Relishing the rich and varied canon of Latin music, I could not believe my bad luck when I moved to New York in 2004 and all you could hear blasting from cars, delis and bars was Daddy Yankee’s “Gasolina.” Not only was it the dance-du-jour, ready to spread like fire throughout the continent, but somehow this phenomena made the question of Latino identity in this country even more complicated.
Now that the waters have settled —Daddy Yankee showed his true colors by endorsing John McCain for President, artists like Calle 13 pushing the genre in new directions— Reggaetón has come of age by receiving the academic treatment. Reggaetón (Duke University Press, 2009), a collection of essays and in-depth interviews, gives the first great blast of Latino music in the XXI century a much needed perspective.
Essays like co-editor Wayne Marshall‘s “From Música Negra to Reggaeton Latino” show the complex and transnational evolution of the genre. His musicological analysis of —yes— “Gasolina” even made me listen to that awful song with an attention I didn’t think possible. Other texts included in the volume, such as an interview with Panamaniam reggaetón forefather El General —police officers cutting his dreadlocks, public buses serving as moving clubs— bring the music back to where it belongs: the heart.
At NY1 Noticias, I had the opportunity to interview one of the co-editors of the project, Hunter College researcher and musician Raquel Z. Rivera.