Monday, September 28, 2009

Reggaeton hits the states

Reggaeton is quite possibly the one Spanish music genre that receives the most exposure in the United States. Nearly every big city with an existing Hispanic community has a radio station dedicated to reggaeton. From Los Angeles to New York City, this recently popular music is everywhere. So if you still haven't heard any, open up your orejas already!

As the name suggests, reggaeton is a descendent of island-stye reggae music. But that's a whole different history lesson that you can learn on your own. The important history to know about reggaeton is that it is a mix of hip hop and dance hall music. Add in the ritmos from native Latin music like salsa or cumbia and reggaeton is born.

This new hybrid music invaded the United States by 2004. If your memory is fuzzy, I'll remind you that this was the summer that you heard Daddy Yankee's "Gasolina" enough times that you were dreaming in Spanish. Lucky for us, this popular single was off Daddy Yankee's solid first release, Barrio Fino. His European counterpart, Don Omar, released the slightly less successful - but just as enjoyable - King of Kings in the same year. While these two were competing for the reggaeton crown, they actually opened the door for similar artists to expand the genre.

If your exposure to reggaeton is limited, know that it is more than just Spanish rap. A majority of the mainstream rap music in the United States seems to have a theme of materialism and masculinity. Recurring themes in reggaeton, however, are Hispanic pride, the people (la gente) and dancing. Some popular reggaeton song titles translate to "Bitter Life," "Feel the Boom" and "She Lifts Me Up."

Women in reggaeton are regarded with much more respect than American rap as well. The crass misogyny of U.S. rap is replaced by images of strong, beautiful women. "Perdoname" by La Factoria is a song about a cheating man who seeks forgiveness from a woman who is tired of his nonsense. Picture a rapping Beyonce full of attitude and sensuality. Ay caray!

While Spanish music is typically a great way to learn the Spanish language, reggaeton is not a good place to start. The tempos are fast and the letras fly by too quickly to be comprehended after one listen. But just because you can't understand the lyrics doesn't mean you can't move your feet. Even the lyrics seem to flow to with a rhythm that music in the U.S. does not have.

If you don't believe me, try these five songs. If they don't make you want to baila, then you need to check your pulse.

1. La Factoria ft. Eddy Lover - Perdoname
2. Da Family - Boom Boom Mama
3. Guajiros - Veo Veo
4. DJ Flex - Te Quiero
5. Wisin y Yandel - Sexy Movimiento

Vaya con musica,
DJ Gringuito