Friday, July 31, 2009

Reggaeton Roundup on AfroPop Worldwide

AfroPop Worldwide just made available a streaming version of their recent program on reggaeton history titled Reggaeton Roundup. It will stay online only for a couple of months, so check it out before they take it off.

The show is a great trip down memory lane and I'm pleased to say it does not focus on the same old, same old!

The show opens up with one of my favorite urban music tracks ever "Ni fú ni fá" by Tego Calderón (which should have won that Grammy); goes through classic Jamaican dancehall tracks like "Bam Bam"; weaves together early 90s reggae en español, rap en español, merenrap and underground tracks by El General, Vico C, Lisa M, Three Gangstas, Gringo and Baby Rasta, Daddy Yankee and Ivy Queen; goes on great sidetracks like discussing Brazilian baile funk and its connections to Miami bass; and features dembow-less songs like La Sista's "Yemayá" and Calle 13's "La Jirafa" that still retain reggaeton's swaying hip-grinding effect; among many other welcome and unexpected musical highlights.

Omar García's interview, interspersed throughout the show, provides a great narrative thread by an artist who became an underground star at 14 years old (O.G.M. of underground fame) and is today an eclectic and insightful rapper/singersongwriter who draws from hip-hop, trip-hop, trova and rock, among other sources. The show also has Residente Calle 13 making some provocative statements (surprise, surprise).

Also, check field producer Marlon Bishop's narrative on reggaeton and his anecdotes from his trip to Puerto Rico while working on the show. It has great quotes from Dulce Coco, Tatá and Welmo that do not appear on the show.

Also, for folks in Puerto Rico (or not), the program will be airing on Radio Universidad WRTU on the program "Rumba Africana", on Sat Aug. 8 and Tues Aug. 11. If you're not in Puerto Rico, you can still listen to the show via internet.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Is it still reggaeton?

According to mun2's 18 and over countdown host Guadalupe, "reggaeton" has taken over their show. (At least the episode I was watching yesterday, Saturday July 25th.)

Don Omar, Franco El Gorila, RKM & Ken-Y, Tito El Bambino, Alexis & Fido and Wisín & Yandel were the artists on the countdown that Guadalupe mentioned to prove his point. Interesting: none of those artists' songs on the countdown feature the dembow rhythm that originally gave the genre its name. But Guadalupe still called the genre they make "reggaeton." And as further proof that "reggaeton" just keeps getting bigger, he mentioned how the Merriam-Webster dictionary just added an entry for "reggaeton."

So, if people insist on calling it reggaeton, is it still reggaeton?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

July 17: Estilo Hip-Hop and Reggaeton at B&N

JULY 17, 7:00 PM

Estilo Hip-Hop and Reggaeton double feature:
screening, book presentation and dialogue

I have the honor of presenting the book I just co-edited titled Reggaeton (Duke University Press, 2009) alongside the documentary Estilo Hip-Hop on Friday, July 17, 2009 at 7 PM. The event is part of a series organized by the Latino Artists Round Table at the Barnes & Noble at Lincoln Triangle (66 Street and Broadway).

Estilo Hip-Hop is a powerful documentary that chronicles the lives of three hip-hop enthusiasts from Chile, Cuba and Brazil, focusing on the ways that art and youth politics connect. It first aired nationally on Global Voices on PBS WORLD, Sunday June 28, 2009. For upcoming showtimes, check Here's the trailer:

ESTILO HIP HOP Trailer from 1SOULDESIGNS on Vimeo.

Reggaeton is the anthology I co-edited with Wayne Marshall and Deborah Pacini Hernandez that explores reggaeton’s local roots and its transnational dissemination. The book also discusses the genre’s aesthetics, particularly in relation to those of hip-hop and reggae; and explores the debates about race, nation, gender, and sexuality generated by the music and its associated cultural practices.

From hip-hop to reggaeton, this July 17th event will be devoted to Latin American and Latino youth culture, popular music, politics and education.

I am extremely happy that my co-presenters that night will be the Estilo Hip-Hop directors, Loira Limbal and Vee Bravo, fellow beat junkies who love music just as much as they love the dreams of freedom that music can inspire.

Plus I just found out that the visual artist responsible for Reggaeton's platinum plátano cover, Miguel Luciano, will be joining us as well!

Monday, July 13, 2009

"Reggaeton" in Merriam-Webster Dictionary

I found out this weekend from a FaceBook note by Nuyorican poet and educator Mariposa that "reggaeton" was added to the 2009 updated version of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. To read Mariposa's note click on her FaceBook link or read below.

In turn, she found out the news through a FaceBook post by Lance Rios of Being Latino. Check the comments to his post. They're a great example of how the conversation around reggaeton tends to stay at the love the music / hate the music level. That's what I like so much about Mariposa's take on it: she goes beyond the love it / hate it dichotomy.

The first thing that struck me about the news is that "reggaeton" made it into this English-language dictionary before it made it into the Diccionario de La Real Academia Española. Neither "reggaetón" nor "reguetón" has made it into the RAE dictionary yet. Hhhmmmm... So if the Solo Para Reggaeton folks are pissed at Merriam-Webster for (among other things) taking so long to include "reggaeton" in their dictionary, I can only imagine what they'll say about the Real Academia Española.

Here's the Merriam-Webster dictionary entry:

\ˌre-gā-ˈtōn, ˌrā-\
American Spanish reggaetón, from reggae reggae + -ton (as in Spanish maratón marathon)

: popular music of Puerto Rican origin that combines rap with Caribbean rhythms

And here's Mariposa's post:

Toast of Recognition to Reggaeton
by Mariposa

The word REGGAETON was recently added to the American Merriam-Webster Dictionary which is highly significant. It is no easy feat to create a word that makes the dictionary. It has to be a word that deeply permeates American culture in usage, meaning and context, often times through literature and music. Language is created and re-invented every day. And language shapes and creates our reality. Language is the essence of our experience. It’s derived from it and it creates it; from language springs everything.

Whether you like the music form or not, take this as an opportunity to pay attention. Pay attention to exactly how powerful we are. There are many other words that can be found in Webster’s Dictionary that are evidence of our presence and power. Yes, the word Spanglish can be found in Webster’s, as well as Latino, Latina, Chicano, Chicana and Tejano. Nuyorican was added to Webster’s about 4 years ago. The addition of the words, Chicana/o and Nuyorican can be attributed in part to the influence of the Chicano/Tejano, and Nuyorican poetry movements, specifically the work of Pedro Pietri, Miguel Piñero, Jesus Papoleto Melendez, Jose Montoya, Alurista, Raul Salinas, Cherrie L. Moraga, Sandra María Esteves, Aurora Levins Morales, Magdalena Gomez and countless others.

Other words that have made it to Webster’s that reflect our contribution to music, dance and our influence in shaping the American cultural landscape are: Salsa, Merengue and Rumba. For all you Bachata lovers…Sorry! The word has not yet made it to Websters Dictionary. Neither has Cumbia, Bomba or Plena.

Like it or not Reggaeton is here to stay. We are more than a decade deep in the Reggaeton timeline. People thought Reggaethon was just a fad that would fizzle out but it went global a long time ago. Like Hip Hop, Reggaeton is popular as far away as Japan. It shows the power of our presence as Latinos in the United States; the power to influence not only American Pop Culture but Global Pop Culture and the ability to create new industries. We have the power to make phenomenal things happen. The question is what we do with that power.

If you are a fan of Reggaeton, you have reason to celebrate the music genre making it to Webster’s Dictionary. If you're not a fan, keep in mind that celebrating does not necessarily mean condoning the materialism, sexism, misogyny and negative content found in many (but not all) Reggaeton songs and videos. There are artists who defy the negative stereotypes like Calle 13, whose political and lyrical genius cannot be easily dismissed and demonstrate the potential of Reggaeton to create social change as well as entertain.

Making it to Webster's is an accomplishment that is quite phenomenal. It only took Reggaeton about a decade to make Webster's unlike many of the words mentioned . This is definitely something to give props to, respect, be proud of and yes, celebrate! Reggaeton is a reflection of who we are as Latinos -- multifaceted and something that cannot be generalized, simplified or put in a box. I encourage people to check out the new book Reggaeton by Raquel Z. Rivera, Wayne Marshall and Deborah Pacini Hernandez.

I also encourage people to go to and look up what Webster has to say on the meanings and etymology of the words mentioned and the years the words came into play in the United States. It’s fascinating. Maybe you’ll find words that I didn’t that also speak to our collective power. No matter what you think about Reggaeton or it making it to Webster’s Dictionary, BEING LATINO IS BEING POWERFUL. WORD!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Sofia's Gatas / Las gatas de Sofía

I'm a fan of Sofía Maldonado's artwork, particularly of her series of "nenas." I'm fascinated by how loud, eerie and beautiful Sofia's nenas are. She recently kicked it up a notch with the "gatas" she painted in Santurce, PR... and that were painted over soon after. As she writes in a July 7, 2009 blog post: "There's no trace left of these girls probably because they were 'so explicit'."

Sofia describes her work as "a blend of fashion trends, the Latina female aesthetic and various street culture elements, such as skateboarding, graffiti, public art, reggaeton and punk music."

Sofía's sexually explicit work has me thinking about gender, sex, power and urban music(s), including reggaeton. More on this, soon.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Reggaeton as "Further proof Mexicans hate black people"

When you read Byron Crawford's blog post about our Reggaeton book (a post he titled "Further proof Mexicans hate black people"), please keep in mind he is a prankster who loves to dig his finger in people's wounds.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Reggaeton on

Our Reggaeton book has sparked a conversation on race, reggaeton and hip-hop over at

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Vivito & perreando in Cuba: English version

And as we ponder the “reggaeton crash,” today on Reuters: “Reggaeton fever shakes up Cuba’s culture.” Here's the photo that accompanied the article:

Vivito & perreando en Cuba: versión en español

Mientras pensamos sobre esto de la "caída" o "la muerte" del reguetón, ayer publicó Reuters "La fiebre del reguetón sacude a la Isla", refiriéndose a Cuba. Aquí la foto que acompaña el artículo:

Ya que el artículo me cita, a continuación la conversación electrónica completa que tuve con el periodista que escribió el artículo de Reuters, Esteban Israel:

Esteban Israel: es normal que el establishment rechace al reggaeton? que es lo que tanto molesta a las autoridades cubanas, en tu opinión?

Raquel Z. Rivera: No es de sorprender que el "establishment" rechace el reggaeton. Esas mismas preocupaciones en cuanto al "deterioro de los valores tradicionales" la han tenido (y la tienen) las autoridades, los educadores, los padres etc. en Puerto Rico, República Dominicana y otros países latinoamericanos en cuanto al reggaetón. En Jamaica, el dancehall reggae recientemente y ya por muchos años ha sido objeto de una agria controversia en cuanto a lo mismo. Menciono al reggaetón y al dancehall reggae primero porque son parte de la cultura popular contemporánea, no son muy antiguos y son muy parecidos entre sí. Pero géneros anteriores como la rumba, la salsa, la bomba, la danza, el jazz, la samba... todos fueron muy criticados en su momento y las autoridades usaron muchos de los mismos argumentos. Mira el excelente artículo de Brenda Hopkins Miranda que da una idea de todos esos debates anteriores.

Las autoridades cubanas están molestas por las mismas razones que las autoridades en otros países: el reggaetón (y el dancehall reggae) tiende a ser hiper-sexual (en sus letras y baile) y a glorificar el consumismo y la moda. Claro en un país socialista como Cuba, el asunto del consumismo es aun más problemático para las autoridades. El "establishment" en esos países también ha criticado mucho el sexismo del reggaetón. Eso es bastante irónico considerando lo sexistas que son nuestras sociedades en general. El "establishment" es sexista. Los "valores tradicionales" son sexistas. Pero se critica al reggaetón somo si el reggaetón fuese una excepción. El reggaetón suele ser más vulgar y desfachatado, pero eso no lo hace más sexista.

Dicho sea de paso, esas mismas críticas son las que le hace el establishment en Estados Unidos al hip-hop. Estos géneros (reggaetón, dancehall reggae y reggaetón) comparten muchas características en común ya que son todos parte de la facción "urbana" dentro de la música pop.

Estoy de acuerdo con lo que te dijo el funcionario de que declararle la guerra al reggaetón sería un error. Si el ejemplo de Puerto Rico sirve de algo, es para ilustrar que los dos grandes intentos de censurar o regular el reggaetón (1995 y 2002) lo que han generado es más popularidad para el género. Si quieres leer más sobre el caso de Puerto Rico en 2002, ve aquí.

Creo que el movimiento auto-denominado "hip-hop education movement" en Estados Unidos debería ser emulado por todas estas personas que están preocupadas por el monopolio que tiene el reggaetón sobre la juventud. Dentro de este movimiento hay artistas y educadores que son fanáticos y expertos del hip-hop (rap y otras artes) y se dedican a profundizar el conocimiento que tienen los jóvenes sobre el hip-hop, y también utilizan el hip-hop como punto de entrada para interesar a los jóvenes en otros géneros musicales y en otras cosas como la historia, la literatura y el activismo social. Parte importante de este movimiento de educación hip-hop son los educadores y padres y activistas a quienes quizás no les gusta el hip-hop o no saben mucho de él, pero igual saben que se tienen que educar sobre el hip-hop si es que quieren comunicarse mejor con sus estudiantes. Emulando ese movimiento de educación hip-hop, las generaciones o personas no-reggaetónicas o anti-reggaetónicas podrían utilizar el reggaetón como un vehículo de comunicación con la juventud reggaetónica. Si queremos dialogar con la juventud, hay que demostrar respeto hacia ellos. Se puede y se debe criticar lo criticable del reggaetón, pero desde una perspectiva informada.

Me gusta la perspectiva del artículo "¿Te gusta o no te gusta el reggaetón?" que fue publicado el pasado abril en Claridad. Como dice Benjamín Muñiz, el autor del artículo, ¿porqué limitar la discusión sobre el reggaetón a si nos gusta o no nos gusta el reggaetón? Hay muchísimas otras cosas que decir sobre el reggaetón. Ese género además representa una oportunidad de diálogo inter-generacional.

Esteban Israel: ademas quisiera que me cuentes que tan rico/peculiar es el reggaeton cubano en el contexto regional.

Para mi, el reggaetón cubano tiene de rico lo mismo que el reggaetón en otros lugares tiene de rico: es una música que combina la llamada "música urbana" con tradiciones caribeñas mucho más antiguas... y lo más que ha atraído a sus fanáticos es que se presta para la fiesta y el baile sexualmente explícito.