Reggaeton rising

Source:AFP Published: 2017/6/14 17:33:39

Luis Fonsi Photo: IC

Reggaeton music has long been a fixture in nightclubs around the Spanish-speaking world, but that hasn't brought it critical acceptance, with the genre rooted in Puerto Rico's marginalized communities.

The genre so scorned by the elites has suddenly found a massive new market with the global success of Luis Fonsi's song "Despacito."

"Despacito" is the first Spanish-language song to hit No.1 on the benchmark US singles chart, the Billboard Hot 100, since "Macarena" in 1996.

A remix of the song, which features the Puerto Rican rapper Daddy Yankee and an assist from pop celebrity Justin Bieber, spent its fifth week at No.1 on the latest chart published Monday.

Reggaeton - defined by its blend of the fast-paced and club-ready rhythms of Jamaican dancehall with a rap vocal delivery that is often pouring with machismo - took off in Puerto Rico in the 1990s. It was initially simply called "underground."

Puerto Ricans had been active in the birth of hip-hop in New York, while the beats came via Panama, where Jamaicans and other West Indians worked to build the canal.

"Underground was essentially party music, but it also provided a space to offer political critiques about issues like poverty, police brutality and racism," said Petra Rivera-Rideau, an assistant professor in US studies at Wellesley College and author of the book Remixing Reggaeton.

"Despacito," which means "slowly" in Spanish, is driven by a reggaeton beat with lyrics full of sexual innuendo. Bieber delivers a breathy opening verse and later sings in Spanish.

Bieber collaborated for the remix released in April after "Despacito" was already a hit on Latin charts.

The original video, which came out in January, has amassed more than 1.9 billion views on YouTube - the most of any 2017 release.

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