Wednesday, October 17, 2007

From the Roots Up: Thoughts on Boricua Music and Reggaeton

(Clickea aquí para la versión en español en El Diario / La Prensa.)

Reggaeton is a mix of rap, reggae and parranda, among other things. Something to that effect said one of the characters in the J-Lo co-produced movie Feel the Noise (starring Omarion) that opened last week.

I sat there, stunned: “Parranda? Huh? What the hell do they mean?”

“Parranda” is not a musical genre. People in Puerto Rico sometimes talk about “parranda music” to refer to the aguinaldos and plenas that folks associate with Boricua-style Christmas. But reggaeton draws next to nothing from aguinaldos and plenas: just a little hook here and there.

The truth is, thanks to Tego, Abrante and La Sista, reggaeton draws a lot more from bomba than from those other genres of Boricua roots music like plena and aguinaldo. In fact, reggaeton has more bachata, merengue, salsa and cumbia, than bomba, plena or aguinaldo.

So why does the movie identify “parranda” as one of the main musical sources of reggaeton?

I think it’s a bit of misinformation mixed with another bit of good intentions.

It’s very common that Boricuas stuff our proud mouths talking about “real” Puerto Rican music like bomba, plena and música jíbara (seises, aguinaldos, etc.) but we have no idea what those genres actually sound like, or even what they’re called. We often talk about “bombayplena,” like its all one genre (which makes as much sense as always talking about “salsaybachata” like they’re always the same thing).

This lack of knowledge about our roots music is not specific to Boricuas. Dominicans do the same. Plenty of other folks do the same.

But we don’t have to.

I propose we educate ourselves a bit. If we’re going to be waving the flag of national pride and (in the case of Puerto Ricans) arguing that reggaeton is a Boricua genre... the least we can do is treat Boricua roots music with enthusiasm and respect NOT just pay it lip service.

Just last Monday, I was at the press event for the concert and workshop series led by world-renowned Puerto Rican musician, composer and arranger William Cepeda.

The project, titled Puerto Rican Music Roots & Beyond, is dedicated to celebrating Puerto Rican roots music and its contemporary re-interpretations. The first concert focuses on jíbaro music and will take place at the Hostos Center for the Arts and Culture in The Bronx on October 25, 2007. For more information visit

If anyone wants to get a taste before October 25th, I suggest you check out Tato Torres & Yerbabuena, one of the best-known and delicious-to-dance-to Boricua roots music bands in New York—made up of plenty of talented, funky, beautiful young folks, to boot.

Tato will be one of the singers of Cepeda’s Afro-Rican Jazz band that will headline the Hostos concert on October 25th, along with guests from Puerto Rico Grupo Mapeyé and Victoria Sanabria. I’m hoping we all give this musical project the support it deserves.

Oh, and, if anyone has access to the writers and producers of Feel the Noise, please tell them to check it out too.


henry said...

hay que seguir apoyando la musica autentica, a los TATO a William Cepeda, Jonatan,Kalunga ect. el regaeton esta bien, uno se lo vacila un rato , pero la gente se pierde de musica maravillosa que no suena en la radio, pobresita.

pd: deberias llamarte Bombionica

raquelzrivera said...

de acuerdo estoy contigo!

oye, eso de Bombionica me gusta. o quizas PalosBombionica.

Siloe Andino said...

Tengo entendido que en Centro y Sur América le llaman "plena" al reggaeton...tal vez los que hicieron la pelicula confundieron ese termino "plena" con la musica boricua y utilizaron equivocadamente el termino parranda!! oopss!