Saturday, December 30, 2006

Reggaetonica Vault - 1994

It's almost the end of the year and I'm in a retrospective mood. So I've decided to create a Reggaetonica Vault.

Below is the first article I ever wrote. It was originally a letter to the editor that was eventually published as an opinion piece in Claridad in March 1994. I was twenty-one and upset about the treatment rap and reggae were getting on the Puerto Rican press.

That first article led to the creation of the Garabatas al Cruce youth supplement of Claridad. (For an intro to Las Garbatas check my post "Why Reggaetonica?") Here is the Garabatas premier issue (June 1994), dedicated to (surprise surprise) the rap and reggae scene in PR.

The first article was a Garabatas collective effort titled "Pagan raperos por pecadores." It explored the criminalization of young men who fit the "rapero" profile.

The second article of our premier Garabatas issue was titled "Rapeando en puertorriqueño" and was co-written by Carmen Oquendo Villar and myself. Click here for Part I. Click here for Part II. Click here for Part III. Click here for Part IV.

Missing is the third article of the supplement, dedicated to the growing Christian rap scene and titled "Raperos para Cristo." I still have to scan that one.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

La Sista: “Mucha yegua pa poco chongo”

La Sista’s debut CD is in stores! It's titled Majestad Negroide and just came out 2 weeks ago on Machete Music.

The Loiza native’s rhymes are well-crafted and laced with sharp wit, rage, pain, insight and smugness. She’s got a nice singing voice too. There’s a surprisingly good dose of bomba in it, a bit of salsa, pop-ballad, hip hop and reggae roots, and much much reggaeton.

I feel like when Tego’s album came out! Relieved. Elated. Proud.

Her wordplays are top-notch. La Sista is better than “chulería en pote,” she boasts. Big, strong and with no pretensions of refinement, she’s the “jodienda en cacharro.” Way ahead of simple-minded folks who will attack her with the obvious, she lays it out: she’s not the light-skinned, rail-thin model type. And?

Que tu esperabas, ¿la Tañón?
Con un bustier, cantándote esta canción
¿Porqué será para to hay un prototipo?
Qué tu pretende, ¿que La Sista se haga una lipo?
Tipo si te ‘ua dar de lo que soy
No pare ma, yo no vine a modelar

Bling? Money? Stinks like tallow, she says.

Mere, yo ando sin chaucha y sin ningún blinblineo
Y con unos africanos encaramaos en el cuello
El congo llama la sangre negra que llevo
El dinero no me llama porque apesta a sebo

The album starts with “Tu no puedes ver,” a fiery seis corrido (one of many bomba sub-genres) featuring the Ayala family and La Sista’s boasting. Next is “Rulé candela,” a nice reggaetoney take on the traditional bomba of the same title.

Dale rulé candela
Pa ver si el gas pela o no pela

Then “Anacaona,” an homage to Quisqueya’s Taíno leader. Thankfully, there is none of the playing up the Native element while playing down the African. La Sista likens herself to Anacaona, but says straight out she’s the African version.

Aquí está tu cimarrona[…]
Versión africana, yo soy tu Anacaona

Next up is a love song to reggaeton titled “Mi reggaeton.”

Tu eres mi desahogo, contigo canto y lloro
Contigo bailo y río, por ti me desvivo
Tu eres mi consuelo, por ti yo me desvelo

Then comes “Calabo & Bamboo.” The title is derived from a Luis Palés Matos poem but thankfully takes it where Palés certainly didn’t.

Recoge tus casquibaches
No frego más un caldero
No te hago más comía
Ve en caje de tu tía
No te tengo más la ropa al día
Avanza y lárgate déjame la percha vacía
Qué tú te crees, ¿que están a dos por vellón?
Si cuando tu iba yo venía por el callejón

So many things about so many of the other songs strike me. But if I keep waiting to have time to write all that down, you might not get the chance to get this album for Christmas or Reyes. And I think the sooner the better, since we all should give La Sista the support she deserves. Spread the word.

I can’t help but end citing the hip hop-heavy “This Is My Game,” by far my favorite.

Yo vengo del congo
Yo soy mucha yegua pa poco chongo

She is!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Why “Reggaetonica”?

I’ve been asked about this blog’s title.

It’s not so much that I am reggaetonic—although I do like that play on words—but that reggaeton is the “tonic” of our times.

“Tonic” as in “nota tónica” (tonic note):
1. Primera de la escala del tono en que está compuesto un trozo
2. The first note in a scale and the harmony built on this note

“Tonic” as in “sílaba tónica” (tonic syllable):
1. Que recibe el tono o acento
2. The syllable that has the main stress in a word

“Tonic” also as in:
1. Something that lifts the spirits or makes somebody feel better generally
2. A medicine that purports to make patients feel stronger, more energetic, and generally healthier

Gendering the word female in “reggaetonica” instead of using the implicitly masculine “reggaetonic” is also my homage to a group of young writers in the early 1990s in Puerto Rico that named ourselves Garabatas al Cruce in order to rant from the pages of Claridad newspaper. Even though we were a mixed group, we chose to gender our name female: Las Garabatas rather than Los Garabatos. We figured: Why not?

Gallego, a.k.a. Jose Raul Gonzalez—who later rose to fame as reggaeton’s Resident Poet—was part of it. So was Harry Hernandez, Carmen Oquendo Villar, Damaris Estrada and Rossana Vidal.

Much of Las Garabatas' initial motivation was our feeling that rap, reggae, graffiti and other art forms cultivated by our generation were being dismissed and shortchanged. Our name was indebted to a University of Puerto Rico professor who, during a lecture, called graffiti “garabatos en la pared” (scribbles on the wall). Our name was also an homage to proto-reggaeton artist Falo’s anthem “Pa’l Cruce.”

Reggaetonica, in turn, is indebted to Las Garabatas. Vuelvo a tirarme a pié.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

SEEKING writings on Panama’s reggae/reggaeton scene

My co-editors and myself (for the anthology Reading Reggaeton) have had a very hard time identifying folks writing on Panama’s reggae/reggaeton scene.

We are interested in both academic and journalistic writings. We welcome recent articles, but we are particularly seeking articles written in the 1990s (and even earlier).

Any suggestions? Please forward the info to