Living on the Planet | australia | china | europe | india | latin america  
Boulevard St Michel
Southern Exposure
admin at living in latin america dot com
| by Priya Lal | April 27, 2004 at 05:03 PM | comments (1) | trackback (0)

these days i'm disfrutaring (enjoying) latin dreams' single, "quiero una chica." that song is off the hook. and it's the soundtrack to my recent time in ecuador, especially in the village of cabo san francisco, where i heard it over and over and over - blaring from the houses with stereos, blaring on the dancefloor on discoteca nites, blaring on buses, etc. it makes me very, very happy to listen to the opening pickup and know that the rest of the song is on its way.

(sidenote and word of advice: if you want to have a little one-person latin pop dance party in your home, like me, you might want to look into complementing "quiero una chica" by downloading these as well: jarabe de palo, "bonito" and juanes, "a dios le pido" and cabas, "la caderona.")

but more on "quiero una chica." this is a reggaeton song, folks. what the hell is reggaeton, you ask? reggaeton is a hybrid par supreme and a most fascinating genre of popular music. lots of myths are floating around about reggaeton - that it's the moniker for all reggae in spanish, that it's the same thing as dancehall, that it originated in puerto rico. what i've gathered is that reggaeton was started by jamaican kids in panama who adapted the famous dem-bow riddim of dancehall to their latin context, singing and rapping in spanish and adding to the dancehall beats with salsa and bomba rhythms and borrowing from other popular genres like house and hip hop. reggaeton is now most obviously identified with puerto rico, where it has taken root and taken off in the past decade.

i was putzing around on the net looking for pages on reggaeton and stumbled across this really interesting discussion on the board of a site called "music of puerto rico" (link at the bottom of this post). it's interesting because it features a very vocal puerto rican music fan's argument for the importance of keeping the origins of musics, particularly caribbean musics, straight. for example, he vigorously criticizes some puerto ricans' attempt to "claim" merengue, traditionally identified as originating in the dominican republic, as their own. in this discussion he's calling for puerto ricans to remember that reggaeton is a product of panama, not puerto rico's "invention."

what makes it really interesting are the posts about africa:
"well well,what is called reggaetom,come from the root of Mali( Africa)" says zaragemca and "what i don't understand why don't people know the origins of music especially salsa? my grandmother always told me salsa is heacily african rooted but in spanish words and i also found out that there is salsa in some african countries sanged in spanish" says manny.

it seems to that the "classic" caribbean popular musics (salsa, merengue, son, etc) have always been defined by their hybridity more than anything else - and in newcomer reggaeton it seems that the same is obviously true, hence the heated opinions in this online discussion between strangers. i appreciate the intervention of the board admin, who posted, "we should not hung up on trying to strictly assign the country of origin for each genre." sure. but at the same time, i can kind of sympathize with the jamaican dj's who created the dembow riddim and the west indian kids in panama who started experimenting with "latin"izing dancehall-type music, who might protest in the face of those claiming reggaeton as a purely puerto rican export.

but i guess the real point is just that we should remember that all of the popular music that comes out of these parts of the world has been born out of a complex history of myriad musical and cultural influences, just as the peoples of the caribbean themselves. the central american and south american coasts included. and, for example (to relate this all back to where i just was a couple weeks ago), the northern ecuadorian coast included, where afro-ecuadorians and their afro-columbians up the coast make their own species of hybrid marimba music, complete with their own dance tradition and, if i remember correctly, some sort of storytelling singing-poet tradition that sounds awfully similar to malian griots.

i don't know. "quiero una chica" i love partly because it's so blatantly hybrid - opening with simple chords strummed on a guitar that repeat throughout the song and are layered under the dancehall-ish riddim along with little babies of the beat machine that skip around the reggae-styled spanish rapping and the the unabashedly pop ballad-style crooning of the chorus.

check it out. and if anyone reading this knows anything more about reggaeton or marimba traditions on the columbian or ecuadorian coast, please let me know. or, in fact, has any sort of opinion/thoughts on origins and caribbean/latin popular musics.

(link referred to above:


If one was to digitize the rhythm of Puerto Rican plena, one would have a cliché reggaeton beat.

Then again, every once and a while I will hear a bomba or cumbia lick and see the roots of a reggaeton beat.

From an anthropological perspective, I would have to say that reggaeton is a music developed in Puerto Rico but derived from Panama. It's original shape must have been heavily influenced by cumbia and Jamaican dance-hall. Once it arrived to Puerto Rico, the rap influence accelerated and the beat became much more clearly defined.

My personal theory, by the way.

Posted by luis | April 28, 2004 03:51 PM

Post a Comment

" remember personal info?

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference 'reggaeton, origins of popular musics, and a hit single...' from Living in Latin America.
Recent Stories
Living on the Planet