Reggaeton is a form of dance music that became popular with Latin American youth during the early 1990s and spread to North American, European, Asian, and Australian audiences during the first few years of the 21st century.
Reggaeton music originated from Panama but became more popular in Puerto Rico. With time, it spread to other countries and became a globally accepted genre. It is largely influenced by hip hop, dancehall, and Caribbean music.
The sound is almost similar to Spanish reggae but it is a much younger genre. It has a lot of Jamaican influence.
When it started, Reggaeton was circulated mostly through informal venues and channels. It was, therefore, referred to as underground music. Reggaeton shows were rarely held in official venues. The first Reggaeton songs were ‘riddims’. They became really popular since they combined both hip hop and Latin American sounds. The Boricua underground emerged as Reggaeton music became more popular. It was an unofficial outlet for young creatives looking for a platform to express themselves. However, it grew into a popular genre in other countries across the world and therefore opened up Latino culture to other countries. It has helped to reveal to the world the state of Puerto Rican streets, prisons and general life. It has shaped popular culture not only in Latin American countries but also in other parts of the world including Africa and the United States.
The underground genre was mainly expressive about drugs, poverty, violence, sex, and love. Underground music gained a lot of popularity and by the mid-nineties, it was already being sold in mainstream stores. It was highly influential to the youth but it received a lot of criticism. The government even started a campaign against it in 1995. That, however, did not kill Reggaeton in Puerto Rico. It continued to grow. By 2004, it was widely spread in Europe and the US. In 2017, Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee released the track ‘Despacito’ and it received more than a billion views in just three months. When it started, it was mainly dominated by male artists. However, female artists joined in. Daddy Yankee, Arcangel, Don Omar and Yandel, Wisin, R.K.M & Ken-Y, Pitbull, Tego Calderon, etc are some of the reggaeton artists to name a few.
The lyrics of Reggaeton music are similar to hip hop. They have hooks that are repeated through the song and most Reggaeton combine rapping with singing usually in ‘Spanglish.’. It often mixes bomba, plena, reggae and Jamaican dancehall and has a percussive beat referred to as ‘dembow’. Even though it borrows different features from another music genre, the sound is still unique. It has a unique and definitive ‘boom-ch-boom- chick’ sound. Reggaeton usually uses drum beats and the beat is generally fast. It uses drum machines, computers and keyboards.
Reggaeton songs have for a long time helped to bring to light the race issue especially for Latinos whose racial identity is not very clear. Before reggaeton, hip hop was considered the only music genre which allowed people to express themselves and talked about societal issues.
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