Can We Talk About the Reggaeton Crash?

2005 seems so far away….

So I know it seems “trend-ish” to talk about musical cultures like they’re commodities, as if a genre with a geography and a history were equivalent to a fashion accessory (“kuduro is this year’s keffiyeh!”). But of course they are fashion accessories as well, right? Perhaps not to the well-meaning bloggeratti, who are exploring means of ethical consumption and creative interaction between the artists of the global south and enthusiasts of the imperial core. But in the brief period of time that we’ve seen international booty bass styles burst through our high-speed internet connections, a clear life-cycle has emerged that mirrors the economic structure that has laid the foundation for these styles and their consumption: boom and bust. In this post, I’d like to sketch this progression and interrogate the relationship of nu-whirled DJ-bloggers (of which I am a part) to it. And to provide myself a convenient escape hatch, I’ll classify this as an “intervention” to excuse any empirical oversights. I’d like this to provoke a conversation that has been largely ignored and tip-toed around by the most intelligent commentators of this branch of music, and will accept criticism and debate with an open mind.

The dominant narrative is well established: in the midst of urban poverty afflicting a community of color/nonWestern nationality, young people appropriate the techniques of hip hop/reggae/techno and make their own version of these established genres in their vernacular. A flurry of creativity creates an entire musical culture full of rapid stylistic changes and hybridity; meanwhile, the older generation and middle classes disdain the music as oversexual and immoral. Then the music hits the shores of the West, through immigrant diasporas, study-abroad programs, and canny journos looking for the next big thing. Gushing articles are written, cosmopolitan centers host parties centered around the sound, and the most recognizable sonic elements of these genres (dem bow, tamborazo) show up in remixes and DJ sets. A few artists are cherrypicked as leading the crop. A compilation album firms up the brand identity (what are genres but brands?). Tours and careers are launched. And then the genre fails to keep up with the rapid cultural turnover endemic to digital capitalism and interest fades. Luckily new genres from new locales spring up to fill the void.

Reggaeton in some ways was one of the first post-WWW examples of these genre cycles, and in many ways the most spectacular, but the model predates it (I would argue that Detroit ghettotech follows a similar trajectory but worked mostly through “old media” infrastructure). It is also unique in many ways (of course each genre has its own unique history) in that reggaeton became associated with the rising Hispanic population of the United States unlike the minimal mainstream penetration of funk carioca or grime, which had little in the way of newly acknowledged immigrant diasporas to piggyback upon. 

The tale is familiar: an explosion of interest from international media conglomerates, who flooded their distribution channels with the new style. Major labels signed the biggest artists like Daddy Yankee and Tego Calderon. The Source and Bad Boy Records launched Latino brands, rock stations changed to all-reggaeton formats overnight. Movie deals, NPR documentaries, club nights, and popular literature all followed. This had parallel support from writers and academics, who hailed the emergence as an opportunity for Latinos in the U.S. to forge identities, just as marketers saw it as an opportunity to sell these identities to a newly important demographic. Reggaeton encountered resistance from the older generation, but also notably from hip hop fans, Latino and otherwise, who (unjustly or not) pointed out the repetitive nature of the beats and the lack of lyrical sophistication from MCs.

And then the crash. By 2006, all-reggaeton formats were diversifying by including bachata, salsa, and other types of Spanish pop into their mix. Calle 13’s (promoted by academics as the “conscious” alternative to the machismo of most reggaetoneros) biggest hit, “El Nadie Como Tu” isn’t reggaeton at all. In 2009, La Kalle was dropped from the Chicago market altogether; in its place was “Recuerdos,” an oldies format. The Source magazine declared bankruptcy and Source Latino has evaporated. While I could hear the occasional Dem Bow blasting from car stereos in my neighborhood during the summer of 2007, I have yet to hear it at all this year. Even established reggaeton artists have dropped under the radar. Most recently (the spark for this post) I bought  a bootleg mix CD at a block party entitled “REGGAETON DEL 2009.” As new reggaeton had disappeared from my radar as it had largely disappeared from most of the blogs and magazines I turn to for such information, I wanted to see what was going on in the genre today. Fewer than half the tracks were reggaeton at all; instead were bachatas, some mambo tracks, pop-R&B from Don Omar and Ivy Queen, and, yes, a few songs with some of that ol’ Dem Bow, alongside newer trends like Autotune. Even reggaeton CDs lacked reggaeton. 

So what happened? Obviously in the case of reggaeton, media conglomerates overexpanded, creating a bubble of interest. Just as speculation on real estate caused an artificial inflation of prices and a subsequent crash, so too went reggaeton. Similar bubbles affected other emergent genres of the same time: funk carioca (branded as baile funk) no longer appears in DJ sets or on the albums of fashionably globo-chic artists like Diplo and MIA; grime’s biggest artist Dizzee Rascal is leaving the sound behind to focus on mainstream pop. These genres are by no means dead — they still retain cachet in their places of origins, and maintain devotees in the places of export. I still enjoy all of them. But it seems plainly obvious that interest has moved elsewhere, and equally obvious that the same thing will happen again to Baltimore club, juke, kuduro, cumbia, bassline, kwaito, and whatever else comes along.

So why the silence from the perceptive writers of global ghettotech? There are precious few articles such as “The Demise of Hyphy” that describe the rise and fall of a music genre and how it came to pass. I have some theories on contributing factors. First of all, it’s a lot more fun (and easier) to jump on the bandwagon early and promote a new exciting musical genre than sift through the detritus of an older one. I should know — I’ve been that bandwagon jumper, and those articles were easier and more fun to write than this one. If you’re of progressive leanings, it’s distasteful to dismiss another culture, especially if you’ve tied it to identity politics — slam reggaeton and you risk slamming the people who still like it, those people who you were standing up for a couple years back. Finally there’s a self-interested motivation: if you are an early-adopter booster, you jeopardize your credibility as a tastemaker by calling attention to your own critical oversights and boosterism. But if we are going to be responsible commentators on global ghettotech, I think we have to shine a light on our own contexts (and not in the navel-gazing PoMo way) — how this stuff works in the cosmopolitan West, when it doesn’t work, and how interest (and profits) are generated and lost. Gregzinho’s post on Cabide DJ’s lackluster U.S. tour is getting there, but it still seemed like he was pulling punches; to bring a DJ unknown in the States several years after interest in funk peaked was going to be a tough sell. I went to the Zizek Tour when they stopped in Chicago, and even when they were plugged on all the appropriate sites, the venue was more than half empty. More recently I saw an interesting spectacle: ghetto house pioneer DJ Slugo opening for Egyptrixx, who makes a kind of international bass fusion music heavily in debt to juke. At a nearly empty club (on a Saturday night no less), the new (white middle-class) kid on the block, headlines, while the artist who helped shape the sound gets second billing (the first DJ, who played your standard global ghettotech genre-hop, left immediately after his set finished). Slugo had the biggest crowd response of the night; most people left when the headliner started up. When I left I wanted to throw in the towel for nu-whirled music, at least as it appears in indie clubs.

I don’t want to harp on the failure of music I enjoy, but I do want to understand what is going on. Bad venues? Bad promoters? Audiences committed to only the latest trendy beats? It’s obvious that a certain segment of educated middle class young urbanites have a symbiotic relationship with genres that have a very different resonance in their native contexts, but ironically  I don’t see much analysis on it from the writers and DJs on their own context (again, SELF INCLUDED! SELF INCLUDED!). Like whiteness in general it’s become an invisible presence in these genres. Whether this relationship is mutualistic (both sides benefit), commensal (one side benefits, the other is unharmed), or parasitic (one side benefits at the expense of the other side) requires a lot more analysis, particularly of the economics that can get uncomfortable especially if you make income from this relationship. Focusing only on identity or semiotics, I feel, will not adequately address this. Without a political economy of global ghettotech we won’t understand the nature of this relationship, we won’t be able to make sure that interest in the privileged portions of the globe helps those places that make the music we love, and we won’t be able to make sure that these genres can be sustained. Wayne’s proposal looks promising, and I hope to see others follow the lead. As for myself, I feel only tangentially related to this stuff sometimes (I have but a likkle blog and no gigs, still haven’t learned how to laptop DJ), but I’ll be starting a PhD soon and looking for a diss topic… plus I love to throw darts…

34 Responses to Can We Talk About the Reggaeton Crash?

  1. dave quam says:

    Really great writeup, I agree with most of what you say for sure. It can be hard to speak up about this “Global Ghettotech” topic (and wtf why is it called that?!). Speaking of the Chicago club sound, I recently interviewed DJ Slugo and he explained how it barely gets played in the city, yet outside of the city and obviously Europe, its huge. He didn’t even really seem too worried about that, for his royalties were coming to him by means of France, Germany, and the UK. I found this sort of weird, as more of these “laptop” DJs have been diggin it, following the huge surge of Bmore house with the Keffiyeh crowd.

    Really enjoyed this, and will be checking out this blog more.

    • Gavin says:

      Thanks, Dave. “Global ghettotech” was coined by ethnomusicologist Wayne Marshall; his site is highly recommended if you are into this stuff. Slugo’s been really good about electronic distribution of both new tracks and his old classics; this might be a model worth checking out although it’s interesting how it’s almost like a zombie genre.

  2. DJ UMB says:

    Hey, great read, really enjoyed this.

    Global Ghettotech is not HUGE at all, it is gaining momentum but it is certainly not huge YET!….Whether it will ever be huge is anybody’s guess or will it forever remain marginalised as just another INTERNET phenomenon?

    BBC RADIO are picking up on it, which is always a good sign that it has some prospects of reaching the mainstream, well in the UK at least but it has some way to go yet. MAJOR LAZER might do it a world of good alongside MIA’S already world conquering work.

    I have personally noticed a GROWING interest in it but mainly from people that are into so called “WORLD MUSIC” and we all know that after almost 30 years WORLD MUSIC has not really advanced that much further.

    I, for one, am a music lover. I’m not interested in fashion or fads and will only play out stuff as a DJ or incorporate in within a mix if I believe in it and NOT to appear to be cool or be regarded as a TRENDSETTER

    In fact I’ve done 3 mixtapes called “GLOBAL GHETTOTECH” even though I hate to pigeon-hole music!!!! BUT it hes to be done because people like a BRAND/CONCEPT..they buy into it, they are more interested by it… becomes more amenable to them rather than saying it’s global club music made up of Kuduro/Cumbia/Dubstep etc etc..which they are totally baffled by and for some it’s a turn off…SHALLOW, I know but that’s the world we live in !!!

    I have my own reservations as to whether GLOBAL GHETTOTECH will ever be huge…I certainly doubt CUMBIA will be as big as people think it is likely to be…I hope it is…But I personally cannot see it happening, well not in the UK anyway.

    Because in the UK, a lot of people still don’t have a clue what REGGAETON was save for DADDY YANKEE!!! and only then because it appeared on a PASHA OR MINISTRY OF SOUND release.

    I am speaking only for the UK, which has traditionally always been an immensely difficult market for Global or International music to break into UNLESS it’s of GIMMICK value!

    I don’t care if it will ever be huge, I love it, I’m feeling it and it is what interests and excites me most at the moment and that is all that matters to me…and if other people are feeling it, be it 100 or 100 million, then that’s cool too!!!

    DJ UMB

  3. w&w says:

    thanks for another game of darts, gavin!

    really sharp and provocative thoughts here. indeed, i think it will take a proper post rather than a comment to respond in kind (and thx for your kind words about my recent research proposal). but a few quick points —

    1) while i think that your call for attn to (particular) political economies (and histories) of these various genres is crucial, i think you also produce a strong contradiction by also offering a (nevertheless compelling) meta-narrative of these genres. i don’t think reggaeton fits so well into that arc (and perhaps other genres will also make the “rule” seem an exception), as i’ll explain more on my blog.

    2) while i remain super ambivalent about “global ghettotech” the parallel to the pre-net rise (and crash?) of actual (Detroit) gtettotech might prove more poetic/useful than i initially imagined. and i should note, again, that i didn’t so much dream up the name as notice an increasing focus on “ghetto” in this discourse, alongside a loosing of the term “ghettotech” from its reference to Detroit

    3) the branding/fashion question is REALLY interesting, esp insofar as DJs like UMB and other unabashed (cosmo) bass boosters find them helpful to sustain their own little musical scenes in the world. how this branding exercise intersects with ethics is unclear to me.

  4. w&w says:

    one more dart for now: i don’t believe that “reggaeton” has crashed; nor do i believe bloggers like us have much to do with its success or failure

  5. Gavin says:

    Thanks for the comments UMB, Wayne.

    As for UMB, it’s interesting that you say cumbia isn’t popular at all — maybe in the UK but it is very popular in Latin America and in places with large immigrant populations from that place. I guess my overall question is what effect of cosmo/hipster interest in this stuff. Obviously minimal in a lot of cases (funk still seems to go strong in Brazil; I doubt cumbia with its deep roots will go anywhere), but I dunno, I certainly detected a change in reggaeton after its commercial rise and fall — first away from dancehall to more of a NYC hip hop type of branding, now it seems to be going in a pop-R&B direction, losing the dem bow. Maybe that is just the crossover stuff made for the U.S. market, I dunno. I wish I did though, but reggaeton isn’t on the radars like it was. Wayne, you don’t think it’s crashed, at least in the U.S.? It’s not a comment on the music itself, since the bubble was largely corporate media driven, but more on the overall economic context. You probably have a better connection to what’s coming out of the island and if it’s been effected by the pull of NYC (and L.A.).

    Wayne, I agree that a tiny corner of the English-speaking internet has little effect on popular genres in their home contexts, but it does have an effect on the cosmo-hipster scenes where this stuff gets played. I would like to see more examination of THAT scene in addition to the more anthropoligical forays “into the field” as it were.

    In my study on Detroit ghettotech, it seemed that the whole outsider hipster branding/appropriation of the music had a detrimental effect on the local scene, which is why I think this should be looked at and how it intersects with ethics. I’d like a more critical look at the mechanism for how this stuff gets hip and what that does; looking back on it, it’s like I was cheerleading for the reggaeton bubble here when maybe it deserved a more critical eye.

  6. DJ UMB says:

    Just a quick response to Gavin:

    “…. it’s interesting that you say cumbia isn’t popular at all… ”

    Sorry mate I did not say that at all :-)

    Here’s what I did say:

    “I have my own reservations as to whether GLOBAL GHETTOTECH will ever be huge…I certainly doubt CUMBIA will be as big as people think it is likely to be…I hope it is…But I personally cannot see it happening, well not in the UK anyway”.

    A lot of people have said similar things about other genres being massive and taking over the world, “Rai” is one example. In fact I think Reggae is probably the only one that ever did live up to that reputation.

    I think that a bit like the Punk ethic, part of the appeal about Nu Cumbia is that almost any laptop producer can rustle up something in a Nu Cumbia style. There are more and more laptop producers nowadays and so it has potential to be big because of this.

    I personally don’t think it will be massive but will instead occupy a legendary cult status for a little while and then disappear overnight almost as quickly as it appeared overnight.

    Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE NU CUMBIA and a lot of the posts on our blog, GENERATION BASS, devote a lot of space to it. However, in reality I cannot see any longevity for it and I say this because a lot of people I know think of Cumbia as Colombian Cumbia or Cumbia Villera. Indeed there is already a growing opposition to Nu Cumbia by the old skool who are more into Villera and the Colombian variety.

    Thus, I for one am not into Nu-Cumbia simply for trends sake, because I doubt its longevity or ability to become a Global Phenomenon like Reggae!

    Moving onto Global Ghettotech. I think that’s a real cool branding name and I like it. When I did my first Global Ghettotech mix, I sent it to Wayne Marshall to ask him if this is what he meant when he coined the phrase and confirmed in the affirmative.

    I would like to think that the difference between Global Ghettotech and Reggaeton is that Reggaeton was pretty inclusive as a sub-genre, whereas Global Ghettotech “might” not be.

    Yes, Reggaeton had its off-shoots like those you mentioned but as a sub-genre it remained pretty inclusive and linear and thus making it more likely to crash because of its inability to progress on its own as tastebuds quickly change.

    I don’t think it is the end of Reggaeton, it will re-surface and could re-surface and be grouped within Global Ghettotech and thus perhaps making its future survival more assured.

    I would like to think that Global Ghettotech has the ability to endure because it is made up of many different sub-genres, it might also have the ability to oust certain sub-genres when they become tired and replace them with new ones.

    Essentially it is a great term for what is essentially Urban music from different ghetto’s in all of the world…..and I don’t just mean poor ghetto’s which the word ghetto is normally associated with…I think rich neighbourhoods also have ghetto’s…it’s just that they’re not likely to be financial ones but more likely emotional ones.

    Chaps, I’m not a music scholar but just a passionate music fan and my opinions I will also likewise classify as an “intervention” to excuse any empirical oversights.

  7. […] music here, but a highly interesting post on UNFASHIONABLY LATE, a great blog. I’m just gonna paste the first part over here, head over THERE for the rest of […]

  8. dave quam says:

    sweet, a handful of my favorite bloggers read this site too, just added you to my blog list Gavin, psyched for more great reading!

    also Wayne, thanks for clearing up the Global Ghettotech thing, makes a lot more sense to me with just those few sentences. I was just kind of confused by the connection between Detroit stuff and other genres, as in why pick Detroit Ghettotech specifically for the name. I get it now, I’m a bit slow.

  9. w&w says:

    big up gavin, for sure. always lots of thoughtful thoughts here.

    & cool, dave. if you read my initial “global ghettotech” post, you’ll see that i raise these questions there myself —

    A quick search on MySpace returns 42 pages worth of artists or groups identifying as (at least one third!) “ghettotech.” And while the majority of those drop-down menu picks may be simply cheeky or whimsical, there are certainly a good number among them that attempt to wave the banner of ghettotech in some earnestness. (Contrary to popular discourse about hipsters, I think that “ironic distance” is actually kinda overhyped as a mode of reception.) Even if somekinda earnest, we have to ask, what the hell does ghettotech mean to all these people? Is it the same thing it meant to Disco D, the popularizer of the term (according to this primer)? Is it the same thing it means in Detroit or Chitown or Bmore or elsewhere where the term is less likely to be used than, say, the far less ghettotastic, “club music” or “dance music” or “booty music”? I doubt it.

  10. DJ UMB says:

    Hey dudes,

    You know a lot of this stuff is a bit over my head and I cannot pretend that I understand it all :-)

    From just a person, who is into music, I wish I could understand it more or that you would make your language more user-friendly for the masses so many more of us could understand what you are debating here and find out why it is important, if indeed it is important and of course also join in.

    But please don’t take that as a criticism cause it’s not meant to be and I respect your right to engage in this debate in an intelligent and scholarly way. But it’s a very interesting debate and I wish I could engage in it more freely and willingly but I don’t think I can if I’m not sure I fully understood all that you have to say ;-)

    Anyway, from my own point of view, GLOBAL GHETTOTECH is a term that I discovered somewhere, which eventually led me to Wayne Marshall. I also understand that he coined it in a “sardonic” way or with “sardonic intention”.

    I understood that, but in spite of its ironic foundation, it’s a GREAT umbrella term, for me, at least, to describe a few sub-genres of music which have developed recently and which include, Nu Cumbia, Baile Funk, Dubstep, Kuduro, Technobrega, Dancehall etc etc….

    All these can conveniently be grouped together to describe a DJ mixing style to represent those sounds.

    Here’s what I mean by Global Ghettotech:

    Global…cause the aforementioned sub-genres come from different parts of the world and are not confined just to one country or continent…

    Ghetto……cause most of the sub-genres probably originate from the Ghetto’s and have essentially an urban background…

    Tech…cause the sub-genres reflect not only the place from where they originate (whichever urban ghetto, that is) but also are fused with new technology, i.e. electronics and are aimed for the dance floor and club. They are not mainly acoustic based which is what distinguishes “World Music” from “Global Ghetotech”.

    Hence why I for one decided to employ that term to describe what I was mixing and it seemed an appropriate enough term to describe that because people need a brand to associate with a particular sound….that’s how it works and has worked for centuries.

    Plus, people really, really like the term, it sounds cool, modern, hip and trendy, hence why people wish to be associated with it. World music or World/Global Club Music/Fusion sounds unfashionable and unattractive.

    It seems that recently the use of the term has just exploded and mainly from my own observations, it seems to be used mainly to describe Bass Heavy Global Club music similar to what I am mixing!

    I hope my own little analysis serves to assist you in some way to extend your scholarly thoughts about this but ask somebody else what they mean by the term and of course they might say something quite different :-)

    The same argument has been raging on about the term “World Music” without any resolution.

    I mean this started off a debate about the Reggaeton Crash :-)

    With much respect :-)

  11. dave quam says:

    I think in some ways Cumbia is one of the most popular forms of music that exists, seeing as how popular it is in pretty much every Latin American country, and the diasporas in America. Also, this could also be due to the neighborhood I live in here in Chicago, and walking into Dunkin Doughnuts for coffee where the employees blast Cumbia 24/7. Its great. Also my neighbor had a huge party last night, playing cumbia super loudly from about 4pm to midnight, which I also heard DJ Deeon. Weird, and awesome, more people should do that, the world would be a better place.

  12. Gavin says:

    Thanks for the further thoughts. UMB, I apologize if I throw academic jargon into my writing; it’s an unfortunate habit I picked up in grad school, and I don’t intend to exclude you from discussions. I actually think that DJs lend an important voice to discussing music, since they are experts and they put ideas into practice (I almost said something about creating a discourse, there I go again). I am actually working on an idea I have about DJs as the 21st century music critic (the 20th century version — the rock crit — is definitely on the wane), but that one needs a lot more time in the oven. In any case, I’d love to hear more from you.

    Dave, where do you live in Chicago? I’m in Pilsen, but not for much longer I’m afraid.

  13. dave quam says:

    im in Pilsen as well, westside of it atleast, 23rd and western

  14. […] Blogs on Detroit Salsa MusicNYC | CITY PARKS FOUNDATION PRESENTS 75 SUMMER CONCERTS, DANCE …Can We Talk About the Reggaeton Crash? « UNFASHIONABLY LATESombri Music| Download Músic » Sborka vol.116 (2009)2007 Detroit International Jazz Festival […]

  15. dj umb says:

    Nice one Gavin :-)

    The DJ as the 21st C music critic sounds very, very interesting….let me know more once it’s baking or almost ready :-)

    Peace brothers, I am now officially on holiday for about 1 week:-)

  16. w&w says:

    just for the rec: i like to count myself in both (several?) camps, scholar/blogger and DJ

    i am both curious and enthused by people like UMB taking up the “global ghettotech” banner

    and i’m definitely interested in a good analysis of the global ghettotech scene(s) around the world (london, lisbon, amsterdam, montreal, boston, newyork, chicago, etc.) and, crucially, how they — as DJs, bloggers, promoters — interact with each other, as well as how they interact with their (often more producerly) “peers” on the global margins. a real political economy would have to take into account all of these directions.

    and, yeah, that brings us right back to the central questions of the global, ghetto, and tech


    • Gavin says:

      Wayne, you make an excellent point that is necessary for theorizing Western use of global hip hop/dance — that the roles of DJ, blogger/journalist, promoter, scholar, label honcho, graphic designer, etc. are not bounded identities, but overlapping subject positions that one can occupy at different junctures (i.e. one wears many hats). Or to put it in a slightly different way, these roles are combined and hybridized — there are no more “just DJs,” but rather, DJ-blogger-scholar-promoters, such as UMB (i.e. one wears many hats all at the same time, or maybe one creates a new hat out of the pieces of these older hats — this metaphor is getting strained). Once again, in the model of late capitalism, you have to acquire multiple skill sets (on your own time) if you want to get by. Just as you’ll find it harder to be a successful DJ without a well designed blog (which must be my problem, har har), you’ll find it harder to obtain a job without possessing multiple skill sets, which in previous times you might have been trained for on the job: administrative abilities, knowledge of several software suites, familiarity with particular bureaucratic procedures, etc.

  17. […] throwing darts again, and he hits a couple bullseyes — or offers some sharp prodding at any rate. The post […]

  18. Gavin says:

    Thanks for the comment, Yuzima. I don’t know if I can get behind a “Darwin effect” w/r/t music genres, but I am pretty intrigued by your comment on nationalism. Nationalism, whether political or ethnic, definitely rears its head when these genres come up (esp. with reggaeton); it deserves a more critical look.

  19. Reggaeton’s version of the dem bow has made it all around the world, and is now a part of the rhythmic toolbox of electronic music producers working in numerous countries with vocalists in many languages. It didn’t crash, it got assimilated. Meanwhile mainstream reggaeton is going off in an electro-R&B direction, that while seemingly popular with core consumers, I hardly recognize as reggaeton at all. It got assimilated, so to survive it shape-shifted away from the straight jacket that was supposed to define what it was. I miss the straight jacket.


  20. Beni Borja says:

    Let me try to give a different viewpoint in this very insightful discussion.

    I’m musician/producer/songwriter from Rio de Janeiro. I´ve been following what you call “bailefunk ” since it’s very beginning I was in “bailes” in the early eighties when all they played was american funk,
    I was around the studio when Cidinho, Marlboro and Ademir, recorded their first album (Funk Brasil 1) , that was a huge hit and sparked the movement of creating original eletronic music for the bailes ,sung in portuguese.

    From this vantage point, I feel that a fundamental piece is missing in this puzzle. What all this genres we´re talking about have in common , more than the fact that they were originated in third-world slums, is the fact that theiy are living breathing forms of folk music.

    Folk music is more than a genre , it is a process of music-making, one where originality is not the goal. The objective of folk music is to produce the soundtrack for a certain social scene.

    That’s why folk music moves slowly. That´s why also folk genres seldom create big artists.

    In the case of bailefunk , that I have followed every step of the way , I see that every couple of years, someone comes up with something new, followed immediately by a avalanche of imitators… “tamborzão “was just the latest fad (one that is already being discarded in most of the bailes down here) , it will surely be followed in a couple of years by another breaktrough, but while this does not happen, what we have is a enormous production of music with very little real originality,,,

    I guess reggae is a good example of this as well. When during the seventies it produced a number of real artists like The Wailers, Toots & The Maytals, Jimmy Cliff etc… , it transcended momentarily the folk music approach, but as soon as reggae , was substituted on the jamaican social scene by dancehall , the folk method came back, and originality became far and apart.

    It is very hard to keep the public interested in a musical genre that develop so slowly

  21. Birdseed says:

    I just got back from Budapest and I have a proper response to this lined up, but one interesting aspect is that tracks from these genres often pop up in the mainstream totally independent of the “global ghettotech” crowd. I mean, currently funk monster “Rap dos Armas” seems to be everywhere in Sweden. Where did that come from? It’s bizarre seeing it on MTV and hearing it blast from cell phone ring tones. Same with “Maccaron Chaccaron”, “Mundian To Bach Ke” etc etc.

    Obviously there’s hit potential, if the music is sold right.

    BTW, I totally agree with Beni about the “folk” nature of this music. Or is that a social construction, too?

  22. […] I guess this is my quite unfortunate semi-response to the following folks: W&W, Unfashionably Late, Marisol LeBrón, Raquel Rivera, and Racialicious. Clearly these posts dwell on all sorts of […]

  23. […] this reaction to the film, I was pleased to see the following comment by Beni Borja on Gavin’s now notorious “Reggaeton Crash” post – Let me try to give a […]

  24. Gregzinho says:

    Unfashionably late to the party myself here, and no excuses with the pingback I got from it. But here it goes on the latest end of the debate —

    One angle of the discussion is focusing on relative popularity. While the isolated global ghettotech cosmopoles of the world (as isolated, perhaps, as a single night at a single club amidst a city’s wider nightlifescape) definitely merit further inquiry — I’m happy to submit to an interview — I’m also curious in what boosts a genre temporarily above the radar to full mainstream-ish view. To that end, I agree with w&w that reggaeton, at least in the boom-ch-boom-chk heavy cities of los Estados Unidos, is really a statistical outlier. A real funk, kuduro, coupé décalé, kwaito, etc. “hit” strikes me as much harder to come by. (and we probably need a working definition of what scale is a hit — blog traffic? radio play? cross-continental appeal? the biggest revelation after the death of Michael Jackson is that we may never all listen to the same thing ever again.)

    Birdseed mentions that “Rap das Armas” is all over Sweden, but I bet it wasn’t the original, or if it was then it was precipitated by this remix: Or this one: for music video, for just the song.

    The track, while c. 1994, was integral to “Tropa de Elite,” a movie not at “City of God” levels of success but nonetheless with major marketing muscle behind it. Enough, it seems, to get Lucana, a Portuguese DJ, or Quintino, a Dutchman, to cut some remixes. Lucana’s is a rather generic Euro-house style, while Quintino’s is a more interesting (to my ear) tribal tech-house. Lucana’s has about 900k views; Quintino’s 1.3 million.

    Once elevated to that sphere of circulation, which hardly lacks for fans on the northern side of the globe, off the song went. A Dutch volunteer at 2Bros that I was chatting with while in Rocinha in June said it was the only funk song she knew before coming to Brazil, as it’s been all over the charts there.

    The lyrics remain intact in Portuguese — no problem for Lucana, natch (and as Buraka Som Sistema proves, Lisbon may become a resurgent node in the global music sphere if these lusophone sounds keep popping off) — with Cidinho & Doca actually appearing in the Dutch version’s music video, but the hook is in the onomatopoeia: “parrrapapapapapa,” which definitely transcends linguistic barriers. And that hook very well might be what has given it classic status in Brazil — the slang perhaps as incomprehensible to middle and upper class Brazilians as any Portuguese is to other, non-lusophone Europeans.

    But without the remixes I don’t see it achieving that level of popularity. It had to be subsumed into another, more popular genre.

    On the flip side in the U.S., Gavin mentions the lukewarm reception of Cabide DJ stateside. I can take some blame as a novice tour manager at best, and I wonder how, again, with the right marketing muscle it will be received. Leandro of Favela on Blast very much wants to do a Favela on Blast tour with Diplo. I would be intrigued by Diplo + Sany on stage and hope it would go over better than his interactions with Cabide. But apparently he’s not very interested in such a tour — I think he doesn’t want to be pegged to funk (and I feel the same way sometimes, I like to DJ/listen to/blog about other music too, y’know). And like it or not, he’s a linchpin to something like that being really successful.

    As a concluding note that can perhaps bookend this discussion, while I agree that the question of how GG is circulated outside of its place of origin is a fascinating topic fraught with ethical, socio-political, ethnomusicological, and anthropological implications, we shouldn’t lose sight of the bread&butter. If the masses are still going out in droves every weekend in the favelas, musseques, and villas of Rio, Luanda, and Buenos Aires, then does it still make sense to talk about a crash or a boom/bust cycle at all? In sheer number we are but a blip.

  25. […] light of a comment I dropped on Unfashionably Late’s global ghettotech conversation starter, I’ve also been curious about what adaptations have to take place for a nuwhirld sound to […]

  26. […] was tickled to see Birdseed name reggaeton genre of the year for 2009, fully contra Gavin’s provocative post about the genre’s crash. If one is not persuaded by Birdseed’s praise of […]

  27. […] kui avastasin mõiste global ghettotech. Alguses tundus see mulle kui veel üks žanr. Kuid pärast reggaetoni ajalugu käsitleva postituse kommentaare lugedes ilmutas mulle end tõde . Global ghettotech ei tähenda […]

  28. […] post-crossover-crash, reggaeton’s nostalgically revisiting its […]

  29. clauniverse says:

    Dembow is alive and growing in the Dominican Republic….
    There are radio stations that changed from bachata and merengue to play mostly dembow now…

  30. […] and his brother MC Júnior a new, late career lease on life. The track ricocheted across Europe in unexpectedly remixed fashions, ultimately arriving at the European Top 100 charts and, more depressingly, on Sweden’s version […]

  31. […] and his brother MC Júnior a new, late career lease on life. The track ricocheted across Europe in unexpectedly remixed fashions, ultimately arriving at the European Top 100 charts and, more depressingly, on Sweden’s version […]

  32. […] and his brother MC Júnior a new, late-career lease on life. The track ricocheted across Europe in unexpectedly remixed fashions, ultimately arriving at the European Top 100 charts and, more depressingly, on Sweden’s version […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: