Thursday, February 28, 2008

Reggaeton: Allegedly Puerto Rican

The article "Ritmo boricua que mueve al mundo entero" (Boricua Rhythm that Moves the Whole World) published yesterday February 27 in the newspaper Primera Hora in Puerto Rico seems to assume that the sun rises and sets right above the island.

(This is the photo that accompanies the article, bearing the caption: "Don Omar is one of the most popular reggaeton artists in and outside of Puerto Rico.")

According to the article, reggaeton is a "provocative rhythm that was born in the minds and hands of a group of Boricua youngsters a bit over two decades ago." It also states that "initially, reggaeton became one of the most favored genres thanks to pioneers like Vico C, who distinguishes himself through his clean lyrics and social critiques."

There seems to be a huge confusion here. First, Vico initially did rap/hip-hop, not reggaeton. Second, Vico made his initial fame on the street thanks to the dirtiest, wittiest lyrics. Third, the "rhythm" that has characterized reggaeton arrived in Puerto Rico via Panama's reggae in Spanish and Jamaica's dancehall reggae.

It's true that in Puerto Rico it was given a new name, new life, unique characteristics and that from there it jumped to international stardom. But to attribute reggaeton's "birth" to Puerto Rican youth without taking into account the wider Caribbean context perpetuates the isolation and "insularism" of Puerto Ricans. That's not cool. Puerto Rico is wonderful, a "chulería," but it's not the world's bellybutton!

As I told one of my readers in the Spanish version of this post, the problem is not saying that reggaeton is Boricua. The problem is saying that it is ONLY Boricua. Or that its origins are SOLELY Boricua.

Reggaeton is Boricua. But we have to share the credit for its creation and birth.

I like to think of cultural practices in their multiple dimensions. And I also like it when we can share the credit (or the blame) with all of those that deserve it. I find it useful, empowering, inspiring.


mmm...that's delicious said...

For what it's worth, I agree, but don't you think, though, that all groups have a tendency towards this kind of thinking?

Failing to acknowledge the contributions, efforts, talents of others seems an unfortunate aspect of human nature, not that it should be excused. We are all haters, co-opters, grandstanders at one point or another in our individual or group lives. But as history shows, that can be dangerous.

You're right on point with your conclusions, though.

raquelzrivera said...

I agree w you. Chauvinism is rampant. It was the invisibility of Puerto Rican participation in US hip-hop history that prompted me to write New York Ricans from the Hip Hop Zone. But now I see Puerto Ricans doing to other groups what was done to "us." Not cool.

Escritor Boricua said...

RZR. We can go back mas lejos todavia, to Africa. It's only a matter of what timeline you want to put on music. Listening to bomba, plena, samba, reggae, salsa, the bass, the thump thump. I can hardly stand to hear congas or a bass drum without moving something.

Soul Cocina said...