Three things are certain when you enter a supermarket in a Latino neighborhood: plantains, Goya products and Spanish music blasting from the sound system.
For bachata singer J’Martin, the music part takes on a special meaning – he owns 31 supermarkets in the Associated chain, most of them in the city.
“Music has always been my passion since I was a child,” the 34-year-old Queens-born Dominicano says, explaining his start in merengue, detour into the supermarket business and return wearing both hats.
“Between 1998 and 2009, I was retired,” he said, “though I continued to be a music lover and a fan of artists.”
He made his way back last year, but this time singing bachata – or “bachata pop” as he calls it – and releasing a debut album, “Para ti” (“For You”).
The single “Inténtalo” (“Try It”), featuring vocalist Magic Juan, led the way, reaching the top spot on Billboard‘s Tropical Airplay chart last spring.
“The foundation is completely bachata. … However, there’s fusions with R&B, freestyle, certain American touches that are not used in traditional bachata,” he says of his style, “but keeping it danceable.”
“I was raised on traditional music from the north, from El Cibao, accordion music and merengue from that era,” he says in Spanish. “But since I was born here, I also followed American culture, so there was a mix of all those rhythms.”
Following the rite of passage known as performing in family parties, and delving into percussion at school, J’Martin and some friends formed a “contemporary merengue” band in the early 1990s in Queens and titled it Baby Band: “We had three [people in the group] and lasted almost five years, then we each went our way.”
J’Martin’s way was into the family trade, supermarkets, and raising two daughters and a son with Marisol, his partner of 15 years. They live in upscale Manhasset Hills, L.I.
He’s now promoting the interestingly titled tune, “Aprende a ser infiel” (“Learn How to Be Unfaithful”). The cheater is the woman in the song’s video.
“No one wants to [be unfaithful], and one doesn’t advise anyone to do it,” he says, treading carefully on the delicate subject, “but if you are going to do it, do it right – at least.”
The song is climbing Billboard’s Tropical Songs chart, where it’s at No. 8 this week, up from No. 20 last week.
But despite all his passion for music, when asked what side of his double life pulls him the most, J’Martin doesn’t commit.
“I live off my [supermarket] business,” he says. “It’s like asking you to pick your parents or your children. You want to be with both.”