MEDIA & THE ARTS

BHM: Panamá – Pioneers of Reggaeton

For Black History Month this year, we are celebrating the pioneers of Reggaeton music. The story of Reggaeton actually originated in Panamá, it was called Reggae en Español and it is rooted in African Caribbean rhythms and sounds from Jamaica

If you don’t know ‘El General’ (real name Edgardo Franco) we can’t help you. El General’s music is STILL FIRE and played today, he is considered one of the founding fathers of Reggae en Español, which then became Reggaeton. He had several major hits throughout the 90s, and he even won a MTV award. In 2004, he was about to become a big crossover success in English, when he decided to walk away and retire, to become a born again Jehovah Witness Pastor.

One name that is often left out of the pioneer movement is Panamania musician “Rude Girl La Atrevida,” (in researching for this story, we found only one article found that states her birth name is Excenia Knights and that she is El General’s cousin, allegedly) who is considered to be one of the founding women of Reggae in Español. In a time when women didn’t really have a voice in this genre, she spoke up, also had success with top songs and was even signed to Columbia Records. Sadly, not much more was heard from her going into the new millennium.

When Reggae en Español first appeared it was considered to be “underground music” not respectable, to the point where it was criminalized. When Reggae en Español came to Puerto Rico and emerged as Reggaeton (as we know it today) in the Afro-Puerto Rican community, it was heavily attacked by the government, there was even a law passed to target artists, the people who listened to the music, bodegas that sold the music, etc., this went on for years.

In the early part of the 2000s Daddy Yankee and Ivy Queen would become the leaders of a new wave, Reggaeton, but let’s not forget the story and the sounds of Reggae en Español, the price paid, and those who opened the doors.


more reading:

Rolling Stone – Inside Reggaeton’s Unsung Black History

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