra Seijas is known professionally as Juan Luis Guerra. He was born in Santo Domingo and became one of the top-selling Latin musicians and is considered the most famous singer in the Dominican Republic.
Guerra released his first album in 1984, and in the years since, he’s won two Grammy Awards and 21 Latin Grammy Awards.
Among his most notable contributions to the music industry is popularizing bachata music and merengue with an Afro-Latin twist and Bossa-Nova influences. Guerra also released several songs in English that helped him reach an American audience.
Some of his most notable songs are “El Costo de la Vida,” “Bachata en Fukuoka,” and “I Love You More.”
3. Antony Santos
Domingo Antonio Santos, also known as Antony Santos and El Mayimbe, is a world-famous bachata artist and one of the best-selling bachata musicians in record history.
He transformed the musical style in the 1990s and is considered one of the pioneers of modern bachata. He is known to have redefined the bachata genre by being the first to use guitar pedals and infusing romantic lyrics into his songs.
During the early years of his career, Santos played the güira, a kind of Dominican percussion instrument, for bachata musician Luis Vargas. He went on to play for other bachata artists for years until he achieved mainstream recognition with his song “Voy Pa’llá.”
Among his other popular songs include “Bellas,” “Que Planton,” and “Porque Tanto Problema.”
4. Romeo Santos
Anthony “Romeo” Santos goes by Romeo Santos professionally. He was born in New York to a Puerto Rican mother and Dominican father.
He’s not related to Antony Santos, who we previously mentioned, though he credits him as his most significant influence. His love of music started when he began singing in church as a child and learning about Latin music from his parents.
Santos started as the lead singer of the bachata group Aventura in the early 2000s. After the group disbanded, Santos went on a solo career with Sony Records in 2011.
As a solo artist, he’s had several #1 hits on the Hot Latin Songs chart and has sold over 40 million albums. He also played three sold-out shows in a row at Madison Square Garden in New York in 2012.
Among his most popular songs include “You,” “Promise,” “Odio,” and “Sus Huellas.”
5. Milly Quezada
Milagros Quezada Borbón, known professionally as Milly Quezada, was born in Santo Domingo to a musical family.
Her family moved to New York when she was small to help develop her musical talent. In her teenage years, Quezada formed a group with her siblings, and they became known as “Milly, Jocelyn & Los Vecinos.”
Quezada eventually pursued a solo career and spent the early 1990s touring and recording. Soon, she became known as the “Queen of Merengue” and won many musical awards, including four Latin Grammy Awards.
However, she took a break when her husband died in 1996. After her hiatus, Quezada went on to release several hit songs, such as “Toma mi Vida,” Lo Tengo Todo,” and “Vive.”
In 2020, she released the heartwarming song “Gracias A Ti” to thank frontline workers for their service during the COVID-19 pandemic.
6. Kat DeLuna
Kathleen Emperatriz DeLuna, known as Kat DeLuna, was born to Dominican parents in Newark, New Jersey.
They moved to the Dominican Republic when she was young and back to the US when she was 14. At 15 years old, she entered a karaoke competition where she met Cuban singer Rey Ruiz, which eventually inspired her to write her own music.
In 2004, at the age of 17, DeLuna joined the R&B group Coquette. However, two years later, she left the group and signed with with Epic Records for a solo career.
Her debut album in 2007 with the hit single “Whine Up” sold over 200,000 copies in the US alone. DeLuna’s many albums and singles that followed have charted consistently in the US and across Europe.
7. Prince Royce
Geoffrey Royce Rojas took the stage name Prince Royce and released his debut album in 2010.
Born to a working-class Dominican family in The Bronx, New York, he started performing in talent shows at age 13. Royce counts Ricky Martin and Marc Antony as two of his biggest influences.
He sings bachata and released many songs, including covers of popular songs that charted on the Latin Albums and Latin Songs charts. Some of his most notable songs are “Corazón Sin Cara,” “Darte un Beso,” and “Sensualidad.”
He’s won several Latin Grammy Awards and broke records in 2020 with his song “Carita de Inocente.” The song spent 29 weeks at #1 on the Latin Tropical Airplay Billboard chart.
8. Natti Natasha
Natalia Alexandra Gutierrez Batista, more known as simply Natti Natasha, comes from Santiago de los Caballeros.
Her interest in music began early, and she took singing classes at age seven. When she turned 18, she started writing and recording songs. Natasha counts Lauryn Hill and Bob Marley as early influences.
She began her career signing with Orfanato Music Group but only did collaborations with other artists such as Don Omar and Farruko during her early years.
Her breakthrough single was “Criminal” in 2017, featuring Puerto Rican rapper Ozuna. Their music video was considered the most-watched MV that year. She also collaborated with Becky G and earned Certified Platinum status with their song “Sin Pijama.”
It wasn’t until 2019 that she released her debut album Illuminati, which included hit songs like “Soy Mía” and “Te Lo Dije.”
9. Jhené Aiko
Jhené Aiko Efuru Chilombo, known only as Jhené Aiko, comes from Los Angeles yet was born to mixed heritage parents. Her mother is of Dominican, Japanese, and Spanish descent.
She began her career with record label The Ultimate Group, contributing her vocals to B2K, an American boy band in the early 2000s.
During the early years of her career, Aiko recorded Extended Play albums (EPs) and singles for various labels and projects and collaborated with singers like Lil Wayne.
It was in 2014 that she achieved Certified Platinum status with her song “The Worst” from her EP a year prior. That same year, she released her first studio album Souled Out.
She’s released two more albums and became so popular that she performed a pre-game rendition of “America The Beautiful” at the recent Super Bowl LVI and performed on Saturday Night Live.
10. Mila J
Jamila Akiko Aba Chilombo, known professionally as Mila J, is the sister of popular R&B singer Jhené Aiko who we just looked at.
She started her career as part of the dance group “Innocence.” Mila J, along with her group, danced in Prince’s “Diamond and Pearls” video in 1991 and appeared in other music videos. Her performance with the group brought her to the attention of former record executive Chris Stokes.
Through Stokes, he helped Mila J and her sister Miyoko to form an R&B group called “Gyrl,” along with other female dancers who came and go along the way. As a group, they released singles that hit the charts, including “Play Another Slow Jam” and “Get Your Groove On.”
Eventually, Mila J left the group and took a long hiatus in hopes of finding her own identity as an artist and not just part of a group. Not soon after, she signed with Universal Motown and stayed with their label for four years.
She is currently an independent artist beginning in 2017 after she left Motown. Some of her popular songs include “Thankful,” “Kickin’ Back,” and “La La Land.”
11. Eddy Herrera
Born in Santiago de los Caballeros, Eduardo José Herrera de los Ríos, known professionally as Eddy Herrera, is one of the most popular merengue singers in the world.
Herrera started playing the guitar when he was nine. At age 17, he won first place in a musical festival competition. He went on to release several successful songs as part of a musical group under Wilfrido Vargas.
He eventually embarked on a solo career under MP J & N Records. In 2008, Herrera went on an international tour through the US and several Latin countries.
In recent years, Herrera won a Latin Grammy for his album “Ahora” in 2020. He has also won the Dominican Casandra Award (now the Soberano Award) multiple times.
12. Leslie Grace
Leslie Grace Martinez, known only as Leslie Grace, was born in The Bronx in New York to working-class Dominican parents.
She started singing and dancing as a child and often performed with her five siblings. She released an album when she was in middle school through the independent artist website CD Baby.
Her main genre was Christian music, but her debut song with a mainstream reach was a cover of a 1961 Shirelles song “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” done with a bachata twist.
Grace earned several Latin Grammy Award nominations and a role in the film “In the Heights” by Lin-Manuel Miranda. She also won the leading role in the “Batgirl” series from HBO Max.
13. Karina Pasian
American singer and songwriter Karina Pasian hailed from a musical mixed Armenian and Dominican family. Her native language is Russian, and she can sing in six other languages.
At age three, she took piano lessons from a babysitter and took singing lessons by age eight. Pasian won Star Search as a child and performed for then-President George W. Bush in 2007. She was the first person of Dominican descent to perform at the White House.
She received a Grammy Award nomination for her debut album in 2008 and has released several other popular songs since then, both under labels and independently.
Some of her notable songs include “Solitaire,” “Can’t Find the Words,” and “16 @ War.”
Danielle Leigh Curiel, who goes by DaniLeigh on stage, was born in Miami, Florida. Her parents are Dominican, and they encouraged her to pursue dance and music at an early age.
She started dancing and singing at age 12 and 14, respectively. Her career took off as a backup dancer for artists like Nelly Furtado and Pharrel Williams.
When she was 18, American singer and songwriter Prince mentored DaniLeigh after she directed the music video for his song “Breakfast Can Wait.”
In 2015, she released her first single “D.O.S.E.” It was not until two years later that she had her first successful single, “Play,” which was a song about women empowerment.
Aside from singing, she also choreographs and continues to dance professionally.
15. El Alfa El Jefe
Dominican rapper El Alfa El Jefe, or simply El Alfa, was born Emanuel Herrera Batista in Santo Domingo.
He started his solo career in 2009 and released a song called “Coche Bomba” that became popular in local music scenes.
In 2012, his song “Muevete Jevi” amassed over 3 million listens on Spotify. His popularity soared since then, and a year later, he released “Fuin Fuan,” which became another hit.
Each of his new releases got more attention, and by 2015, he was selling enough records to get noticed in the US and Europe music scene.
In 2022, El Alfa embarked on a tour of the US. The same year, he was nominated for Male Revelation Artist and Best Tropical Song Of The Year at the Premio Lo Nuestro awards show.
Wrapping Up Our List Of The Greatest Dominican Singers Of All Time
Whether you like traditional Dominican music like the merengue and mambo, or modern sounds like the bachata and rap, you’ll find artists to enjoy in this list.
Many of the best singers from the Dominican Republic have achieved mainstream success across Europe, the UK, and the US because music is universal.
Their talent can transcend language and culture to become something everyone can experience. By listening to these Latin singers, you might find a new genre of music to love!