Although normally considered guitar music, Bachata also utilizes maracas, claves, gourd scrapers, marimbas and bongo drums. In the early days, an accordion sometimes substituted for a guitar, especially when merengue and other dance music was the theme of the evening. The 1960s saw the popularization of Bachata music, as romantic guitar music dominated the charts in South America.
Prior to the popularization of recorded albums, guitar trios were widespread forms of entertainment at private and public functions in South America. The very definition of bachata means fun or merriment, because that is how listeners feel when experiencing the music.
Bachata is also a term for a party where the guitar music is played. Food, drink and music are all important factors for a successful bachata. Bachata musicians are traditionally only paid with refreshments, and the parties sometimes go until the wee hours of the morning when a special soup, sancocho, signals the end of the festivities.
Bachata didn't become a recognized style until the 1970s, though upper and middle class citizens tried to denigrate the music. The bachata musicians themselves tried to label their genre as romantic bolero, but the term bachata has stuck to this day, as of 2014.