| || || | Reggaeton is sweeping the Latin music world with its irrepressible blend of tropical Latin and reggae rhythms. Today many of the most popular reggaeton artists come from Puerto Rico, but you can't keep this music from sailing out to the rest of the world. Reggaeton is a modification of raggamuffin that, in turn, developed from reggae and Hip Hop. Reggaeton distinguishes itself through its provocative and full of protest Spanish lyrics and exhibits the impact of further Latino styles, like bomba and salsa. The Music: The distinctive sound of today's reggaeton is a mix of Jamaican dancehall rhythms, derived from reggae, and Latin merengue, bomba, plena and sometimes salsa. It's heavily percussive beat is called "dembow" and comes from Trinidad's 'soca' music; it fuses electronic dance music, hip-hop elements and Spanish / Spanglish rap to form a compelling, driving sound that has been embraced by hispanic urban youth worldwide. Roots of Reggaeton: Historically there has been an invisible line that has segregated Jamaican music and other Latin dance styles. But that line was breached in Panama, a country with a significant Jamaican population that had migrated south to work on the Panama Canal in the early 20th century.
There's a heated debate about whether reggaeton originated in Panama or Puerto Rico. While it seems obvious that the roots are Panamanian, some of the best know (and earliest) purveyors of today's reggaeton sounds come from Puerto Rico, so the confusion is easily understood.
Panamanian El General (Edgardo A. Franco) was one of the pioneers of the Reggaeton sound, returning to Panama from an accounting job in the states to record the new dancehall fusion. During the 1990s, the reggae sound became more popular in Panama and continued to change as elements of hip hop, rap and other carribean music fused with the older reggae dancehall style.
Puerto Rico Takes Over:
As the mixture of hip hop, rap and reggae caught the imagination of urban youth in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Latin cultural centers in the U.S., the majority of new reggaeton artists catching the public's imagination came from Puerto Rico - to the extent that reggaeton is often thought of as primarily Puerto Rican Music.
Puerto Rico's pioneering rapper, Vico C, started releasing hip hop recordings in the 1980s and over time mixed in urban Panamanian dancehall music. Performing in a suit rather than traditional rapper clothing, Vico added plena and bomba elements to his musical mix. The music caught on and generated a wealth of musical talent bent on expressing the angst, anger and energy of urban life set to a compelling rhythm.
Reggaeton Takes Off:
2004 was the year that reggaeton finally burst out of its confined space. With the release of Daddy Yankee's Barrio Fino, Tego Calderon's El Enemy de los Guasibiri, Ivy Queen's Diva and Real, the reggaeton sensation was off and running and shows no sign of slowing down.
Puerto Rico's large roster of reggaeton artists include, along with those mentioned above, Voltio, Glory, Wisin & Yandel, Don Omar, Luny Tunes, Calle 13 and Hector El Bambino (now Hector the Father). This Puerto Rican invasion has captured the hearts of urban hispanic youth the world over.
Expansion of Reggaeton
Reggaeton gained recognition and popularity first in Panama and then mostly in Puerto Rico. This musical direction expanded very rapidly, though, into other Latin American countries, such as Dominican Republic, Peru, Venezuela, Columbia, Mexico, Nicaragua and Cuba. In recent years, this music style emerged in the USA, mostly in the cities with large Latino population, like New York or Miami.
Nowadays, reggaeton is well known in most of the Spanish-speaking countries and is now capturing Europe. Spanish music industry puts in special efforts into intensive reggaeton promotion, although reggaeton is characterized by flamenco elements there.
The immense popularity of reggaeton in Latin American centers gives a reason to believe that pretty soon it is going to surpass the popularity of such typical Latino music styles as salsa or merengue, reggaeton is "in".
The most popular singers
At the moment, Tego Calderón, Don Omar or Daddy Yankee are the most famous reggaeton performers, but the constantly growing popularity of this music assures the development of many more artists, discos and dance schools, that will make it possible to participate in and enjoy this avant-garde, contrarian urban musical direction.
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Illustration from Clyde Mendes column at Salsa TV, Singapore