You don’t know what ‘reggaeton’ is?
No need to be embarrassed about that.
It is still a relatively new music genre which had its world-wide breakthrough in 2005 which saw reggaeton quickly gaining popularity at Salsa dance clubs all over the Western world. It is a mix of Spanish rap, Latino samples and reggae dancehall with a modern digital sound. US rap artists such as Wyclef Jean and 50 Cent brought it into the mainstream as part of their constant search for a fresh sound, and the reggaeton song ‘Gasolina’ became a massive club tune throughout most of Europe.
Blacklisted in Puerto Rico
The story of reggaeton goes back to Panama where Panamanians of Jamaican descent started a movement of playing “Spanish reggae” in 1977. But during Manuel Noriega’s regime the music was having “some trouble with the government” – as the Panama music producer Ramon Bustamante puts it. In short, they were ordered not to play Spanish reggae anymore. Artists such as El General and Nando Boom left the country and migrated to New York City. There, they became quite successful, introducing ‘La Piena’ music to mainstream, and it quickly spread throughout Latin America.
The Puerto Ricans fell in love with the music style and started to do their own versions. In the beginning of the 1990s, as it was gaining popularity there, again it was blacklisted by the authorities.
“If the police saw you with a reggaeton CD they would take it away. It wasn’t allowed in stores either,” 27-year-old Puerto Rican singer Master Joe recalled in an interview with Eddie ‘Nino Brown’ Rosas which is written by Quinée ‘Princesa’ Butler on Reggaetonline.net.
Banned in Dominican Republic
When Master Joe began his career at the age of 14 in 1993, it was as a way to express himself when no one else in society would listen.
Quinée ‘Princesa’ Butler writes in the article:
“The demand for Reggaeton in Puerto Rico was enough to turn this new genre into a self-propelled vehicle of expression for the underclass youth of Puerto Rico. Poverty and harsh living conditions were everyday life for reggaeton artists, and it showed through the lyrics of their songs. Young artists found reggaeton was a means to share their experiences in life, raw and uncensored, which has made reggaeton’s lyrics hard for much of the upper class of Latin America to digest. Those who could not relate to the lyrics of the music saw reggaeton as vulgar, and claimed that the music was a negative representation of life in Latin America.
Reggaeton’s reputation has suffered severely in several Latin American countries due to the derogatory nature of its lyrics. Reggaeton artists were not allowed to perform concerts in a few Caribbean countries. It was banned on radio, and albums were boycotted in countries like Cuba and the Dominican Republic. The governments of these countries often criticize reggaeton because they feel its lyrics are too violent, vulgar, sexual and derogatory towards women.”
The reggaeton singers felt they were misunderstood, in particular on the issue of women: “We will never put any woman down, they are the base of reggaeton,” says Master Joe.
However, reggaeton was banned in Puerto Rico until in the end of the 1990s where new reggaeton artists came along who began to “clean up” the lyrics to ensure that their music would be played on the radio. Eventually, the ban was lifted and became available to the public through regular music stores.
Master Joe. Photo: Yunque93.com