Archive of posts tagged with "panama"

April 3rd, 2009

A La PlenĂ­sima

Plena is Spanish for ‘full.’ But it has other meanings too, depending where yr @ —


In Puerto Rico, plena refers to street music played on panderetas (see, e.g., Sorongo‘s comments here).

In Panama, plena refers to reggae — homegrown reggae en español in particular.

The riddim method has been alive and well in Panama for many years. Before Puerto Ricans took up the mantle, it was Panamanian pioneers such as Nando Boom and El General who showed the way for gente to rap (or better, deejay) over dancehall riddims in Spanish. As demo’d by collections such as this one, a good number of formative Panamanian reggae jams were essentially traducciones of contemporary Jamaican hits. That tradition — of translating and transforming the latest greatest Jamaican reggae songs for Panamanian audiences — continues apace today.

When I was writing my chapter for our reggaeton book, I surveyed the contemporary Panamanian scene to see how that time-honored reggae tradition was faring and found a good number of cover songs amidst the current crop of productions. Here’s part of what ended up in a footnote:

… in 2006, one could hear Panamanian DJ Principal proclaiming himself “El Rey del Dancehall” with the same cadences and over the same riddim that Jamaica’s Beenie Man used to crown himself “King of the Dancehall” a few months earlier, or Panama’s Aspirante employing for “Las Cenizas Dijeron Goodbye” the melody from Jamaican singer Gyptian’s “Serious Times” over a reverent re-lick of the strikingly acoustic Spiritual War riddim that propels the original (though Aspirante changes the text from a meditation on the state of the world to a failed relationship).

All of this is un poco preamble to put into context the tip I received from a reader this week (thx, Tom!), reporting that Panamanian reggae artists are, unsurprisingly, enthralled by the “Miss Independent” riddim. No doubt this is well below the radar — none of these Panamanian versions are about to get played on, say, Hot 97 as Vybz’s “Ramping Shop” was — so I doubt that N_-Y_ or St_rg_te or E_I will be sending threatening emails anytime soon (certain vowels omitted to evade litigious Googlers).

Tom says that he counted no fewer than 11 (!) songs employing the riddim. Here are a few, including one which, funny and densely, simply features someone rapping in Spanish on top of Vybz and Spice’s song. The rest employ the instrumental riddim-wise —


     tommy real-atados.mp3



If you want to hear more along these lines, check out this mixtape of Panamanian dancehall, aka “Da Spanish Reggae Blue Print” —


& if you want to learn more about the plena / bultrĂłn / reggae/ton scene inna Panama, check out the blog by MTVU Fulbright scholar, Larnies.

Finally, talk about plenathis site has more mp3s than you could shake a bot at. Basta! I’m full —

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March 2nd, 2009

Dem Bow Dem

I’ve already discussed and DJ-demo’d the degree to which the Dem Bow riddim underpins the lion’s share of reggaeton tracks. But one remarkable part of the story I haven’t given much focus here is how “Dem Bow” the song — in particular, the chorus melody, but also the basic theme of the lyrics — has also seen its share of reincarnations (often in the form of creative, localized translations).

Last year I wrote an article that specifically traces the migrations, transformations, and connotations of Shabba’s “Dem Bow,” a song released in 1991 and, that same year, covered (twice!) en español. Shabba’s tune has inspired versions of varying fidelity to the original by Jamaicans, Panamanians, Puerto Ricans, and Frenchmen, no doubt among others I’ve yet to hear. Over the course of its already long life, it has gone from a relatively stable anti-gay anthem to a floating signifier for reggaeton’s sexy beat — or, in the case of Paris-based Daddy Yod, a Verlan inversion (“delbor” from “bordel”) for trouble or agitation (h/t Guillaume pour la traduction*). I try to make sense of the implications of such shifts, linking translation to transnation, or the audible articulation (pace Stuart Hall) of communities that transcend as they traverse state borders — something I hear deeply embedded in reggaeton’s sonic structures themselves.

But enough about the article, here’s the thing itself. It was an invited contribution by the editor of a special issue on popular song in Latin America, published in a German journal. Please note that the copy I’m making available here is a pre-print proof, though the final version is quite close to this. Here goes —

>> Wayne Marshall, “Dem Bow, Dembow, Dembo: Translation and Transnation in Reggaeton.” Lied und populäre Kultur / Song and Popular Culture: Jahrbuch des Deutschen Volksliedarchivs 53 (2008): 131-51.

Having tracked down all these versions of “Dem Bow” (including no fewer than THREE songs by Wisin y Yandel, who seem quite content to rip themselves off), I couldn’t resist putting them alongside each other “in the mix,” as they say. It’s a little weird to put a bunch of anti-gay anthems “to tape,” but then again, one thing that’s interesting about the history of this song is that, despite the musical continuities, only the first third of the mix contains homophobic sentiments (many of them, as I describe in the article, quite colorful and imaginative). As you’ll hear, however, “Dem Bow” quickly comes to stand for other things (in other words, it becomes THE dembow, dembo, denbo). Notably, even in the suave hands of W&Y (or w&w for that matter), it remains a chant centering a heteronormative/macho subject. What’d you expect?

      >> w&w, “Dem Bow Dem” (11 min | 24 mb)


Unattributed, “Son Bow” (The Beats: Pistas De Reggaeton Famosas Vol.3)
Shabba Ranks, “Dem Bow” (Just Reality)
Nando Boom, “Ellos Benia” (Reggae Español)
El General, “Son Bow” (The Hits)
Grinds Man, “Dem Bow” (At The Super Stars Conference)
Unattributed, “Dembow ‘The Original'” (Pistas de Reggaeton Vol. 2)
Unattributed (Luny Tunes?), “Dembow ‘The 2004 Version'” (Pistas de Reggaeton Vol. 2)
Wisin & Yandel (Luny Tunes), “Dembow (Pista)” (Pistas De Reggaeton Famosas)
Wisin & Yandel, “Dem Bow” (Jamz Tv Hits, Vol. 2)
Wisin & Yandel, “Dembo (remix)” (A Otro Nivel)
Wisin & Yandel, “LlamĂ© Pa’ Verte (Bailando Sexy)” (Pa’l Mundo)
Wisin & Yandel (ft. Tempo), “Deja Que Hable El Dembow”
King Daddy Yod (ft. Flya, Ragga Ranks, Jamadom, Tiwony), “Delbor 2006”

* sez Guillaume via email re: “Delbor” —

Yeah so no reference to sexuality, just straight up social problems and that the society is fucked up. You even have an eschatological reference at the end of the song. What’s interesting is that they use verlan only in the first verse, like an indication for the listener to make the chorus easier to understand at first. They don’t use verlan in the rest of the song as far as I could understand. Bottom line, it’s pretty safe to say that this song reference the 2005 riots and expand it to express a view of a fucked up society.

[Update 6/2010: A few months ago I found the original recording of Daddy Yod’s “Delbor” (which can be purchased here); also, although it’s not strictly a “Dem Bow” cover, Nando Boom’s “Pension” very clearly traces the melody/vowel-sounds rather closely, and indeed many of the lyrics are the same that he later uses in “Ellos Benia.” The riddim undergirding both Boom tracks, the Pounder, was clearly inspired by the Dem Bow riddim and may just be the missing link between Bobby Digital’s / Steely & Clevie’s production for Shabba and the dembow beat so widely used in reggaeton.]

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February 8th, 2009

El GaTo VoLaDoR

thx to bill@immanentdiscursivity for sharing this hilariously awesome lookinassnigga-style google-img setting for el chombo’s pre-chacarron reggae/ton panameño classic, “el gato volador” —

i wonder how this might shed light on ethanz’s cute-cat theory?

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April 2nd, 2008

linkthink #95363: Color Guard

videyoga ::

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January 25th, 2007

Linkthink #4083: AfroCaribEdition

  • Solo Plena: a frequently updated Panamanian “plena” blog (that means reggae there, y’know), showing that Panama’s reggae scene, as reinvigorated and reshaped as it may have been by the reggaeton explosion, continues apace.

    &nuff Pma plena pon YouTube too, classic a nuevo

    here’s El General doing his best Don Dada

    and Aldo Ranks puttin it down undergrown style —

  • !Mas Reggaeton! — Raquel esta blogeando una tormenta recientemente. She’s still cross-posting @ reggaetonica.blogspot, but it seems to me that all the action is over on herspace. (Teaser: I make an appearance in the most recent post, but do check her repost of Bernardo Brigante’s email polemic.)
  • Representar: Humboldt Park’s own Oneeleven, aka the PolacoBombero, aka Anton Kociolek — a deeply knowledgable locolocal who blew my mind last night on some historico-musico-socio-cultural storytelling / ‘pod wheeling / table tapping — also has a blog at thatspace, which he has so far devoted to two extensive pieces on bomba.
  • Back to Jamaica: Delighted to discover this past week “linguist with wanderlust” Ria Bacon’s astute, reflective, and beautiful Jamaica blog (which makes me wish i&i had wordpress way back when) ..
  • Pete Murder Tone with a nice piece on “the other riddim twins

    (published, you’ll note, in Jahtari Magazine, which — now a regular and tasty blog — adds a nice dimension to what was already a nice lil netlabel, consistently offering up crnchy computachip dubs as well as a series of well-researched but not over-rehearsed mixtapes [fi stream mostly] — check Murder Tone’s steppers genealogy, “Warrior’s Dance”)

  • & speaking of others, or even other others, or even…
    You know my name is Wayne Marshall, not to be confused with the other Wayne Marshall, or the other other Wayne Marshall — both of whom, incidentally, have over the years passed and fallen behind and passed me again in the Great Google Race. But you probably don’t know the other other other Wayne Marshall, who is the first other Wayne Marshall I ever encountered — save for my father, of course, also named Wayne Marshall. Which is no little thing; indeed, I was the little thing, referred to fairly frequently growing up as “Little Wayne” (tho never “Lil Wayne,” for the record — even so, he’s still a biter, and a shill for the status quo, so there). Hence, I’ve always sorta been the other Wayne Marshall.

    At any rate, when I first searched my name on the Internet, back in early college (as an assignment, mind you; in CS-50, mind you, which I took as an elective — with Brian “I wrote the book on c” Kernighan, no less), the first return I found was this Luther-Campbell-cum-R.Kelly (f’real, check the track titles) hairychested newjackjiggy pr0nopop soulsinger from the UK. Now that was a trip.

    The other day I (re)found his picture on Google Images (where I’m getting killed, btw, duh) —

    Perhaps the bigger trip, though, is that “may be for sale” (not that i want it).

    Perhaps the biggest trip, though, is that I have an English name — or even a “Jamaican name,” as an elderly woman in Kingston once told me — despite that I’m directly named after a guy of Sicilian and Portuguese parentage. (I explained the Machado–>Marshall change last month, you’ll recall.) The funny thing about the first name is that it’s supposedly derived from, you guessed it, John Wayne. (How’s that for post-war 2nd-gen kitsch/assimilation inspiration, pardner?) So I end up with this odd super-Anglo-Am name, though I could have just as easily been Manuel Machado. Sometimes I wonder how that simple change might have changed my life.

    But back to my pr0npop namesake, I’m curious: do any of you UK music folk out there happen remember this chap? (He would seem difficult to forget. I think he even charted.) Does anyone have any of these tracks? Gotta be a bargain bin item at this point, no? Think I can do better than a tenpound pricetag?

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November 30th, 2006

For Unawful Canal Knowledge

Some linkythinky things:

  • Peter Scholtes just wrote an extensive piece on reggaeton for City Pages. Rather than simply rehearsing the well-worn narrative, Peter brings in the voices and stories of performers and enthusiasts in the Minneapolis/St.Paul reggaeton scene, giving new texture to a story whose contours have become all too familiar. He includes a large photo gallery and youtube vids, and he even recommends my Dembow mix! (Since I still believe in a “strategic” moratorium on animalizing teh Other, however, I’m not so sure about the “Reggaeton Animal” title, or what it refers to, for that matter — though that’s probably not Pete’s fault. Props to City Pages at any rate for providing so much space — for text and other media — not to mention publishing four-letter words.)
  • An article like Pete’s could be written about every large (and maybe small) city in the US at this point. (Editors take note.) If we characterize reggaeton’s story to date as one of translation, gestation, and commercialization, the next chapters would seem to be pointing toward localization, appropriation, and hybridization. (Pardon the Latinate litany, which not only is unwieldy but implies that all these processes are not always [already?] ongoing; better to “think them” as dynamically interacting rather than sequential.) Fueling as it is fueled by the youtubification of translocal cultural practice, reggaeton will not be running out of gasolina anytime soon.
  • Writing for the Germaican reggae magazine Riddim, Christoph Twickel offers up the most comprehensive piece on Panamanian reggae I’ve seen to date. He covers a lot of ground: demographics on Panama (esp w/r/t Caribbean immigration); connections to roots reggae and Rastafari, bolero and calypso; an overview of early and important as well as contemporary performers, recordings, and venues; the place of New York in Panamanian reggae (and El General’s career specifically); class, race, and gender/machismo, etc. Not bad for a 2500 word piece. Only catch is, you gotta read German to understand it. Verstehen Sie mich?
  • Er, apropos (passend?) — have you heard the triphoppy downtempo track I made by sampling all the phrases about not knowing German from a How to Speak German instructional cassette? (Most of us ethnomusicologists vergleichende Musikwissenschafters, you see, are glucky enough to have to learn German in grad school — it being one of the field’s foundational languages.) The simple (stupid?) joke of the track is that the speaker marshals an increasingly impressive storehouse of Deutsch phrases in order to express his utter ignorance of the language. I made it before visiting my friend Martin in Munich in late spring of ’01, which is why the guy asks, appropriately, “Wann kommen wir in Muenchen an? (When do we arrive in Munich?)” at the beginning (and end).
  • All this Panama talk — before the German tangent, naturlich — reminds me that there are some cool timelapse videos of the canal floating around. But since they don’t tend to have audio accompaniment (what would timelapse audio sound like?), I recommend watching the one below while listening to a production c/o El Chombo, Panama’s biggest reggae(ton) producer and just maybe the guy behind the infamous “Chacarron” (which would also make good accompaniment to canal footage, which — apparently — can also be viewed in realtime):

  • -


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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