Reggaeton and contemporary life (Opinion of Wendy Guerra)

Publisher’s note: Wendy Guerra is a French-Cuban writer and a contributor to CNN en Español. Her articles have appeared in media around the world, such as El País, The New York Times, the Miami Herald, El Mundo and La Vanguardia. Among her most outstanding literary works are “Underwear” (2007), “I was never the first lady” (2008), “Posing naked in Havana” (2010) and “Everyone leaves” (2014). Her work has been published in 23 languages. The comments expressed in this column belong exclusively to the author. See more at

(CNN Spanish) — When I tune in to the radio that broadcasts music in Spanish within the United States and I follow the television events that reward “what is ours”, “what is autochthonous”, “what distinguishes us as Latin Americans”, I am surprised by the nuance that the soundtrack of our lives.

Spotify, that platform that radically transformed the gesture of listening to music and made us our own DJcaused the mutation of records to MP3 files, until putting us on the path of consuming everything by streaming. In that place we are today and for this we need to pay a subscription that allows us to access the avalanche of options that it offers us. If you don’t pay for this giant Victrola, you will only be able to listen to certain and certain music and you will have to consume all its publicity. It is necessary to have a wide range of well-trained musical tastes, and to be open, so as not to be swept away by the avalanche dictated by the current market. If before the independent record companies worked hard creating new content, giving young talents the opportunity to work on their image with new products, successful or not, but with certain artistic or cultural values, today it is evident that industry executives are tied to hands and feet, and only those who are already known on social networks are allowed to ride in the car, phenomena that arise alone and go viral, adding thousands of followers that the industry then skillfully absorbs.

The AR (artists and repertoirewho are looking for new talent) are on the hunt, more than for artists, for influencers. Nowadays, betting also on musical quality is considered a vintage. The healthy competition that was established years ago between those small labels and the big industry, the keen eye of La Academia when finding jewels in a sea of ​​creativity and polyphonic dialogues, has disappeared. Today the jewelery shines like the bling-bling in each of the awards where we see the same survivors of almost 60 years, fighting against young figures of the so-called urban genre, acclaimed by an overwhelming public.

When a composer of anthological songs arrives at one of these offices and does not have the streams (reproductions) necessary to belong to a label, there are two ways left: add them to a Composition Camp to create a collective theme that can have from two to thirteen authors –see “Uptown Funk”, by Mark Ronson– or be simply discarded.

Cuba, a country where great composers and memorable pages of the international songbook were born, where today people do not have an economy, nor sufficient internet, nor freedom to generate streams, no longer exists for the market. There are very few island artists who manage to offer their work to the world, which does not mean that great songs are not being created inside and outside that country. This situation inspired the Cuban composer and performer Albita Rodríguez, based in the US, to write her song: What fault do I have?.

Brazil, musical power, heritage of universal music, today is a little known terrain for new generations. Fortunately, Brazilians massively consume and enjoy his music.

The great Ibero-American love songs, the speeches that moved us and filled stadiums and large squares to listen to elaborate lyrics in the voice of their authors, boleros, sones, tangos, pop music, guaracha, and social song, everything we used to fall in love and communicate experiences, has ended up in a corner of our lyrical imaginary, defended only by cultural managers and institutions, who, with a lot of work and few resources, try to sustain a universe in danger of extinction.

– “Your Spanish is very high,” the executive of a multinational told a renowned Latin American composer, alluding to his impossibility to relocate him in the current market.

In my opinion, the music industry is in a very complex moment, since it is at the mercy and adrift of social networks. I feel that there is no articulated design that leads to the creation of experiences, not only commercial and immediate, but transcendental. After the “death of the record”, great composers of other genres that are not urban, were relegated to a secondary plane, and the top executives of the industry, the only way they found to save it was the access and control of platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music or YouTube where what counts is the streams.

Nobody can deny the influence of reggaeton in contemporary life or the influence of contemporary life in the development of the genre. There is no place where you hide that will not reach you. From time to time we witness forced and incoherent unions, personalities that would never experience within that universe and who, at first sight, are forced to do so for a matter of survival.

Reggaeton has struck for its Latin key rhythm, its contagious and easy harmonies that resemble each other. It is a pity that most of his lyrics are wild, sexist, and even offensive to the figure of women, that they advance towards us armed with vulgarity and bad words, and cannot always be understood when moving from one area of ​​the world to another, where the idioms within Spanish change. Some specialized critics defend it by alluding to the beginning of the rock or reggae, recalling that time in which they were crucified for putting their finger on the sore spot, addressing very sensitive erotic or social issues. Each era encounters the trauma of looking in the mirror, in the harsh social reality that is so difficult to accept, each musical genre that has been a transgressor, such as tango, flamenco, hip hoprock, etc, rejected at the time, have become popular over time, their passport has been the magic of their poetic, urban, groundbreaking, unforgettable, quotable images, which today is hard to find in the vulgar, plain and insubstantiality -with few exceptions- of reggaeton.

The so-called urban genre appeared on American radio during the 1970s, and became a repository for everything with Afro-descendant roots. The funkysoul, R&B and hip hop they turned to that place, and since then the term is used to encompass all these rhythms without referring to any one in particular. A valuable example of what the force of this fusion can achieve has been Slowly, signed by a composer, the Panamanian Erika Ender, together with the Puerto Ricans Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee. The sticky theme, considered within the reggaeton genre, contains a large dose of sincerity, Puerto Rican folklore, with allusion to the drums of the bomba and the four Puerto Rican, cleanliness and respect for translating a true feeling without vulgarity. Perhaps because of that and because of his grace, he earned an indisputable success that touched the hearts of those who do not even speak our language.

Republic Records, a label belonging to Universal Music Group, the label of Drake, Kid Cudi and The Weeknd, discarded the term “urban” from its vocabulary, alluding to the fact that “it belonged to other times”.

The Grammy Awards, meanwhile, announced that they will change the term Urban Contemporary to Progressive R&B, and today only the Latin media continue to call it urban music.

Here is one example, among many, of reggaeton lyrics very different from the spirit of Slowlywith some verses that may be too explicit for some:

“Bad Behavior” – Alexis and Fido

“I have a cat that likes punishment/ She goes crazy when I push her aggressively,/ When I grab her by the hair, I stick her to the wall and tell her:/ I’m going to send her to intensive care…” / The pool in the navel,/To the prehistoric and grotesque like a caveman,/ Go down,/I want to see her exercising her jaw…”

The French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu warned about “symbolic violence, muffled violence, insensitive, and invisible to its own victims, which is exercised essentially through the purely symbolic paths of communication and knowledge or, more precisely, ignorance, of the acknowledgment or, ultimately, of feeling”. That is why some women consume it, dance it and feel it is very far from the mistreatment they have received or receive from their partner, family or some social sector from which they have been Or they are victims.

In recent years, music has undergone an important anthropological change, the streamsCertainly, they have changed everything, but it is the coronation of reggaeton that has drawn a deep gap between the different styles, and even in the way of life of young people, inspired by this award-winning genre, revered and accepted with pleasure by millions of people in the world, whatever their social status, nationality, religion and ideology. And it is that reggaeton anthologizes, in a hyper-realistic way, the expressions and manifestations of everyday behaviors that occur just as they happen around us, transporting them explicitly in their songs.

Given this, I ask myself: Could it be that the time in which we live will go down in history narrated by the language of a reggaeton?

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