Archive of posts tagged with "puertorico"

May 21st, 2008

Rearguard Opinion? (Slackness b/w Sexism & Sexuality)

I’ve been meaning to share my reflections on the smut/slackness symposium I participated in @ Penn for some time now, but, well, you know how the end of the semester can go. Many of the themes that emerged in the panel have been ‘verberating in my head, however — ideas which seem to resonate with recent debates elsewhere on the ‘osphere, not to mention previous thoughts on booty-bass (esp received as “foreign”).

Grades are in, tho, so time fi get this off my to-do list. Pardon the prolixity — this is a long one.

In my talk at Penn, I first made a point of acknowledging and affirming that something like “slackness” in Jamaica — i.e., an attitude about publicly performed sexual mores and morals — can work to challenge a hypocritical, Eurocentric hierarchy of value and culture of “respectability” with its frank, healthy, humorous take on sexual and gender relations. As some Jamaican observers such as my fellow panelist Carolyn Cooper have argued, slackness can be understood as a trenchant response to official (i.e., church and gov’t) discourse about sexuality and the control of the body (politic). Slack lyrics and dances are strong gestures of opposition in a country still so scandalized by bad words. Slackness thus pushes against a public culture of respectability and decency that masks the enduring disrespect and indecency perpetrated against the disenfranchised (black) masses. Moreover, beyond any pushback, many will argue — Afrocentrists among them — that such ways of dancing, singing, talking, and relating are part of a rich cultural heritage that recognizes the power and importance of (sexual) pantomime (if often in a heteronormative fashion), not to mention both frankness and sly (or crass) innuendo, and — on the flipside — the problems that come from repressing our desires, our (second) natures, and ourselves.

I followed this rehearsal of the merits of slackness, however, by proposing a possible limit case (and hence inviting accusations of conservatism, of being — indeed! — rearguard). I wanted to see whether my co-panelists and the other participants in the symposium might hesitate in giving license to any and all forms of representation in the context of dancehall (or, more generally, musically-mediated) performance. I wondered whether certain examples might strike us as unredeemable from a progressive or playful perspective, tipping so far into suggesting sexual(ized) exploitation and domination that we’d have to recognize it, if not chant it down, as something beneath the basic level of humanity that we can also celebrate, dignity intact, as liking to get low, u feel me?

The panel was titled “Smut/Slackness in Caribbean Music,” and I had to admit that the term smut was puzzling to me in this context (before I was enlightened by fellow panelist and ethnomusicologist Shannon Dudley, who explained that smut has operated in Trinidadian discourse the same way slackness has inna JA). With regard to Jamaica, I found smut a suspicious term to throw into the mix. Why would we describe the practices we’re discussing in that way? Or better, who would describe them that way? What might be lost or gained, politically / epistemologically, from employing such a term, such an analysis, such a judgment?

For me, smut refers to porn, but slackness does not. And I was worried about what might get lost in the conflation of the terms (at least in a US-based discussion). Does the debate around morals, and whether one adheres to them tightly or slackly — especially in the performative, spectacular site that is the dance hall — disappear when we move to the category of smut? Well, only if we think of smut as coterminous with porn, of course. Nevertheless, it seems important, to me, to maintain a distinction between slackness and pornography. (Sidenote: this is a line blurred increasingly by pop-chart hip-hop and r&b — a related and interconnected, if often implicit, topic in our Carib-centric conversation, to which I’ll return).

Like everywhere, one can find porn qua porn in Jamaica: there are “titty bars” and resorts called “Hedonism” and such; there’s imported pornography; there’s even the occasionally rather racy, but not XXX, spread in the X News; and sure, dancehall artists’ descriptions of sex and certain dances or ways of dancing can lean toward the pornographic in their explicitness. Along these lines, it’s worth noting that the video recordings of dancehall events such as Passa Passa, recordings which circulate internationally, and overlap with and inform local scenes in the diaspora (e.g., Florida), offer up-skirt perspectives a good 50% of the time — one may as well call it the “punaany cam.” (But I should note, as well, that the subjects of such shots are as often exhibitionist as evasive.) Still, the term smut is rarely, if ever, so baldly associated with reggae. So it seemed a little inappropriate to me, perhaps problematic — distracting at best — to conflate these terms.

As I thought more about the title of the panel, however, it occurred to me that it might be better to see “smut” and “slackness” not as coterminous, as synonyms, but instead to see the slash between them (“smut/slackness”) as expressing a threshold, a line that might be crossed. (And, yes, this entails ignoring the meanings of smut in Trinidad, but bear with me for the sake of argument.)

If we consider the ol’ “i know it when i see it” test — an infamous phrase associated with Justice Potter Stewart’s opinion in the 1964 Supreme Court case, Jacobellis v. Ohio, which hinged on whether a French film could be deemed obscene by the state of Ohio — if we consider that test (admitting that who the “I” that knows and sees is, of course, quite important), than it might be productive after all to interrogate the boundaries between smut and slackness, especially in such a cross-cultural, transnational conversation as this one.

And so I proposed a limit case, something to pose the question: is this slackness or smut? where do we draw the line? where do dancehall participants draw the line? and what are the implications — for gender relations, for questions of interpersonal and international politics and power — of deeming something obscene or not. Such a judgment is a conferral of value, and because I think we can argue for the value of something like slackness in the way that it publicly pushes against certain strictures and structures, while the value of smut is perhaps more dubious, I think these are crucial questions to consider.

My limit case, as I reported back in April, was a (then) recently coined song&dance weh dem call the “Titty Wine.” An obvious play on the “Dutty Wine,” a very popular dance of the last couple years, the “Titty Wine” takes the duttiness, I think it’s safe to say, to another lebel. The “Dutty Wine” is hardly very dirty; sure, it demands some rather vigorous waistline (and neck) gymnastics — win[d]ing is always about the movement of the hips — but it still leaves plenty to the imagination. The “Titty Wine,” on the other hand, essentially calls for the gyal dem simply to rub their breasts, with a fair amount of freedom (or disregard) for what happens around the waist and below. To my eyes, and to other observers’ (and lovers of dancehall, I hasten to add), the “Titty Wine” hardly seems like a dance at all, but rather the beginnings of a strip-tease, or worse, a “breast self examination“!

I played some examples (but do do your own YouTube surfing) — among them, a Trini version; an impassioned introduction by the Brooklyn-based song&dance-engineer, CV; as well as two eager avatars and early adopters, the white/farin dancehall queens, Lisa No Mannaz and DHQ MoMo

Clearly the dance is interpreted differently by various dancehall participants: it’s either beyond the pale or in the tradition, though — as this exchange indicates — even then the dance is not criticized as scandalous, just wack/stupid. I suspect that for many outside observers, esp if one’s focus is the lyrics and the images rather than the surrounding discourse and debate, the “Titty Wine” is easy to dismiss as pure objectification, fantasy fulfillment on the part of the men calling the shots — perhaps, even, as smut (in the non-Trini sense). To wit (?): CV’s latest song&dance, the “Kattapila” — an attempt to encourage the kind of below/around the waist activity which many Titty Winers were forgetting — is hard to interpret outside the realm of pr0n: the promotional video doesn’t even feature women actually doing the dance to the title track, it simply sets the song to a series of win(d)ing/striptease videos culled from around the YouTubosphere. I don’t think it’s coincidental — or insignificant — at all that some of the clips employed are actual softporn / amateur / YouTube-safe (but NSFW) stripteases, rather than videos of girls, y’know, dancing to dancehall (never mind to the title track). I’m sure we can still argue over whether or not this fits the slackness bill, but is there really any question here as to whom this is being made for and whether it can be extricated from the category of smut/porn?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Carolyn Cooper responded by noting that the “Titty Wine” (the “Kattapilla” hadn’t buss yet) seemed to contain a fairly strong dimension/connotation of self-pleasure. I can certainly see that. (So does a lot of porn, of course.) And I should note that I’ve sometimes found myself on the other side of this argument, against “rearguard” critics — such as last summer in Mexico City when, during a panel on reggaeton and wrt perreo, I enlisted dancehall scholar Sonjah Stanley Niaah to help me make the argument that a lot of this is simply (if, yes, complexly) a form of play. Or as I wrote when I returned from a brief trip to Kingston last summer —

I’ve been in several conversations lately about reggaeton’s perreo and whether or not it is misogynist / patriarchal / phallocentric. Obv there’s no easy answer to that big question. But it’s kinda yes and no, IMO. Seems fairly ambiguous at any rate. At the least, we could use some ethnography around perreo before we all try to speak for the girls doing the deed. To the whatever-wave feminists who worry that the whateverrr-wave feminists have left the cause behind, I’ve been trying to argue — alongside colleagues such as Raquel Rivera and Sonjah Stanley-Niaah — that there’s a whole lotta play going on in this. Dance a dance. Sex is something else. Drrty dancing’s nothing new & does not necessarily lead to the nasty.

In general, I’ve decided that the best feminist I can be is one who respects women’s rights to do what they deem appropriate with their bodies and selves. But that doesn’t mean I don’t still have reservations, perhaps even condemnations, that I think are important to bring into the public conversation, especially when certain acts are perpetrated by men. I often have trouble hearing crunk, for instance, as anything more than barking at strippers, which is hardly an ideal model for the kind of healthy sexual acculturation (against Euro-Christian repression & hypocrisy & squirminess) that many of the participants in the symposium saw as a positive dimension of a great deal of Afro/diasporic music and dance. (Nor is criticizing the dudes/dogs in question at odds with allowing a woman the right to be a stripper/sex-worker, or simply the right to take pleasure in playing certain roles — in the (non-strip)club or the bedroom — some of which may be submissive, exhibitionist, or downright “freaky,” as they say.)

It’s worth noting that our views on such topics can’t always be cool, abstract, and disconnected from our (emotional) relationships with friends and family. My own talk was preceded by Raquel Rivera’s cautionary tale of defending the extreme vulgarity and symbolic violence of some proto-reggaeton artists only to want to withdraw her support after hearing from her little sister about a dancefloor encounter that had slid quickly into harassment and abuse. And Raquel’s confession / discussion was anticipated by Shannon Dudley who, after offering a history of “smut” in Trinidadian carnival & calypso, described the challenges and delights of listening to Calle 13 — a group that deliberately confronts the elite/mainstream value system in their music — with his pre-teen kids in Puerto Rico last summer. Thinking about the “Titty Wine” from a parental perspective puts a whole ‘nother spin on it, even for those of us who are quite comfortable with the notion that sex/gender play is a part of life, throughout life, and that frank discussions and depictions of sex can help us to shape healthier attitudes about ourselves than, say, Victorian-era notions or Catholic/Protestant/Puritan dogmas.

I get a sense that the liberty some of us — whether “outsiders” or “insiders” — see/feel in dancehall’s or reggaeton’s or soca’s slack side is akin to what Kevin Driscoll heard/felt in booty-bass, at least for a while. As he writes in his recent paper for Henry Jenkins:

If the dancefloor is a place where it is safe to move one’s body in unusual ways, perhaps it is also a space where the embodiment of the sex act can be exposed, toyed with, and manipulated.

Part of me wonders what happens, however, in the YouTube era when we move from dancefloors into each other’s bedrooms, kitchens, etc. (i.e., domestic/intimate spaces) — when virtual communities are not just imagined but actually interfacing, exchanging media and ideas, & sometimes phone numbers. Does what Kevin calls “the liberating potential of a construction of sonic space in which sexual desire, fetish, and perversion are no longer taboo” hold true when the sonic space in question — which is, of course, always a (special) social space — increasingly extends into other social spaces? (To some extent, it’s worth noting, the overlap between sonic and social space can sometimes seem total, even without — though usually with — the penetration and ubiquity of new media technologies, as in the way that dancehall culture reflects and informs Jamaican sociability and sociality in general.)

We might also ask, to turn to a probing comment by Unfashionably Late Gavin on Kevin’s post, does this liberating potential hold if it’s all about patriarchy and heteronormativity?

The nature of sexuality at play is incredibly important as well. Disco and house were gay musics, or at least queer, and many of the important originators were gay men. Electronic music in general is seen in the U.S. as “gayer” than other types of music. During my ethnography for my thesis, I discovered that techno (made by straight black Detroiters) currently has a gay connotation in Detroit. Ghettotech and bootybass producers (all hetero) are quite consciously claiming dance music (their first love) for heterosexuality — they are not breaking down the walls of sexuality so much as shoring up a very traditional notion of heterosexuality, in tune with contemporary commodified sexuality such as porn and strip clubs. In effect, they are making dance music that allows audiences to NOT question their sexuality — they are comforting conservative hetero audiences. It is interesting, however, that the music seemed revolutionary to a liberal feminist such as yourself — I think that is worth considering further. To me, the queer and open sexual politics of disco are more revolutionary than the concentrated hetero domination in booty bass. In any case, I think we can safely say that the era in which flaunting bourgeois sexual values can be considered revolutionary is definitively over.

That last statement seems like something of a knock for defenders of slackness (and perhaps undercuts a lot of what I’ve said above). I think Gavin raises some trenchant points here, as well as when he questions whether camp and pleasure may potentially undermine a straight-forward reading of booty-bass practice.

The truth is, I really can’t say. And that’s one reason I resist imposing anything like a definitive interpretation on — never mind a call for censure or censorship of — something like perreo (or even the “Titty Wine”). Who am I to say? Who is anyone to say? In order to get a better understanding of what all of this means, we need to bring more voices, more moments of meaning-making, into the conversation. (Where are all the dance ethnographies/autobiographies we so badly need?) I want to hear from more women and girls, from more people of color, from fewer gradschool-educated white dudes. Sin duda, “dame mas gasolina” — eloquent as it may be — is hardly the last word. And while a musically-mediated breast exam may speak volumes, it also seems profoundly silent.

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May 5th, 2008

linkthink #5184: Mariachi Bhangra

videyoga ::

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May 1st, 2008

Outsourced Bloggery #53539: Reggaeton Contemporáneo

From my Trinidadian spy bredrin inna PR —

Marshall to the Wayne,

Que hay, brother? (said in a boricua accent…loved how these chaps drop the ‘brother’ in spanglish)

I don’t know if it’s just me, but reggaeton game is jus getting jiggier, and a lot of today’s hits have influences from southern bounce (tamo a lo loco) to electronica (‘sexy movimiento’)…am sending you the names and youtube links (most are the videos) of some of the current big tunes…LOVE de voltio, dred…de man flow on dat jus wicked for days. Otherwise, went to Festival de Claridad (heard of it?) and Calle 13 and Tego both performed…mash up de place.

– Pa’que la pases bien (Arcangel):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ZEK1OJ5SCA

– Tengo tantas ganas de ti (Arcangel):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-hu2jPS1xI

– Sexy movimiento (Wisin y Yandel):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W9oFveyv94E

– Anoche son contigo (Wisin y Yandel):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfw9nzrY9sQ

– Donde estas el amor (Wisin y Yandel):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u7HNyrZFVJM

– Tamo a lo loco (Voltio):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bhTBvk1I3d0

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April 2nd, 2008

linkthink #95363: Color Guard

videyoga ::

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February 27th, 2008

linkthink #3935tt50: Oxfam Biscuits & Mosquito Nets


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February 20th, 2008

linkthink #853889: LOLdier Boy Tellem

gifyoga ::

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December 25th, 2007

Refried Pasteles

in the xmas diggin spirit, /jace offers up some fine aguinaldos y villancicos

// including a couple MIDI files ! //

& so i couldn’t resist spending part of my xmas tuesday morning doing this —

w&w, “refried pasteles”
[audio:http://wayneandwax.com/music/refried-pasteles.mp3]

i can imagine a number of other ways to make mashed pasteles, and it’s begging for a dembow remix

quizas, si tengo tiempo, trato de…

pero, por ahora ::

murry murry —

feliz, feliz —

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September 9th, 2007

Tons o’ Tons, or Distributed Reading #5382

I tagged a “raï-ggaeton” video over at my linkythinky a while back. A bit o’ chutney-ton, too. Both seemed interesting to me as rather explicit examples of the localization of global pop (and rton in partic), if not terribly compelling as specific things &, yeah, rather steeped in the odor of novelty. That’s not the only possible cultural outcome, tho, obviously.

To wit: I’ve recently received two hot tips via email pointing me to possible new -tons emerging abroad — el “jesgrew” puertoriqueño quizas?

John Schaefer to jace, me :: Aug 20

Hi Wayne and Jace,

Could this be the first Moroccan reggaeton?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdc7VWf_ziE

Here’s the first mention of “Gnawaton”:
http://www.wladbladi.com/forum/showpost.php?p=477121&postcount=5

:)
John.

That video John links to is pretty amazing, I gotta say. It’s a serious production, for one (as the end credits attest), changing scenes idon’tknow howmany times and offering up some pregnant juxtapositions between the old and the new. Notably, the imagery appears to be the most reggaetony thing about it. Paste in a new face and voice, cut in some scenes from San Juan barrios, and you’ve got a Daddy Yankee video. Tellingly, though, E.lam Jay, the rapper dude, resembles Sean Paul more than any reggaetonero — tho the cornrows coulda been Don Omar-inspired, too. (Apparently I’m not the only one who thinks so: a commenter here calls it “sean paul in an arbic version.”) Moreover, the underlying track reminds me much more of uptempo dancehall crossover stuff — the Coolie Dance riddim or Sean Paul’s “Temperature” — than any reggaeton tracks, per se. There’s no dembow, first of all. And the housey tempo, 3+3+2 synth stabs, and claps on 1234 are more an 04 dancehall ting than a reggaeton accent.

I don’t think John’s imagining things, however, when he asks the question above. I’m pretty sure I hear the word “reggaeton” in the song at least a couple times (tho I’m happy to be corrected by someone who knows Arabic). & another version of the video at YouTube actually calls it “Gnaoui Tone” while provoking plenty of ambivalent discussion over the fusion of styles:

burnnero (2 weeks ago)
what a shit song, I dont understand any thing in this new style

Jamahiriya (1 month ago)
Nice song !

wiam15 (1 month ago)
i love so much this sing. e lam et mohammed sont super il forme un couple super

actarius (2 months ago)
Darhem is authentic and has a very nice voice.
The other guy is just spoiling the thing.

sisi1475963 (2 months ago)
i like this song but just mr drham not that crazy man e lam i hate hem his so fucking bad

When checking out one of these would-be -tons, I always tend to ask myself things like: in what sense could this be construed as reggaeton? why forge/impose that symbolic link? if it’s not just cynical marketing or ignorant appropriation at work here, and yet it doesn’t do the dembow, what exactly is going on? what does it say about the resonance and interpretation of reggaeton in Morocco?

or, for that matter, in Ethiopia?

Steve Kiviat to wayne :: Sep 8

Thought you might find this of interest

Gurage is an ethnic group in Ethiopia. The Gurage people inhabit a sparsely fertile, semi-mountains region in southwest Ethiopia, about 150 miles southwest of Addis Ababa -wikepedia

Ethiopian Music – Tewodros & Abraham – Gurageton

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RhZjrxUpxfE

The video above would seem to pose many of the same questions, especially with its explicit labeling. And I should say first of all that, regardless of its relationship to reggaeton, it’s an awesome song&dance. (I love the plinky-plink piano version of Dre’s “Next Episode” that opens the video, setting the clubby scene.) But it doesn’t sound much like reggaeton to my ears, despite also appearing to describe itself that way during the track — and at a prominent moment at that, just before a chorus. Sure, it’s got a nice bump on the offbeat, almost ska style, especially at that relatively speedy tempo. But, as reinforced by style of dance in the video, I hear this more as a nod to kwaito than anything else, beatwise and flowise both. Of course, that’s just generally speaking, for this comes across as quite original in its synthesis of all sorts of internat’l club music and I can’t claim to know all that much about Ethiopian dance-pop. [Update: A little (!) more YouDigging yields a bunch of Gurage-related videos that seem, to my ears, to indicate that “Gurageton” does a pretty good job of electronicizing good ol’ folk-dance music, which is not to say that kwaito isn’t in the mix here, but that offbeat emphasis and the double-time claps clearly have some strong roots in the region.]

Clearly, people hear all kinds of things in this, and make all sorts of meanings. The comments @ YouTube again offer mixed reactions & strong opinions, frequently fingering the jagged edges of race&nation:

kahabity (5 days ago)
i don’t like it

haniayu15 (1 week ago)
nice Teddyo one step in ethio music and like the style keep it up

trueiopian (1 week ago)
hell yea i like this
guraga the best!!

Saralicious4real (2 weeks ago)
Im a Ethiopian fo’reeal, but this shit is so wannabe black american.

s3763492 (3 weeks ago)
i can say@!!!!!!!!!!
taddyo the raper………not just me
all my fuckin frnd love this hiphop music
even somalia tooooooo men.
i just have to say ethiopia for life…
hahahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

matitesbu (3 weeks ago)
are u freaking kidding me….will someone remind this dud that he is an ethiopian….i suggest this young fellow to march to the ethiopian farm and start plowing the land.That is exactly what we need.The world has more than 300 million americans…I am sure they don’t need anymore americans…try to be an ethiopian for a change.

unpreedicktable (3 weeks ago)
Yo Gurenya had me crackin up! GRAGETON… now that shit was funny! But this is a good video nonetheless

Among other things, perhaps what’s going on here — or what is interesting to me — is that reggaeton has come to signify, like dancehall and hip-hop and reggae and funk and jazz and son before it (in Africa and elsewhere), a new kind of currency for participating in, as some would style it, the modern. (& Here I’m riffing off a provocative, thoughtful essay by James Ferguson called “Of Mimicry and Membership.”) As with certain styles of dress and address in previous eras and places, reggaeton today says something similar, all over the world. It’s hot and cool, racy and sexy.

Here we hear global hip-hop with an accent, reinterpreted & refitted, uptempo and (often) upwardly mobile — or at least mobile, marked by (aspirations to) mobility. Routes & cultcha, tú sabes?

For people who write about and study reggaeton — or produce, promote, and sell it, I suppose — these tons of -tons present something of a challenge then, no? Para decirlo en otra manera: Who am I — or who anywhere has the authority — to draw the lines around reggaeton? Must all of this activity, every masquerading -ton, necessarily end up in the reggaeton narrative, whether or not the purported -tons conform to some general criteria we might use to measure some abstract thing like reggaetonness?

& Among other upshots: Who cares? & why?

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August 16th, 2007

& It Don’t Stop…

Even in the middle (or, at this point, toward the end) of some well-needed Beach Research, I’m happy to note that several dear interlocutors have been continuing the conversations here — and taking them in interesting directions.

E.g.,

Raquel Rivera weighs in on “No Te Veo” herself, making reference to the vivrant discussion about it on this here humble blog (thx esp to Birdseed & Boima for keepin it going!).

Oneleven, aka El Polaco Bombero, riffs on “la voz laina” in response to our discussion of nasal-tinged reggaetoneros, drawing on his longtime participant-observation in the diasporic bomba scene to offer some illuminating — if perhaps “poetic”? — insights.

Guillaume de Masala lends his ears w/r/t that kuduro-esque kwaito jam we were tryna grok collectively here not long ago; he also points to a DJ Playero treasure trove torrent, which goes well w/ /rupture’s recent remarks re: reggaeton antes de reggaeton.

& there’s some percolating praggamatic chat a gwaan tambien, tho I have to admit I’m surprised that that post hasn’t been more of a powder-keg for comments.

As always, thanks to all for the further adventures in linkthink. More soon come. Now back to the beach…

-

June 23rd, 2007

The Webnography of Reggaeton Faultlines

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve gleaned lots of what I know ’bout the narratives swirling ’round reggaeton via the web, especially via the messageboard debates that flare up into all sorts of contested, conflicting accounts and claims. In that sense, I’ve maybe learned less about reggaeton’s history this way, per se, than about how people frame and claim reggaeton to (re)draw the lines of community. (Not that any such thing as “reggaeton history” can be abstracted from any and all of this narrativizing.)

Perhaps it simply speaks to the genre’s popularity that reggaeton can serve as a bridge or a wedge, but it may say something also about its multivalence and, especially, its address (where you at?), especially of late — not to mention the memory of what things once were/seemed/meant in another time and place.

One illustrative example of what I’ve found to be an invaluable source for reading reggaeton is a relatively innocent post by abstractdynamic and nowadays sporadic blogger, Abe Burmeister. Back in August 04, upon hearing reggaeton all around NYC and finding relatively little about it on the net, Abe went searching for information about the genre, to little avail. This prompted him to write

I don’t know enough about Reggaeton and neither it seems does the internet.

You’d never know it the occupied zones of Manhattan, but Reggaeton just might be the biggest music in New York right now. Its certainly the fastest growing. Like hip hop before it (and salsa too I suspect) its evolving isolated from the outoftowners and media forces that think they define New York. One wonders if they’ll pimp it world wide when they finally wake up, or are they perhaps too scared to wake to the spanish?

Tellingly, the Google search link he provides in his post now returns almost 10 million hits for ‘reggaeton.’ [Update: as of 1/09, it was up to 14 million.]

But more important, Abe’s post served unwittingly to launch a fierce, if disjointed, debate about the genre’s national identity and about the increasing presence of Latinos in the US. Strongly worded statements, history lessons, and derogatory language alternate with promotional spam, love letters to reggaetoneros, and requests such as this one —

can some1 sent mei a good azz pic of don omar. he iz so fine

Posted by: brenda | August 30, 2004 06:35 PM

A selection of certain comments — from among the HUNDREDS AND HUNDREDS posted — provides an illuminating if painful look at the contours of these rather fraught debates, including Puerto Rican, Mexican, Panamanian, pan-Latino, and Jamaican claims to the genre, calls for black, brown, Latino, and Caribbean unity, as well as some intense stereotype slurring among Latinos and between Latinos and (African-)Americans. The back&forth gets pretty down&dirty at a certain point, so be warned. But it offers a revealing portrait of reggaeton under construction and in contest —

Damn people realize that reggaeton doenst just belong to the panas or the boricuas shit its pa todos mis latinos, mexicanos and shit dont fucken be ignorant just beacuse its coming out strong from one area doesnt me its ur music . shit i know how this shit got started but just because it started there doenst mean it stays there. I live in Californoia, Orange County and i list en to this shit and i support al the reggaeton artist i even throw reggaeton clubs and parties in La and Oc to help get the music out there I do it because i love the music and i aint from panama or puerto rico im from MEXICO shit and damn proud . theirs even mexican reggaeton artist too. so for the record shit its nit boricua music its not panama music its latino music!!! . . .

Posted by: Evilone_714_Aftermath_ent.. Krew | October 30, 2004 08:33 PM

SURE DEM BORICUA GUYS R FINE AZZ HELL, BUT DON’T THINK U ALL THAT!!!!!!!! MEXICANOS MAYBE INDIOS AND CRAP, BUT GUESS WHAT NOT ALL OF US MEXICANOS LIKE THEM RANCHERAS AND PASITO DURANGUENSE, SOME OF US LIKE REGGAETON, BACHATE, MERENGUE, AND KUMBIA. OH YEAH, MOST IMPORTANTLY, WE ARE PROUD 2 BE MEXICANS, NOT LIKE Y’ALL BORICUAS, Y’ALL WNNABE MAYATES!!!!!!! SO WATCH WHO U BE TRYIN 2 PULL SHIT ON, CUZ WE MEXICANS CAN BEAT Y’ALL BORICUAS AT THAT BULLCRAP!!1111

LATERZZZZZZZ

Posted by: ?????? | November 3, 2004 08:01 PM

Yoo “El Boricua” mira nene.. yo soy cubana y a mi me encanta el reggaeton..so wus the big fukkin deal?.. everybody is allowed to like reggaeton papa!! me oyes.. tu no eres el jefe de nadie.. y no importa quien lo esta escuchando mientras se este bendiendo..

Posted by: DaDdYsLiLMaMa | November 11, 2004 10:43 AM

para los que aun les gusta discriminar con sus propias raices……..hater!!!!

bueno primero que nada los BORICUAS no queremos ser mayatez…we are mayates.somo mezcla INDIA !!!!! ESPANOL!!! Y AFRICANA !!!
de donde creen que vino tanta poderosa percusion……de AFRICA….”no vino de mongolia”
la genmte que no sabe de las raizes de los demas,estudien o cayen que por eso nosotros los latinos estamos abajo,por eso es que ARNOLD SWATCHENAGER o como se llame es governador y no un latino. “tenemos que unirnos no separanos con racismo” racismo entre latinos que poca verguenza es esa y falta de respeto a vuestros antecedente!!!!!!

es como si les dijieran “esos mexicans just wanna be latinos” thats called an oximoron.
no tiene sentido decir tan absurda verbla ingnoracia.

Posted by: black!!!! not an option | November 11, 2004 05:26 PM

Latinos SHUT UP. Get back on the boat that brought your ass over here. COUNTRY NIGGA WHUT.

Posted by: Genocyde | November 22, 2004 05:02 PM

this is to COUNTRY NIGGA , u need to go back to Africa. U also need to stop talking shit about latinos. U are just jelous u can’t get no latin girls. You Monkey!!!! Ha Ha

REGGAETON FOREVER
YO SOY BORICUA PA QUE TU LO SEPAS

Posted by: lili | November 22, 2004 08:29 PM

reggaeton is alright honestly jamican reggae is much much better, im not hating or anything like that because my mother is of jamaican-latin descent and i listen to reggaeton as well as hip hop r&b and REAL reggae. it pisses me off when noreaga and nina sky makes a oye mi canto song and not show the jamaican flag because the whole world knows us jamaicans started it all. its kind of like a fraud but at the same time adorable.

Posted by: kinyatta | December 1, 2004 03:36 PM

And another goddamn thing i gotta say. Puerto Ricans?? We aint fucking latinos, we are fucking Caribbeans. Yo no soy latino papa yo soy caribeño, fumando un leño, y desta mierda soy el dueño.
Stoopid ass mexicans thinking they in this shit. FUCK ‘EM!

Posted by: McPaja | January 7, 2005 02:37 PM

and whats good wit all this talk against mexicanos and bein called latino.
what now, not only are ya hatin on me for my opinion but you gonna hate on others that are goin through the same stuff as us.
why wouldnt u want to be called a latino? all that really stands for is for people who speak spanish. the spanish language came from latin. so people now a days that speak spanish are latino. why wouldnt u want to rep that and be proud of that. its beautiful.
and why would you say fuck the mexicans and other spanish nations?
thats foolish.
yeah mexicans are different than us they got there own cultura, same with cubans, domonicans, y todos.
but why would u hate on others for bein different
u know that aint right.
cuz it wasnt too long ago when “negros” and “spics” (talkin bout puerto ricans) werent liked by white american. and they hated on us. and some still do today. and it didnt get them anywhere.
its not gonna get u anywhere either.
u need to recongize before u get yaself in to somethin u aint gonna be able to handle.
u cant win a war against hate with hate.
it never did work , and it aint gonna work now.
u need to grow up and recognize where respect is due to our fellow latinos.
yeah, i said latinos.
squash all that prejustice stuff
it aint sexy playa
one

Posted by: sheena | January 9, 2005 07:00 PM

. . . mcpaja although i agree with you with the mexican issue, i would also like to add that in that same list we should add these fake ass “nuyoricans”. . . .

Posted by: Anonymous | January 12, 2005 08:28 PM

First of all gotta give props to sheena because she is the only one who seems coherent enough to know what she is talking about. Thank you for shedding the light about where spanish reggae really originated from, (Panama). This isn’t a hate on reggae from puerto rico because i grew up listening to it but to be honest, it (reggaeton from puerto rico) wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the influences that came from panama. Reggae en nuestro pais es una cultura y forma de vida. Desde que llegaron jamaiquinos a panama nos han influenciado con su cultura y una consequencia de eso fue la de musica reggae. Y asi se han criado muchos de la juventud en panama, escuchando reggae no solo de panama pero de su pais de crianza, jamaica, y ellos incorporan ese tipo de cultura todos los dias en panama. Like i said this is not a hate on (reggaeton) as it has become now known because i lived in florida in the early 90’s and all I listened to was Playero, The Noise, Baby Rasta y Gringo, Tempo, Mexicano and other good artists but I think credit has to be given where it is deserved. To know where your going you gotta know where you come from. I think that the spanish reggae scene will soon be hearing some very good artists from El Patio(Panama)and also see what talents we’ve got. Let’s support each other in this and other music genres and keep growing as a latin community no matter where we’re from. What’s up to all my panas from Panama and PR. Que dios los bendiga a todos.

Posted by: Panama1 | January 14, 2005 04:39 PM

This boricua shall now take his hat off and recognize the mistakes hes made. I may have seemed a little harsh with some earlier comments about being latino, and i hope that all ive offended can look past my ridicolous comments. I’ve always considered Panama to be one of the closest looking cultures to Puerto Rico, and the comments Panama1 made has made me feel ashamed of what I’ve said.
I now realize that, not only reaggaeton, but also many different types of latin music are being left in the dark because of absence of public light.
We as latinos, should be walking around with our heads held high, being grateful that we have been given this sweet flavor and rythm that the world seems to enjoy. (except that TEX-MEX crap. I find that to be some straight up weak ass SHIT!)
Im not being ironic in any way, and again, all of those who ive offended im very sorry.
Dont hate, Educate.
McPaja . . .

Posted by: McPaja | January 14, 2005 05:50 PM

Clearly, despite being able to represent many things to many people and, increasingly, explicitly positioning itself — and seemingly (statistically?) heard/felt/interpreted — as a mainstream, pan-Latino genre, reggaeton still serves to draw all kinds of lines between social groups, reflecting significant underlying conflicts and incompatible ideologies of self and other. Given what can seem a tumultuous redefinition of social relationships in the wake of new migrations amidst competing projects of national and transnational (not to mention local) unity, it is of little surprise that there is so much heated debate about what reggaeton is and to whom it belongs.

Part of what motivates me to gather both facts and arguments about these big questions is that I suspect, and hope, that a more balanced telling of reggaeton’s story — one that includes the various claims people make on/for it, and why — might have something to offer the ongoing, and growing, conversation. Regardless, I’m gonna keep on reading.

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June 21st, 2007

Reggaeton’s Contempo Indexical Lexica

As I’ve argued before — and will be arguing next week in Mexico City — one can hear reggaeton’s embrace of tecno synths and “Latin” loops as an audible shift from (explicitly, sonically marking itself as) “música negra” to “reggaeton latino.” Such a change, I contend, corresponds to an attendant shift in the cultural politics reflected and informed by the music, responding to major changes in context (from under to commersh, PR to US) and drawing the lines of community in a significantly different way (boricua, morena…). New vistas, new pistas, no?

Perhaps no recent track demonstrates this better than “Noche de Entierro,” produced by Luny Tunes and Tainy and featuring Daddy Yankee, Hector El Father, Tony Tun-Tun, Zion, and the ubiquitous (just wait) Wisin y Yandel. As my co-editor (and co-presenter next week), Deborah Pacini-Hernandez notes w/r/t the song (in response to a question from our other co-editor, Raquel Z. Rivera),

the song is invoking cumbia and vallenato — 2 genres whose connections are historically close, tho they don’t sound so much alike anymore esp as cumbia has been reinvented in Mexico. The flute-like sounds are definitely invoking classic cumbia; the accordion invokes the accordion-based vallenato as well as cumbias played with accordions. The sound of this piece sounds inspired by Carlos Vives’ pop rock interpretations of vallenatos and cumbias.

Hear for yerself —

At the same time that we note such a strong (surfacy?) shift, it’s important to note that plenty of listeners will still register in the genre’s slickest contemporary commercial confections a great number of sonic signifiers tied to the sticky stuff of melaza. I’m not just talking about those enduring kicks&snares from the Dem Bow and Bam Bam riddims; several recent hits have contained other, nicely submerged allusions to the dancehall reggae sources that animated so many underground/melaza/dembo mixtapes back in the mid-90s.

Sometimes this is fairly subtle, though still audible, as in Wisin y Yandel’s “Pam Pam,” a song which had been gaining serious airplay on La Kalle back when I was still commuting around Chicago (no La Kalle in Boston, tho; que pasa with that?). Not only does the bassline trace out a classic 3+3+2 pattern (beneath the boom-ch-boom-chick), those of you familiar with the Bam Bam / Murder She Wrote lineage may notice that the underlying synthesizer melody plays a phrase that recalls a certain unforgettable line from Red Fox & Screechy Dan’s “Pose Off,” a song that would have been well-known in the PR “reggae” scene, which took to the Drum Song riddim as much as to the Bam Bam and Dem Bow

Another good, recent example of how contempo reggaeton references its sample-heavy, reggae-infused roots is “My Space” (inevitable, wasn’t it) by Wisin y Yandel w/ Don Omar. We hear a number of signposts of the new reggaeton — state-of-the-art synths, emotive harmonic progression, dembow loops — but we also hear a nostalgia for “old school” stylee in a few retro interludes (e.g., around 1:10, 2:10), complete with throw-back, flip-tongue rapping by Don Omar over a crunchy, skanking, digi-reggae loop (though I can’t quite place it) —

You’ll have to decide for yourself, por supuesto, whether these examples draw the lines differently, or still connect dots in a way that permits for all sorts of social articulations. It’s clear that people make all kinds of meanings from (and claims on) reggaeton, as I’ll be exploring in the next post. What interests me is how the music itself — which is to say, the choices that producers and vocalists makes — serves to structure, reshape, reaffirm, or undercut such meanings and claims.

As always, I’m curious to hear what you think.

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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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