by Ari Herstand

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Cabarete in the Dominican Republic is called the Kite Surfing Capital of the world. Promoted as a picturesque beach getaway by travel guides, the reality is much different. Prostitution, both male and female, is rampant. Encouraged and unchecked. If you’re not careful, you’ll find yourself caught up in the locals’ scheme to strip you of your clothes and money. Male prostitution is sneakier. These young men - often in their early twenties or younger - court visiting older women. They befriend and become their companions for the trip. Sometimes sex is involved, but oftentimes not. Once the women go back home, these men stay in touch and convince these unsuspecting women to send them money regularly.

I visited Cabarete on my Dominican Republic two week excursion. Besides almost getting stabbed by a male prostitute and being sold, what I thought was, weed (which was really just balled up tin foil in a baggy), the beach town left a longer impression than the sunburn I left with.

The first night there, my travel mate and I found a bar off the beaten path. It only took us a few minutes to notice the middle aged white American men surrounded by teenage Dominican girls at every table. Before we could be propositioned, or worse, we darted to more welcoming venues with people our age.

“Motoconchos,” motorcycle taxis, buzzed around the small town, coughing out dark clouds of smoke in their wake.

However, exploring deeper, there is a beaufiully vibrant local culture. Like the farm to table restaurant with art by local artists decorating the walls. The art stood out not only for its optimism, creativity and color, but because it was so drastically different than the street art sold on every corner. The street paintings are formulaic and stock. Indistinguishable from artist to artist. The painting from the restaurant wall remains my favorite piece of art I own.

On the beach, vendors walk around with suitcases full of cigars, jewelry, sunscreen, small paintings and other items to make a quick buck from tourists.

This song “Cabarete,” melancholy in tone, describes the juxtaposition of this beautiful kite-surfing beach town with its dark under belly. The socioeconomic realities of the local culture heavily dependent on tourism. And the internal, emotional battle on how an American tourist with very little influence should approach this foreign reality.


The air is thick the taxis sit
The motors run and smoke coughs from
The mouth of a city low on fuel

The wind is rough the waves are up
The vendors sweat the heat is wet
The sand burning my bare feet

The sound of the ocean invoking the crowd
Their heads turn to notice the moment slows down
They are we and you are me

When nightfall hits, on the strip
a pretty girl in stolen pearls
She finds her patron for the night

I hold my tongue and walk the other way
I’m just a tourist feeling out of place

The sound of the ocean invoking the crowd
Their heads turn to notice the moment slows down
They are we and you are me

The sound of the ocean invoking the crowd
Their heads turn to notice the moment slows down

They are we and you are me


released February 9, 2018
Written by Ari Herstand and Chris Koza
Produced by Paul Marino and Ari Herstand
Mixed by Paul Marino
Engineered by Paul Marino
Additional engineering by Joe Christenson
Assistant engineering by Zach Hollander at The Pearl and Rob Osterlin at The Terrarium
Recorded at The Terrarium, Minneapolis, MN, Marino Jones Studios, Northfield, MN, The Pearl Recording Studio, Minneapolis, MN and Fuzzy Slippers Studios, St. Paul, MN

Mastered by Bernie Grundman at Bernie Grundman Mastering, Los Angeles, CA

the band:
Ari: vocals, acoustic guitar, piano, beat boxing, trumpet, percussion, programming
Jim Anton: bass
Jake Hansen: electric guitars
Joey Kantor: keys
Dave King: drums


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Ari Herstand Los Angeles, California

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