Jamaican music producers and recording artistes continue to have a major positive effect on the direction of popular music around the world. It is absolutely amazing how much we as a people have contributed to what the world decides to dance and vibe to. The latest craze throughout North America is now without doubt a musical offspring of reggae called reggaeton.
Reggaeton is a relatively new form of dance music that has become very popular in Puerto Rico over the last decade and has now spread to Latin communities all over the world. The name is derived from reggae, which influenced reggaeton’s dance beat through the infusion of hard driving dancehall rhythms. Reggaeton is also heavily influenced by other Puerto Rican music genres and by urban hip-hop. The explosion in the popularity of reggaeton in Latin urban centres in Central, South and North America has prompted some to speculate that the genre will soon surpass salsa, merengue and other pop music among Hispanic youth.
Like hip-hop, the lyrics of most reggaeton recordings seem to focus on issues such as urban crime, sex and racism, which tend to have very strong appeal to urban youths everywhere. Some of the leading exponents of reggaeton include Tego Calderon, Queen Ivy, Don Chezina, and Daddy Yankee. Top American hip-hop producer L’il John has also joined the train, signalling the recognition of the potency of reggaeton by mainstream urban American music makers.
The Latin reggae craze is not confined to reggaeton either. In Cuba there is another offspring called cubaton. The Cuban version comes primarily from Santiago in southeastern Cuba, where many youths have actually been tuned in and listening to Irie-FM for years. Cubaton, however, seems to incorporate a wider range of Jamaican music influences from traditional roots reggae, to lovers rock, and dancehall. The Santiago-based outfit called Cuban Urban Xpression, with artistes such as El Medico and Control Cubano, is one of the leading forces behind cubaton. A major reggaeton music festival was also recently held in Santiago and there are plans for another big reggaeton festival in Venezuela later this year.
As far as I am aware, only a few Jamaicans have so far been taking advantage of what is now proving to be an extremely huge market for reggae and dancehall. Vegas has had a reggaeton hit in the form of “Pull Up.” There is, however, great potential here for collaborations between Jamaican, Cuban, Puerto Rican and other Caribbean Latin artistes. There is definitely no stopping the reggaeton movement, as mainstream American radio and TV have also signalled their intention to fully embrace this new format. The Latin reggae fusion is something we definitely need to pay very serious attention to, and more of our producers and artistes should be collaborating with our brothers and sisters from the islands just next door.