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For so many years, music has been viewed as a form art that reflects the culture of a particular group or identity in a society. It has been known to epitomize individuals` tastes and values as well as those of other people as it is often used as a means of expression. Young groups fall the targets as fans of music genres from one piece to another in that, they mark the largest number of audiences whom music is delivered and sold to them, and the reception is quite impressive to the art as an industry. Music as a subculture is considered as a form art related to leisure and work that fits into an enormous system. It is an implication of cultural and social forces embedded by localized interactions that signifies ordinary circumstances involved in day today experiences of the young people.
The roots of Reggaeton
To deeply grasp the context of reggaeton as a subculture and how it influences the creation of a community, it is necessary to familiarize with its roots and the predecessor style that resulted to its eventual evolution. Reggaeton initially begun as Reggae, which is a highly recognized music genre deriving its earlies roots from the famous musical state, Jamaica performed by the eminent artists such as Jimmy Cliff and Bob Marley. Because of low living status and hardship, a group of Jamaican dispersed and migrated to other regions to look for jobs and better life. The Jamaican immigrants settled in Panama after being pronounced as Free State in 1903 (Samponaro 490). The jobs that were available contributed by start of Panama Canal constructions that led to the interaction of different racial groups such as the Amerindians or the Native Panamanians, Jamaican immigrants , the Spanish and other Europeans. There was not only an exchange of genetics but also a mix of cultures between the Panamanian settlers and immigrants from Jamaica, which had a profound effect on music scene.
Reggae eventually arrived in Panama through effective integration of the Jamaicans into the Panamanian society, and who had shifted together with various Jamaican traditional instruments. The Jamaicans combined their knowledge of reggae style with those of the locals, which changed their dominated language that had been used to a bit of Spanish thus, coming up with Dancehall music (Marshall 133). The occasion happened in the early 20th
century and after a long period of fusion of the musical concepts and ideas that had created reggae in Jamaica and the traditional instruments and drums that constitute Panamanian local music resulted to an electronic version. The dancehall music, which was developed after collaboration, did not do well in the Spanish market because it could not match with the electronic beats and resulted in the formation of Reggaeton. Given that during this period all the parts of the collaborated music could just be easily generated by the electronically by the machines, most of the reggae instrumentalists were thrown out the industry because their services were no longer required. The reggaeton widely spread in that the cost involved in the process of synthesizing the music on machines was too low than hiring or recording by the real musicians together with their instrumentalists.
In redefining the reggaeton genre, musicians such as Shabba Ranks had collaborated with Bobby Dixon and created a song called “Dembo” synthesized on special machines (Huq 123). The song defined the genre of reggaeton so it became more influential than any dancehall music ever recorded before. Most of the reggae concepts had been eliminated and the Jamaican language was being translated and encompassed the Spanish style into to the new music version. Hence, Panamanians claimed the ownership of the reggaeton. The new musical translation then spread from Panama to Caribbean centers where marked a large number of integrated people including, the Puerto Ricans, Jamaicans, Panamanians, Cubans, Dominicans, and Africa Americans. Therefore, by early 1990s, the reggaeton had established a massive number of followers in Puerto Rico.
The complete evolution of reggaeton genre eventually ended in Puerto Rico, from reggae in Jamaica to dancehall in Panama and lastly to reggaeton in Puerto Rico where there was a large number of the targeted audience. The reggaeton as a subculture in Puerto Rico was a reflection of regional difference that enhances the national appeal or the ethno-racial of the genre outside Panama. The native music ideas and styles incorporated in the reggaeton genre as depicted by many is considered as the music meant for the poor or black people. Interestingly, not all of the Puerto Rico public gained interest or recognize Reggaeton at its creation as it was viewed as a division of race by class in Latina America (Samponaro 493). The lower class, the poorer, and by significance the black classes in Latina America were not being favoured by the system but instead were being obligated to stick on their customs and cultures based on classes and used the reggaeton to express their frustration as response to the harassment. Such kind of expressions involving the use of vulgar lyrics made the music appear to be irrelevant for outsiders, as they did not enjoy its beauty by reading through and understand the significance of the lyrics. However, securitizing and evaluating the implication of the music on a clear sense, shows that reggaeton is not entirely defined by words, but is much concerned by historical setting and feeling of the music. Therefore, it is from the notion of absorbing stylistic features of the music and liberation from the norm allowed by the vulgar lyrics that make the youth perceive the new emerging genre in massive number.
The other significant issue that revolves around the subculture is the idea of relating the blacks to reggaeton music. There is a clear connotation that most of the poor or lower classes people in Caribbean, especially in Puerto Rico are blacks and the socioeconomic uphold is corrected in favor of one skin tone as compare to other countries (Huq 112). Therefore, given that reggaeton is regarded as music for the black people who are associated with low class, it implies that reggaeton is also considered as of lower class music. Such a notion is being propelled by the imposed links between class and race in Latina America.
Reggaeton subculture and youth group
Considering the similar case to hiphop in the United States of America, reggaeton in Puerto Rico primarily touchers the hearts of the young population. They were motivated in writing reggaeton by the Panamanian musicians while performing the Jamaican “riddim” translated in Spanish language style. Reggaeton is closely related to secretive movement of urban young generation and at other times is known as Perreo in Spanish, which means doggie and it was used to refer to a particular dancing style that induces a sexual position. Apart from Puerto Rico, the reggaeton genre has found its routes to other island regions including Venezuela, Peru, Colombia, Dominican, Panama, and the United States in areas where the number of Puerto Ricans is higher such as Miami and New York (Marshall 144).
The explosion in the popularity of genre in the urban centres of Latina America has influenced the speculation that reggaeton may evolve to merengue, salsa, and other pop genre among the Hispanic and Puerto Rico`s youth. The increased popularity is enhanced by crucial issues that prevails in the lyrics of the reggaeton, which comprise of racism, sex, and urban crime.
The youth of the new generation have the greatest number of reggaeton followers as witnessed in many concerts. It is easy to associate the youth with reggaeton because according to the music history, they have the highest tendency of absorbing emerging things that oppose the old times. Thus considering that reggaeton is quite a new genre among the other dance music, it attracts the youth massively. The key role of reggaeton is to address the issues and breaking the intolerable norms that have not been mentioned in the preceding songs created by the society and which undermines the rights and freedom of others (Ulusoy 145). Most of the Reggaeton music throughout their lyrical lines, drive the concern to major issues that deteriorate the society such as alcohol, sex, parties, and drugs of which the old general could cope up with such kind of music. Therefore, it follows that the youth ranging age fifteen to twenty are major victims of the mentioned aspects as they fall under the targeted audience since the old cannot buy the idea of reggaeton and dislike its presentation.
The reggaeton further reflects many issues that are prevalent among the youth society of Puerto Rico. It is so devastating that some of this reggaeton songs when performed in clubs and parties have negative impacts on the current generation as they encourage the youth to engage in prohibited activities. For example, by looking at some of the reggaeton lyrics such as “La Hormiga Brava” to imply “Forget your Worries” one would note that most of the reggaeton songs in one way or another have purely vulgar lyrics (Ulusoy 164). The trend is at times due to crudity the beauty of the song may get lost. The lyrics show how the DJs care less about the environment surrounding them such as the societal pressure and moral standards. From the lyrics, it is clear that they emphasize that the audience should not worry much about earthly pressures.
Most importantly, it is worth noting that the youth tend to practice what the songs describe in their lyrics especially the emphasis on the freedom, calling up them to mind about the current affairs and worry less about the future. Hence, most youth end with unwanted pregnancy, high spread of AIDS, and victims of committing crimes such as rape, murders and theft. The results also depict that through the influence of the reggaeton as a subculture, 100 percent of female youth have had sex in their young age while 84 percent of male youth have involved themselves in early sex before marriage (Marshall 174). The trend reflects quite a strange and unlikely result that the old generation accuses for the increasing growth of hip-hop clubs and reggaeton in the society that has led to change of community`s moral values and impacts the youth with negative mindset.
The incidence of AIDS has grown tremendously in the Caribbean society as a result of the impact of reggaeton. Considering the connotation that reggaeton partial contributes to sexual activities by the younger generation, it highly influence the spread of AIDS in the society. It has been reported recently that the Caribbean is one of the leading regions in the spread of HIV/AIDS in the world and the blame is directed at the reggaeton DJs who glorify sex in their song lyrics (Huq). They promote it in the parties and night clubs and disregard the female gender and as a result, the youth engage in unsafe sex with little or no knowledge about the risks of sexually transmitted maladies. Due to the increasing popularity of the reggaeton among the young generation, the DJs make a lot of money in the process of performing in concerts hence, writing and producing songs on the daily basis that have adverse to the youth society.
The subculture in the reggaeton is influenced by different beats and sounds which are electronically synthesized. Regarding historical precedents and related styles, reggaeton results to some new aspects. For example, as an electronic genre, the beats and sound are in most cases produced by the computer, keyboards, and drum machines. Thus, it employs the high technolog and the post hip-pop Latin Caribbean type of music. Reggaeton provides a representation of a break from earlier Latin, hence making it a form of undeniable art in the digital age. With continuous redefining, the genre has been transformed to trap performed in the nightclubs and strip clubs similar to the hip-hop in America. The reggaeton subculture has attracted the attention of many in the music industry to an extent that different genre musicians are developing interest in developing a collaborated performance with the Latin artists (Marshall 137). The music can be performed anywhere provided the followers make it to event to support the artists such as in concerts or the rallies. More often, the Puerto Rican or Spanish youths are the ones who massively turn up where such kind of music is being played. There is no specific attire as it depends on the occasion and location of the event. Nevertheless, most of the fans wear jeans, white or black t-shirts, and sneakers with others carrying Spanish flags.
Reggaeton has its roots entrenched in some of the more ancient music and the traditions of the Caribbean region. As a result of this profound linking, it has become highly influential in shaping society as it is known in the present-day. Some institutions view reggaeton as a disgrace to musical art. Reggaeton is thought to have been developed from music genres such as as reggae and dancehall. However, it cannot be qualified by the same standards are its predecessors. It is a different music founded on unique principles and it thus has specific strengths and weaknesses that makes the music distinct. Throughout time, there have always been opportunities to change and evolve. However, reggaeton continues to be linked with the mainstream, and it is thought that the dissenters will be forgotten and the genre will become the first step in a string of evolutions to the future of youth music.
Huq, Rupa. Beyond Subculture. 1 edition, Routledge, 2006.
Marshall, Wayne. The Rise of Reggaeton. 2010, https://norient.com/stories/reggaeton/.
Ulusoy, Emre. “Subcultural Escapades via Music Consumption: Identity Transformations and Extraordinary Experiences in Dionysian Music Subcultures.” Business Research, vol. 69, no. 1, 2016, pp. 244–54.
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