July 30th, 2007

No Te Veo, Pero Te Oigo

I’m rly enjoying (and learning from) all the reggaeton conversation happening here these days (e.g.). Thanks to all for contributing! And keeping it going

Toward further linkthink, here’s a quick analysis I put together in response to a question from Raquel (who’s got a great post up re: Mala Rodriguez and Calle 13), who thinks — along with many others, it seems — that this new jawn, “No Te Veo,” by Casa de Leones (which = Jowell & Randy & some compatriots) is, well, “hot” and yet, interestingly seems to skirt reggaeton norms —

Raquel asked me to lend her my musicological ear, and here’s what I came up with:

Although “No Te Veo” will no doubt be heard as reggaeton by most listeners (and promoted as such by Los Leones), the underlying track differs from most reggaeton productions in some significant ways. For one, it’s much faster: whereas typical reggaeton tracks tend to hover around 90-100 beats per minute, “No Te Veo” clocks in at around 120 bpm, which makes it sound and feel closer to house, techno, soca, and other club/dance music (especially with the thumping kick drum on every beat). The other significant departure is the role of the snare drum. Rather than tracing out the standard “dembow” pattern (boom-ch-boom-chick), the snare drum here plays something closer to a 3:2 clave, emphasizing the upbeats in the second half of the measure rather than repeating that classic Caribbean polyrhythm that reggaeton shares with dancehall and many other regional dance styles.

But again, I suspect that many people will hear this — at this point — more as a variation on reggaeton’s dembow than as some reconnection to clave rhythms. Moroever, the style of rapping/singing on “No Te Veo” definitely sounds closer to reggaeton than anything else (with the vocoder/autotune effect offering a parellel to the “robot”/”computer” vocals so ubiquitous in contemporary r&b, hip-hop, dancehall, and just about all pop music these days, including a hefty share of Arab pop). The layered harmonic elements — guitar arpeggios and a bassline tracing out a simple chord progression — are fairly standard reggaeton fare, similar to lots of Luny Tunes productions in that regard. So, overall, an interesting variation on the norm. I’ll be curious to see whether other groups follow suit, which could make for a spate of uptempo reggaeton releases — ironically, that would push the genre’s contemporary sound back toward previous stylistic moments (a la DJ Blass or even some earlier “underground” tracks), when tempos in the 110s and 120s were not uncommon.

Curious as always to hear what others hear…

23 Comments

  • 1. Boima Tucker  |  July 31st, 2007 at 2:44 am

    Man They just been listen to Ivorian Pop! Coupe Decale, Decale. This s— honestly just got my heart racing. Can’t wait to play it on Sat nite!!!

    I was thinking about commenting and wondering what others thought about Reggaeton’s popularity in West Africa. When I was in Freetown last year a whole 30 min set was dedicated to the reggaeton hits. Then I just discovered a remix of Bizzy Body by P Square (out of naija) that is a straight adaption of the style from Puerto Rico.

    But this!!! It makes me think of Champeta, which without the language difference is fairly indiscernible to Soukous. Now we gonna have decale a la Puerto Rico? That snare rhythm has already invaded African pop all over the continent. And I was just listening to some old Soukous recordings and how they played the clave on the hi hat, and how when you switch it to the snare it gives it so much more power, and then when you use programmed drums it becomes heavy club music, and how that is mirrored in reggaeton. I don’t know the exact history of this but I know it goes something like 60’s and 70’s rumba dance bands with Franco and Tabu Ley Rochereau. To 80’s soukous bands like Soukous Stars and Kanda Bongo Man, to DJ Arafat and Magic System today. Correct me if I’m wrong.

    Yeah this got me hype!

  • 2. Birdseed  |  July 31st, 2007 at 7:38 am

    That’s a fascinating and insightful connection Boima! It’s amazing how similar that melodic line sounds to some african material, and the Clave fits it perfectly. A bit of search turns up more “Soukous guitar-a-like” melodies and claves in stuff like this Cape Verdean Kizomba video, and it’s so interesting to see it turn up across the Atlantic as well. Anyone find any Brazilian examples?

    I really need to start getting more into understanding the musical language of these things. There seems to be mucho mucho fruitful insight to be found if you just understand how rhythms and melodies work…

  • 3. rupture  |  July 31st, 2007 at 4:00 pm

    i hear more evidence of an impending global soca storm

  • 4. Nina  |  July 31st, 2007 at 4:04 pm

    I will have to take a close listen. Last night I was writing An Ode to The Boom and sort of listing my favorite songs with that big BOOM, we can call it the “thumping kick drum”. A neighbor came by and I was telling him about it and mentioned Luke (as 2 live crew is known down here), Shabba, Patra and he mentioned house and it was sort of cool to play a little connect the dots.

    But in mentioning the appeal of the boom, it reminded me of a discussion I had one time with Kevin Moore and Orlando Fiol and some other guy I cant remember. We were discussing merengue and they were trying to figure out what was it that made merengue bomba BOMBA and the other guy listened to a ton of stuff I played and said “well, the puerto rican merengue is in clave”

    I wrote last night that that combination of little tinny sounds, small drums and then that BOOM is just irresistible. I blamed it on African DNA,lol.

    I’ll get around to posting my rambling reflections when I bother to go thru and clean it up.

  • 5. wayneandwax  |  July 31st, 2007 at 4:28 pm

    Bring on the impending soca storm! (esp w/ nuff weirdo Ghislain Poirier remixes!)

    Srsly, tho, “No Te Veo,” with all its musical connections to these other uptempo polyrhythmic afro/diasporic dance genres, does seem to promise yet another exciting round of pumping, thumping, syncopated styles. Certainly no end of cross-pollination that could come of it. (Tho, I gotta say that I prefer genres with less major key cheez than soca.)

    w/r/t to some more specific queries here —

    1 – for the story of soukous, or how cuban rumba went (back) up river to conquer central africa, definitely check out this
    http://www.amazon.com/Rumba-River-History-Popular-Congos/dp/1859843689

    2 – for an informed, interesting perspective on the circulation of african dance music in latin america, see deborah pacini-hernandez’s “a view from the south”
    http://wayneandwax.com/pdfs/Pacini-Hernandez_A_view_from_the_south.pdf

    3 – for some sonic evidence of champeta mixing with soukous in colombia see palenque records’ fine champeta criolla comps, e.g.
    http://www.amazon.com/Champeta-Criolla-Vol-Motherfuckers-Afrocolombian/dp/B00005S7V0/

    4 – re: the BOOM low-end theory, i suppose you mean that classic 808 sound (at least for Luke), or its acoustic analogs (i.e., big booming barrel drums); sounds like you’re looking to construct yet another crunk genealogy to me ;)

  • 6. Nina  |  July 31st, 2007 at 4:49 pm

    did i mention that my stepmother from Tanzania adores merengue? says it reminds her of home? i’ll find some way to weave that in

    i’ll save the crunk geneaology for you

    i think i prefer the caribbean cross pollination stuff, thats what actually interests me more musically
    but i attribute my love for the big booms to my teen years in GA and all the BASS music they played here
    actually, i was a Prince fan and hiphop was always a minor interest
    and then ONLY salsa
    so that i listen to only reggaeton now is kinda funny to me
    me, who doesnt like rap or nasty lyrics anymore,lol

  • 7. Boima Tucker  |  July 31st, 2007 at 7:03 pm

    Nina, I love that your stepmother adores Merengue. That’s what I feel when I hear some of the styles here in the Americas, not just latin, but zouk, dancehall, rara, etc, soca, that are similar to the African Pop that I grew up with. That’s why my Sierra Leonean family made the 12 hour drive to Toronto every year to check out Caribana!

    I guess I have an idea brought up here, about the cross-pollination of styles. I dj at an African Club in San Francisco’s Mission District called Little Baobab. I will play in the same set regularly with all the above said styles: Coupe Decale, Soca, Kuduro, Soukous, Merengue, Champeta and throw in to be funny Juke & Bass. It’s always my favorite part of the night because it’s fast paced and a lot of Bass. I play for a very mixed crowd of Africans, Latinos, White Folks, and a scattering of everyone else. As I transfer between each style even tho each one is seemingly similar in rhythm and tempo, you can visibly see the different crowds migrating on and off the dance floor as the familiar local styles are played. This is obvious. They came to represent their home countries. But, I even get a different feel about each style as I am about 3 songs in to each style. The mood of the room seems to change by region, but it nevertheless seems to work. My question is with all this similar styles popping up, why do people still react to them differently? Can we really call something global Soca? This can be seen in places like Abidjan where they have a different name for styles of pop music based on neighborhood, tribe and language. It all sounds the same to me.

    Kind of like in the pan-latino aesthetic in Reggaeton, how do you make the jump from Buju Banton to Cabra Mecanica for the untrained ear. This is maybe a question related to the Nu-Whirl music post. How do you translate something that to us, commenting on this post, may seem obviously similar but doesn’t to some one who doesn’t hear the same thing?

    Also, does anyone have thoughts on Reggaeton in Africa? I feel like they were dancing to the rhythm, but growing up in America I definitely felt it in a different way then they did. Maybe it’s cuz I understood the words. I had a similar experience with Salsa in Dakar. They just had their own interpretation of it. But I love that.

  • 8. Boima Tucker  |  July 31st, 2007 at 7:28 pm

    The above scenario is an extreme simplification of the night. The crowd is actually very open-minded and excited for most musics played there, all tho if I do play too much House, Juke, Flamenco Pop, or Hip Hop, people start to look at me twisted.

  • 9. Nina  |  July 31st, 2007 at 9:41 pm

    That question interests me because an hour or so I was thinking how merengueton makes me feel happy. A friend loves Mayor Que Yo by Michael Stuart and I do to but Ya Lo Se makes me ecstatic. It feels like family love festivals and community to me. I cant say how I feel but I can dance it for u. My friend doesnt have the same framing so he just hears bomba or plena in a salsa song to him its not emotionally significant. I am off to ponder this and will post my musings tomorrow.

  • 10. Boima Tucker  |  August 1st, 2007 at 2:30 am

    I know I’m obsessed, but I went back and listened to Premiere Gaou by Magic System and noticed that it’s the same melody as No Te Veo. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJMpeYwifEU

  • 11. Birdseed  |  August 1st, 2007 at 4:03 am

    Interesting question re: Reggaeton influence in African music. The problem, I feel, is differentiating between a dancehall influence and a reggaeton influence, it’s very hard to distinguish sometimes especially considering how close the two are in terms of rhythm. I’m mostly familiar with East African music (used to live in Tanzania) and tracks like this have a clear 3+3+2 rhythm – but is it a “Jamican” one derived from 90s dancehall or a “dembow”? (it’s got the “extra” dembow beat, certainly.)

    Here is the only Tanzanian track I know of that explicitly includes reggaeton in the youtube tag, if it counts for something. It’s also got a T-Pain influence and (this being Tanzania) an arabic pop influence. If only it had a filmi influence as well it’d cover up all five of the biggest music export cultures in the world. :)

  • 12. Birdseed  |  August 1st, 2007 at 4:17 am

    (By the way, I think what the Tanzanians do with Dancehall and Reggaeton is slowly assimilate it in their own musical heritage – just like they did with Hip-hop five to ten years ago. They start off listening to it, then producing tracks that almost, but not quite sound like the originals, then before you know it it’s all tracks like this – distinct rhythmic figure, swahili-pop guitars, taraab wails. It’s like Baile Funk was basically Bass 15 years ago and now isn’t.)

  • 13. wayneandwax  |  August 1st, 2007 at 5:39 am

    I hear a lot of stylistic similarity between “Premiere Gaou” and “No Te Veo” — enough, indeed, to persuade me that the producers of the latter might very well be up on their zouglou — but I don’t hear the “same melody,” I’m afraid. There’s some similarity in the backup singing and perhaps some general parallels in the melodic contours and vocal approach, but that’s about all, to my ears. If you’re referring to a specific part (the chorus?), let me know, and I’ll give another listen. At any rate, I do appreciate the attempts at connection here!

    I think Birdseed is right that at this point it is rather tricky to decide whether one is hearing a dancehall or a reggaeton influence in various reggae-inflected productions from Africa. Most likely dancehall, just given its longer and more prominent presence there, but reggaeton has been circulating abroad as American pop/hip-hop, which we all know has a HUGE sonic-cultural footprint.

    Funny you should mention Tanzania, as that’s one of the references to reggaeton style that I came across when searching yesterday:
    http://laondatropical.blogspot.com/2006/11/reggaeton-calle-13-la-factoria-east.html

    And although we might still split musical hairs in trying to decide what’s what in certain cases, a name like East African Reggaeton Crew would seem to leave little up to dispute.
    http://www.swahiliremix.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=section&id=3&Itemid=7&Itemid=25

    You also reminded me to hunt down (via archive.org) an early article on reggaeton in Uganda (from late 2005) that I came across a while back. It’s a rather interesting portrait of the new sound, definitely interpreting it against the popularity of Jamaican dancehall and making a number of other connections as well (both to local styles and regional genres, like kwaito). I also like that the author uses the term “bubbling”!
    http://web.archive.org/web/20060220115321/http://www.musicuganda.com/reviews/reggaeton.htm

  • 14. wayneandwax  |  August 1st, 2007 at 7:49 am

    I told Deborah Pacini-Hernandez about this exchange (and that I shared her “View from the South” piece here) and she replied, “Re champeta and African musics in Colombia, this article is much more precise and thorough than view from the south, although by now somewhat outdated.” So there it is. Read up and enjoy!

    & while we’re on the champeta tip, I’m reminded that I’ve been dying to share this video (via MBQ) for a while now —

    for further connections, watch it next to these !!

  • 15. Birdseed  |  August 1st, 2007 at 2:32 pm

    That article is so riveting and such a good story… Makes you wish all academics took a few journalism courses! I love the idea of the global south interacting with each other over vast geographical spaces under the noses of their post-colonial western superiors… It’s always fascinated me how, even without people migrating or “western cultural imperialism”, music can go from one poor community to another.

    Two other examples, both involving Indian film music, are Greek indoyíftika and Indonesian dangdut.

  • 16. Boima Tucker  |  August 1st, 2007 at 8:17 pm

    I agree, that was a great article. I’ll be heading to that area of the world in January, I might just have to hit up Cartegena. I definitely want some of those vinyl comps the article talks about. Here’s the reverse scenario: http://matsuli.blogspot.com/2007/06/man-with-biggest-crate.html

    I love the idea of Black Atlantic, especially since in the US they have such a negative connotation of the middle passage, and all these cross ocean exchanges light up the pan-african in me.

    That’s why I want so bad for this group of young Boricuas to have heard Premier Gaou and gone, yeah! I see it happen in the place where I play all the time. I played No Te Veo for my Salvadorean roommate and two seconds in to the song he said, “that sounds like that African song you guys play all the time.” I’ll let you all know the response I get this weekend.

    As for melody I hear it I guess more in chord structure than melody, but it’s the Chorus on No Te Veo, and the synthesized Acoustic guitar in the Intro and background of Premier Gaou. I played a melody with the chord base B/A/G/F# and then transposed it to E, and it seemed to fit both songs, but maybe I’m just pushing it.

    I also feel like if they got influence from any particular musical style it would be Coupe Decale mas que Zouglou, just because Coupe Decale is more pan-Francophone in production, I think it might have even made it to the French Caribbean. If they did get the influence from Zouglou, it would most likely be from the specific song Premier Gaou, because it was such a huge international hit.

    Here’s an article with three interviews on contemporary Afro-Pop. The last two deal with the Ivory Coast styles Zouglou and Coupe Decale. http://www.afropop.org/multi/feature/ID/709

    Thanks to all for entertaining this discussion!!!

  • 17. rafeem  |  August 1st, 2007 at 9:29 pm

    i agree with the first comment- that the first time i heard this song it sounded so much like coupe decale. in senegal i found west african music was also really influenced by Rai and arabic pop which you hear in the vocals in this song.

  • 18. Birdseed  |  August 9th, 2007 at 11:27 am

    Re: Cross-cultural influences in Tanzania, I just couldn’t resist coming back to this thread to post this song I just heard wile listening to BongoRadio.com:

    Akili feat. B. Jahman – Bongo Bhangra

  • 19. Birdseed  |  August 9th, 2007 at 11:39 am

    Oh and there’s apparently an entire subgenre of Tanzanian Bhangra. Akili specializes in it, apparently – search for Bongo Bhangra 2 or Regina on YouTube or EastAfricanTube… Or Vuruga by Maesh. Swahili-language Bhangra, I love it!

  • 20. Storm Rydah  |  August 9th, 2007 at 1:44 pm

    People need to just MAKE MUSIC. There’s a radio station in France that plays damn near everything “Latino” you could think of… slow, fast, whatever… doesn’t even matter the language. While the U.S. seems to be stuck on the “format” thing… the rest of the world is NOT.

    Francophone people listen to Latino music… this means French AND Central-West African people. As a Puerto Rican, I am influenced by the world also. I think it would be a boring place if everyone was the same. Diversity is what creates new things. Many Africans I have met see this music as similar to theirs. Consequently, when I was with my friend in a Congolais club in Vitry-sur-Siene (outside of Paris)… the music sounded no different than what I had been hearing all my life. I could not stop dancing and felt right at home.

    Caribbean people have strong African roots, this is obviously not news. As for the genre… I don’t really care as long as it’s danceable. People keep making music to define themselves by genre rather than just allowing their muse to experiment with ORIGINAL shyt that’s REALLY what people are hoping to hear. Some thing FRESH.

    http://www.myspace.com/stormrydah
    http://www.myspace.com/changoyomi
    http://www.myspace.com/doublehelixmediagroup

  • 21. wayneandwax.com » H&hellip  |  August 21st, 2007 at 3:36 pm

    […] Reppin’ Salone (Sierra Leone), Wisconsin (Milwaukee and Madison!), and the Bay Area, DJ Boima holds down a whirled music dance party in San Fran, moving the massive with a mix of (pan-)African and (pan-)American pop / hip-hop / club / etc. Readers of this here blog might have noticed his name in a flurry of comments w/r/t “No Te Veo” not long ago. Boima’s keen, open ears sensed all sorts of West African dancepop resonances in that hopped-up, reggaetony banger. […]

  • 22. Birdseed  |  August 22nd, 2007 at 10:48 am

    One more question.

    Machel Montano did a concert in Stockholm this weekend and he conducted a very useful informal statistical survey by constantly asking questions of the “is anyone here from the BARBADOS!???” variety. What was interesting to me was that the second most vocal demographic at the concert, after Stockholmers, was diasporadic Africans.

    So. Is Soca popular in Africa and has it had an influence on the type of music we’ve been discussing?

  • 23. wayneandwax  |  August 28th, 2007 at 12:27 pm

    That’s an interesting demographic anecdote, Birdseed. Here in Boston, an Anglo-Caribbean concert (whether soca or reggae) will, interestingly, draw a rather ‘vocal’ number of Haitians. Less than speaking to the popularity of soca in Africa, I think what you saw probably speaks to the relative numbers of (black) immigrants (and 2nd gens, etc) in Stockholm.

    Frankly, I don’t know much about the popularity of soca in Africa. I’d be curious to find out, though.

Wayne&Wax

I'm a techno-musicologist, internet annotator, imagined community organizer.

I left my <3 in the digital global, but I reside in Cambridge, MA, where I'm from.

I represent like that.

wayne at wayneandwax dot com

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