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Reggaeton: A Criticized Genre That Evolved from the Dancehall of the 70s

This is the origin and history of Reggaeton, one of the most criticized yet popular musical genres.

It is curious to think that for some, just reading the word ‘reggaeton’ already causes them much controversy. Reggaeton is a musical genre that, although it has evolved over the years, has always been quite criticized, especially in recent times in which artists like Bad Bunny, who is either loved or hated, have become popular worldwide.

And beyond all those hits that have made us dance and sing, there is an origin and history that few know, which is that this type of music comes from both the dancehall of the 70s in Jamaica and African sounds and rhythms.

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At this point, you’re probably thinking ‘whatever,’ but to learn more about the evolution of reggaeton, let’s take it one step at a time.

Origin of the Word ‘Reggaeton’

The first thing we see in this word is ‘reggae,’ which is known to be a very popular Jamaican musical genre thanks to Bob Marley, for example. In the eighties and nineties, urban music in countries such as Puerto Rico and Panama was called underground and was a mixture of rap in Spanish, hip hop, and reggae. In the case of Panama, one of the precursors was El General, who managed to release hits like ‘Rica y apretadita.’

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But let’s go back to the origin of the word. In Puerto Rico, many all-night reggae parties were held throughout the island. These night events were known as ‘reggae marathons’ by the locals. So, with time, and to simplify the term, they simply started calling them ‘reggaeton.’

The First Reggaeton Song in History

In that country, one of the first artists to explore this genre was Vico C, a rapper considered one of the pioneers of Spanish rhymes, who, although he was born in the United States, made the hip-hop movement visible in Puerto Rico.

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In fact, contrary to popular belief that Daddy Yankee launched the first reggaeton hits, historically, it was none other than Vico C with the famous song ‘Bomba para afincar’ from 1991, which already had a faster rhythm influenced by Jamaican dancehall. He was followed by Big Boy with ‘Mis ojos lloran por ti’ in 1996 and El General with ‘Tu Pum Pum’ in 1998.

Who Invented Reggaeton and When?

Although Daddy Yankee was not the one who started the genre or ‘invented’ it, he was indeed the first artist who popularized it in 2004 with his worldwide popular hit ‘La Gasolina.’

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And speaking of origins, it is important to note, as mentioned before, that this music has Jamaican and especially African influences. Let’s dive into that matter.

From Dancehall to Reggaeton

Dancehall is a genre that originated in the mid-seventies. By the eighties, the sounds started to get faster and faster, and in the nineties, this style was connected to the Rastafari movement, which mixes African music with reggae, ska, and jazz.

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The word dancehall began to be used in Jamaica to name the popular music played by local sound systems in 1980. And believe it or not, this genre influenced all current reggaeton artists, who have changed the style using faster rhythms but always with the same African percussion base known as “Tumpa Tumpa” also known as Dembow.

Story originally published in Spanish in Cultura Colectiva

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