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December 8, 2012 2:58 AM   Subscribe

Cuba is going to ban reggaeton

Plans to prohibit reggaeton will extend to limiting the broadcasting of reggaeton music in public spaces such as eateries, bars, state functions, offices and public transport, as well as use in radio and television programs via state media outlets. These sanctions will also extend to the individuals who either perform or promote reggaeton. Musicians could potentially lose their license to perform live music if they perform reggaeton in public places and risk being struck off official records, posing a threat to their future employment possibilities.

According to head of the Cuban Music Institute, Orlando Vistel Columbié, "Obviously everybody is free to listen to the music they want in private, but that freedom does not include a right to broadcast it in state or private restaurants and cafes, in buses or in public spaces. We are talking about pseudo‑artistic work that has nothing to do with our cultural policies or the ethics of our society."
posted by dubold (95 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Good.
I hate reggaeton.
I'm not 100% sure what reggaeton is, but I hate reggae, so I figure I sound be on the down of the "Down With This Sort Of Thing" brigade.

But seriously, I'm not sure where I stand on this. There's lots of music I would like to ban in public, Nicki Minaj for example simply on vulgarity standards. Of course, other people might take exception of my music because it's filthy and furious, so I am a hypocrite.

The framing of this post is a bit misleading, though. It's not just this music but any sort of music that is rife with "vulgarity, banality and mediocrity" and is demeaning to women.
""On the one hand there are aggressive, sexually obscene lyrics that deform the innate sensuality of the Cuban woman, projecting them as grotesque sexual objects. And all that is backed by the poorest quality music."

Since there is no right in much of the world to free speech, maybe we could perhaps skip that argument in this thread?

I'm curious to read the feminist perspective, personally.

(and, of course, as I wrote this I was listening to a song about fucking dead girls. Thanks, uncaring universe for your sly sense of irony)
posted by Mezentian at 3:32 AM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Jeez, the article's example Reggaeton track is indeed awful, try this one instead.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:42 AM on December 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think the "ban music demeaning to women" spin is a red herring here. What's probably happening, and we may need ground reports to confirm this, is that there is a culture clash between Jamaican reggae dance-hall culture, and Cuban salsa dance-hall culture. Kids are probably moving towards the Jamaican scene, and - as with rock and roll in the '50s - this is obviously the end of the world.

I'm continuously surprised that authorities still don't get it that outright banning something will just make it more appealing, just because it's banned. Reminds me when China banned their Big Brother TV show because they realized that millions were voting their contestants out of the house via SMS. I'd wager that no one who watches Big Brother is a major pro democracy advocate, but banning Big Brother made waves..
posted by ruelle at 3:44 AM on December 8, 2012 [12 favorites]


Jeez, the article's example Reggaeton track is indeed awful, try this one yt instead.

No, that's awful too. It has autotune and all
The camel-toe alone is... something.
posted by Mezentian at 3:48 AM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


"I think the "ban music demeaning to women" spin is a red herring here. What's probably happening, and we may need ground reports to confirm this, is that there is a culture clash between Jamaican reggae dance-hall culture, and Cuban salsa dance-hall culture. Kids are probably moving towards the Jamaican scene, and - as with rock and roll in the '50s - this is obviously the end of the world. "

I think you've really hit on it here, though I'm not sure that misogyny is a red herring at all. The place for women in Jamaican reggae dance-hall culture is pretty different from the place for women in Cuban salsa dance-hall culture in complicated ways.
posted by Blasdelb at 3:54 AM on December 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Obviously everybody is free to listen to the music they want in private

Obviously.
posted by aubilenon at 4:00 AM on December 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


Man, I'm sorry, but this just reeks of terrible reporting. There are no links to the ban, everything's cherry-picked quotes, and everything has a really wide range of interpretations.

I'm not saying that Cuba doesn't do fucked up autocratic shit, but Western media get it wrong twice as often as they get it right.
posted by klangklangston at 4:10 AM on December 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm not 100% sure what reggaeton is, but I hate reggae

Well, reggaeton has very little to do with reggae. But if you think Nicki Minaj is vulgar...well, she's Miss Manners compared to your average reggaeton performer. Think of it as "R&B on steroids, with even more sexist lyrics".

Young Cubans love it, of course, which is why this ban will be about as successful as other music bans of the past (think "Rolling Stones" and "Sex Pistols").
posted by Skeptic at 4:12 AM on December 8, 2012 [8 favorites]


Reggaetron, however, will still be permitted. Because of transforming robots.
posted by Burhanistan at 4:15 AM on December 8, 2012 [10 favorites]


R&B + Salsa - Singing - Musicianship = Raggaeton.
posted by 1adam12 at 4:17 AM on December 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Here's Fank Sinatra, quoted by the Associated Press in 1957:

“My only deep sorrow is the unrelenting insistence of recording and motion picture companies upon purveying the most brutal, ugly, degenerate, vicious form of expression it has been my displeasure to hear—naturally I refer to the bulk of rock ‘n’ roll.

“It fosters almost totally negative and destructive reactions in young people. It smells phony and false. It is sung, played and written for the most part by cretinous goons and by means of its almost imbecilic reiterations and sly, lewd—in plain fact dirty—lyrics, and as I said before, it manages to be the martial music of every sideburned delinquent on the face of the earth.

“This rancid smelling aphrodisiac I deplore. But, in spite of it, the contribution of American music to the world could be said to have one of the healthiest effects of all our contributions.”
posted by jcolombo at 4:23 AM on December 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


Most reggaeton sucks, true, but please give Calle 13 a listen, especially if you know enough Spanish to follow the lyrics.
posted by signal at 4:27 AM on December 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


And reggaeton has like fuck all to do with Jamaica, btw.
posted by signal at 4:29 AM on December 8, 2012 [9 favorites]


See, now we need a post on decent (musical quality), non-misogynist reggaeton. I've danced to some of the decent musical quality sort. I wasn't paying attention to the lyrics, but the genre has been around long enough that I'd be quite surprised if there wasn't any with decent lyrics, and some overlap between the two categories. Rap has a bad reputation for misogyny too, for example, yet you can find plenty of interesting, politically aware rap. What mefite with appropriate expertise can we cajole into making such a post?
posted by eviemath at 4:31 AM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, it seems to me that funding the production of reggaeton with better lyrics and musical quality, and then promoting that to drown out the worse quality stuff, would be far more effective than a ban.
posted by eviemath at 4:33 AM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ban EDM and I'm retiring there.
posted by spitbull at 4:40 AM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Da me mas gasolina da me mas gasolina culo da me mas gasolina da me mas gasolina culo da me mas gasolina culo.

That is what it sounds like when two escalades blasting raggeaton pull up to a light. Actually I think it's been a few weeks since I've heard either of those songs, they are ripe for a comeback.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:42 AM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Having grown up with Toots and the Maytals and Bob Marley and the Wailers my response to reggaeton is "How dare you call this shit reggae!"
posted by tommasz at 4:43 AM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, reggeaton has as much to do with reggae as R&B has to do with Blues. There may be some shared heritage somewhere, but it's pretty hard to hear. Plus, sirens. Sirens and air horns. Everywhere. Very catchy and danceable, tho.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:51 AM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Great. If they had ignored it, it would have eventually passed as all fads do. But now, they're banning it, thereby requiring music historians to reference it, and making it, for a while, cool.
posted by eustacescrubb at 4:51 AM on December 8, 2012


Sounds like we've got enough reggaeton haters for a Cuban meetup!
posted by orme at 5:12 AM on December 8, 2012 [8 favorites]


but that freedom does not include a right to broadcast it in state or private restaurants and cafes, in buses or in public spaces

This is the key here no? I don't know what it is like in Cuba, but I think if the lyrics were in English and we had cars driving around blasting "ASS ASS ASS ASS ASS ASS ASS ASS ASS" certain places in the states would try to ban it too.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:17 AM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


There may be some shared heritage somewhere, but it's pretty hard to hear.

i can hear it - sometimes it's buried under the latin influences and the bass lines have been simplified and changed, but there's a lot of reggae drum patterns under all of this

but then part of the roots of mento/ska/reggae was new orleans r&b, which could be heard in jamaica from new orleans radio stations

and part of the roots of new orleans r&b was cuban music

so, it's just things going around and around the caribbean and the gulf of mexico

i'm starting to hear this beat and production style in mainstream u s pop

get used to it, your kids will
posted by pyramid termite at 5:24 AM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I still miss hear the lyrics in Bonfire by Knife Party as saying "reggaeton", but no.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:34 AM on December 8, 2012


It seems that there were attempts to ban reggaeton in a certain unincorporated territory of the United States, roughly for the same reasons: Running contrary to middle-class values, reggaeton has been attacked as immoral, as well as artistically deficient, a threat to the social order, apolitical, misogynist, a watered-down version of hip-hop and reggae, the death sentence of salsa, and a music foreign to Puerto Rico.
posted by elgilito at 5:42 AM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Reggaeton ain't noise pullution
Reggaeton ain't gonna die
Reggaeton ain't noise pullution
Reggaeton, it will survive
Yes it will
posted by Renoroc at 5:45 AM on December 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


Let's ban fucking dubstep
posted by GallonOfAlan at 5:58 AM on December 8, 2012 [5 favorites]




Running contrary to middle-class values, reggaeton has been attacked as immoral, as well as artistically deficient, a threat to the social order, apolitical, misogynist,

Ding ding, we have a winner! Reggaeton gets the same criticisms that dancehall does (which makes sense, given that reggaeton is largely based on dancehall). Basically, it's too "street," too black, too dangerous. Uncultured and violent. Nice people listen to salsa indoors and follow the rules while they dance; "those people" dance in the streets to music that is too loud and in your face.

It's both a racial and a class critique (as well as of youth); eventually those sounds will go upmarket (this is beginning already with dancehall) just like has happened before, and at some point the kids will find a new sound and the same criticisms will be made again.

I think misogyny is a false canard; there's plenty of casual misogyny in the lyrics, but there also is in other genres (including rock and roll, say), and conversely, there are kickass female artists appropriating and taking control of the sound in their own ways. It's music that's hugely popular with women, who clearly aren't finding it so offensive that they don't want to hear it.

I hate reggaeton.
I'm not 100% sure what reggaeton is, but I hate reggae, so I figure I sound be on the down of the "Down With This Sort Of Thing" brigade.


I see these kinds of statements every so often, and I always wonder why the person doesn't stop to think, "gee, maybe I'm going to sound like a totally uninformed dumbass?"
posted by Forktine at 6:06 AM on December 8, 2012 [35 favorites]


Hey try this one: link

The name is what throws you. As a reggae fan when I was first introduced to it, I was like "this aint reggae" and its not its just dance music.
posted by duffers5000 at 6:09 AM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Echoes of Britain's Criminal Justice Bill during the rave days It sounds a bit broader reaching than a public spaces ban though

And Sirens and Air Horns *would* be the name of my dubstep band...
posted by Artw at 6:26 AM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I hate it when some moron pulls up next to me at the light, with his bass speakers set to bleeding eardrums, and the looped drummer hits the same three or four-bar riff over and over, while the front man shouts his monotonic, heavily distorted lyrics to the wind--most of his words are distorted to the point where I can't understand them, but I do hear regular utterances of bitches and motherfucker and something that sounds sort of like this niggha likes back. This noise is awful. It's worse than awful. It intrudes in a painful way on my old-time radio programs--my car windows don't slow it down, in fact, they seem to turn to a transparent liquid: I can see them vibrate at maybe 30 cps, and my sirius unit of course doesn't have a playback mode...I'll never know what Johnny Dollar said, and I'm sure the moron in the car next to me doesn't care.

I'm all in favor of banning all that over-amped noise from being played in public, except for the part about banning anybody's music, which I think is a dangerous step to take. They'll get his music today, and my Led Zep tomorrow. I give him the one-handed get off my grass salute and he smiles and nods. Fair enough, I guess.

boom-ssissa---ss-ss--boom, and so on and so forth. The polyrhythm is somewhat interesting, so, if only that asshole would shut up I might be okay, at least until the goddam light changes.
posted by mule98J at 6:43 AM on December 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


And no dancing within the city limits either.
posted by blue_beetle at 6:48 AM on December 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


doom ka doom ka vs. wub wub wub wub: which is more aggravating?
posted by HeroZero at 7:07 AM on December 8, 2012


Which is more aggravating?

What's being played loudest?

I suspect it's the wubs. Bass travels.
posted by Mezentian at 7:11 AM on December 8, 2012


most of his words are distorted to the point where I can't understand them, but I do hear regular utterances of bitches and motherfucker and something that sounds sort of like this niggha likes back. This noise is awful. It's worse than awful. It intrudes in a painful way on my old-time radio programs

I'm totally down with "your favorite band sucks." I mean, I just googled Johnny Dollar, and I'd probably think it sucks ass if I heard it.

But trust me: it's totally, 100 percent possible to say "your favorite band sucks" without resorting to racist dogwhistles or calling people morons. I think the Archie Bunker imitation was supposed to be funny, but it doesn't read that way to me.
posted by Forktine at 7:18 AM on December 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


Whichever is being played outside my window at 3am.

I know I seem like a sourpuss and possible elitist cuz I'm not down with the music of the people but turn that shit down a scoch I gotta work in the morning. I got nothing against the perreo either, I fully support the rights of all people to express themselves in the form of dance, especially people tiene tremendo culo.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:21 AM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


[Please do not turn this into a wider discussion of who can use the word 'nigga' or what Rick Ross is doing. Thank you.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:52 AM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think if the lyrics were in English and we had cars driving around blasting "ASS ASS ASS ASS ASS ASS ASS ASS ASS" certain places in the states would try to ban it too.

brb renting a car and listening to dj assault
posted by elizardbits at 7:55 AM on December 8, 2012 [12 favorites]


Ad hominem: "but that freedom does not include a right to broadcast it in state or private restaurants and cafes, in buses or in public spaces

This is the key here no? I don't know what it is like in Cuba, but I think if the lyrics were in English and we had cars driving around blasting "ASS ASS ASS ASS ASS ASS ASS ASS ASS" certain places in the states would try to ban it too.
"

Yeah - it's called "Booty Bass" (or "Miami Bass").
posted by symbioid at 7:55 AM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, that 2 live crew album was banned in some county because obscenity.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:04 AM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Big Freedia - Ass Everywhere
posted by stifford at 8:10 AM on December 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


Stop banning musical styles. Start banning tinny phone speakers on buses.
posted by srboisvert at 8:20 AM on December 8, 2012 [12 favorites]


I disliked dubstep for quite some time, still dislike most Skrillex, well dubstep lacks the sublime beauty one finds in much really good EDM. If you take your partying serious though, you'll probably find it impossible to dislike all dubstep. Ain't like everyone it trying to make their music unlistenable.

As for Reggaeton, there are some fun listenable songs that don't require understanding anything. Calle 13 songs sound lyrics dependent though, so not too entertaining until I find English subtitles.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:22 AM on December 8, 2012


Original dubstep is A-OK. US/Brostep (including Skrillex) on the other hand can rot.

Actually there are some that kind of verge on Brostep that I can tolerate. They still have some of that 2-step/garage feel, even if it still is wubby now and then. It's when it's all wubwub and a few skronks and brzzts in there (I mean - honestly? That's some lazy sound making IMO) and trying to be superstar that I can't stand it, frankly.

Interestingly - if you want HARD and a Reggae connection, you should go for raggacore (a substyle of breakcore) Bong-Ra - Jah Kingdom for example.
posted by symbioid at 8:45 AM on December 8, 2012


Sometimes I get worried that I'm getting old. I actually blanched at a promo on CBS last Sunday during football that had a woman in lingerie, because . . . I don't know, the kids or something. I really worry I'm going to turn into a white-gloved opera goer.

And then you people make me feel so much better. It's not music to sit down and listen to in headphones. It's something to sweat to in a club. Horses for courses.
posted by yerfatma at 8:59 AM on December 8, 2012


Really, I think any blanket statement of the form "x genre of music sucks universally" is always wrong. [I was recently taught this lesson: normally I would append ". . . except for christian rock, of course" to that statement, but then I heard Popol Vuh and it was like well shit, I guess I DO really like some christian (kraut-)rock.]
posted by Frobenius Twist at 8:59 AM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]




Artw: And Sirens and Air Horns *would* be the name of my dubstep band...

*snicker* dubstep band? Oh, Grampa Artw, you're adorable. A gathering of dubstep musicians could be called a dubstep group, but no one calls themselves a dubstep band.


jeffburdges: well dubstep lacks the sublime beauty one finds in much really good EDM

I'll be dull and point out Burial, but also point out Mala, Starkey, and Marina Faib.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:11 AM on December 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


Can we just ban anything that gets played at 100dB out of a Honda Civic with a plywood wing? IT'S 7 IN THE MORNING ON A TUESDAY - SHUT THE FUCK UP.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:19 AM on December 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


I was growing up in Puerto Rico when they were making a big deal about reggaeton which mind you that was mostly during a period in which most reggaeton you heard was definitely misogynistic etc.

The thing is? Eh, we'd still end up dancing to it regardless and frankly I didn't even like it that much at the time.

Now I've heard some reggaeton I like and it's...good. However, yeah, most of the good reggaeton I can think of is definitely lyrics dependent. Sometimes with Calle 13 you need to have a good handle on Puerto Rican island culture as well.

Here's Vico C, one of the founding fathers of reggaeton with his song Desahogo.
Here's Calle 13 with Atrevete te te which I believe is the first song of his I heard.
posted by lizarrd at 9:31 AM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


As I often like to point out, culture is slowing down. We’re sitting here talking about Reggaeton, and even Booty Bass like something that happened recently. Dancehall with sexual lyrics? So 80’s.
posted by bongo_x at 9:47 AM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


There may be some shared heritage somewhere, but it's pretty hard to hear.

All African diasporic musics have the same shared heritage. Of course you can hear it. Syncopation, clave, backbeat, call it what you want, but your ass is shaking because of it.
posted by spitbull at 10:00 AM on December 8, 2012


the sublime beauty one finds in much really good EDM

Oh that's what it's called. I had to throw away a perfectly good pair of shoes after stepping in it.
posted by spitbull at 10:02 AM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well Columbié himself says: "No se trata exclusivamente del reguetón. Expresiones vulgares, banales y mediocres se registran en otras prácticas musicales".

So he claims it's not specifically outlawing a genre of music.

But of course, in practice, there's going to have to be some board of people who will make judgement calls, and it's human nature to be more lenient with music that feels familiar and comforting. (Especially among the sort of people who end up on a board like this.)


I'm curious about the extent of the powers of the ICM to do something like this. He makes references to removing artists from "los catálogos artísticos". Am I to take it these catalogs are lists of acceptable music?
posted by RobotHero at 10:26 AM on December 8, 2012


We already had a Dirty Dancing movie, Havana Nights,set in Cuba... this sounds like the perfect opportunity for to make Footloose 2: Reaggaton Dreams.
posted by Green Winnebago at 10:57 AM on December 8, 2012


Regarding Calle 13, apparently there has been some split and now they hate reggaeton. They played here in São Paulo last week, a friend was DJing before the show and was explicitly told by their producer not to play any reggaeton.

Basically this is about classism. Reggaeton has become very minimalistic and cheap to produce, it's just vocals and electronic beats; music made by and for the poor. The same phenomenon happens all over the world, the middle class hating on lower class music, like baile funk in Brazil and manele in Romenia.
posted by Tom-B at 11:02 AM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


maybe they'll replace reggaeton with cuban dubstep

(a link to the very excellent "mala in cuba" record)
posted by raihan_ at 11:09 AM on December 8, 2012


*snicker* dubstep band? Oh, Grampa Artw, you're adorable.

You won't laugh when my next CD makes it big!
posted by Artw at 11:15 AM on December 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'm looking forward to the Artw Brass Step Experience, in the vein of Acid Brass.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:19 AM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


As a person who grew up in Latin America, i can say reggaeton can be utterly disgusting. There is very little that shocks me these days, but 13 year olds dancing to those tunes is just so wrong.

reggaeton is to music what abuse porn is to the film industry, and most actual artists who like the rhythm will go to great lengths to distance themselves from that name.

still, i feel banning a whole music genre is even more disgusting. The sensible thing to do would be to find out why children glorify that culture and work on motivating self respect and gender equality. but of course that requires work so forget about it.
posted by Tarumba at 11:19 AM on December 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Vistel Columbié seems to be particularly incensed by the "crude", "vulgar" and "sexual" lyrics of much of reggaeton. Which is of course accurate, but somehow overlooks the fact that the lyrics of many, if not most Cuban standards aren't quite what you'd call "demure"...
posted by Skeptic at 11:45 AM on December 8, 2012


Banning music due to lyrical content is a really fast and effective way to instantly make whatever bands affected by this many, many times more popular than ever before. I suspect Cuba's government has several top officials who are huge reggaetón fans, but were frustrated that it just wasn't popular enough, and came up with this tried-and-true method for making young people love the music even more.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:47 AM on December 8, 2012


After having lived in an apartment complex wherein Reggaeton was played nigh constantly, I feel This WKUK bit is the most poignant summation of my feelings on the genre thus far.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 11:59 AM on December 8, 2012


There is more than a little Skrillex on a couple of my running playlists. I like that the lyrical content is minimal, and uncomplicated. I haven't heard much reggaeton, but if it's lyrics-heavy, and most of those lyrics are about fucking up bitchez, then I'll go ahead and give it a miss. I don't imagine I'd run my best intervals in time to music that hates me and my ovaries.

Then again, I don't speak the language, so I suppose I could just decide that all reggaeton lyrics were life-affirming couplets about kittens, rainbows, and running your very best 800s

The post upthread that referenced car rentals made a good point. Cubans understand the lyrics. They also have a different approach to government than we do in the U.S. Maybe limiting people's right to impose their music on the public strikes them as a no-brainer. The question I have is "where's the line between enforcing civility and silencing those with whom you disagree?" And what if "you"="those in power" and "those"="everyone else"?
posted by Flipping_Hades_Terwilliger at 12:19 PM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Actually there are some that kind of verge on Brostep that I can tolerate. They still have some of that 2-step/garage feel, even if it still is wubby now and then. It's when it's all wubwub and a few skronks and brzzts in there (I mean - honestly? That's some lazy sound making IMO) and trying to be superstar that I can't stand it, frankly.

I'm nearly certain I read this exact paragraph in some young adult science fiction novel in 1983.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 12:31 PM on December 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


This is the key here no? I don't know what it is like in Cuba, but I think if the lyrics were in English and we had cars driving around blasting "ASS ASS ASS ASS ASS ASS ASS ASS ASS" certain places in the states would try to ban it too.

Well, this actually happened (no. 10 on the US Billboard, no. 3 R&B, no. 2 rap) and I don't remember it getting banned anywhere.
posted by Dim Siawns at 12:47 PM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ah. This brings back some memories of Puerto Rico, yes it does. That Calle 13 guy has put on a couple pounds.
posted by Michael Roberts at 2:04 PM on December 8, 2012


Jeez! I can usually count on Metafilter to be a little more open minded.

People are really bashing on reggaeton without really understanding what it's all about!

A little history lesson:

First of all, the Carribean is a real melting pot. You've got stuff coming in from all over. You can hear bits of salsa beats in reggae and reggae beats in salsa.

This cross pollination has been going on for a long time. From the article on Reggae En Espanol in Wikipedia:

Jamaican reggae was embraced in the Spanish-speaking world first in Panama by the descendants of black workers that immigrated to the Isthmus during the construction of the Panama Railroad (mid-19th century), the railways for the banana companies (late 19th century), and the Panama Canal (early 20th century). Prior to the period of construction of the Panama Canal (1904–1915), most of the Afro-Caribbean communities in Panama were of Jamaican descent, but with the construction of the canal these communities grew in diversity with immigrants from other parts of the Caribbean such as Barbados, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Trinidad, French and British Guyanas and other Caribbean Islands.

Most of the Reggaeton you hear is based on the Dem Bow Riddim It was made popular throughout the world by a 1990 song by Shabba Ranks.

There are a lot of good things about Reggaeton:

1. It's really hyper.
2. It's got some interesting use of language (as a non-native Spanish speaker, I get a kick out of words like 'Cangri' and 'perreando.'
3. Everybody knows the beat, so it's really easy to dance to
4. It's interesting to hear the boundless variations on the Dem Bow theme.
5. A good mix really can take you out of yourself...the repetition is hypnotic. Check out this stuff by DJ Flea from Panama. This guy is great. Generally, it's better to stick to mixes with reggaeton. That's mostly what people are bumpin' in their cars.
6. Some of these guys can really flow. Check out these reggaeton heavyweights on this remix of 'Lean Back.' One of my all time favorite tracks anywhere.
7. Flex, AKA Niga is a trip. No one flows like him in English, Spanish or any other language. Yeah, I know that this example here isn't quite reggaeton, but he's more into reggaeton these days it seems. You may know of him from this reggaeton hit.

It's hard to tell what the hell is going on in Cuba, and why it's happening. If what the original post said is true, it's a total bummer that they're preventing certain music from being played in public. Even if you don't like the music, c'mon. People have got a right.
posted by shushufindi at 2:15 PM on December 8, 2012 [19 favorites]


Thanks to those who have done the work of pointing out *good* reggaeton -- I hate to hate a whole genre, so that helps educate me. I live in a Dominican neighborhood and mostly hear reggaeton, bass-only, through car windows, at aforementioned awful hours, so for that reason I've hated it too. And part of the reason, Spitbull, is I DO like African-heritage rhythms, and listened to from my current vantage reggaeton has killed them and made them as lead-footed as any Welk polka. And Shushufindi, the fact that most of the songs work off of a single rhythm makes the genre insufferable for me -- maybe this is just me figuring out how I relate to a genre. (I hate the Amen Break about as much. And I have yet to find bachata that appeals for similar reasons of lack of diversity, which puzzles me because I love clean, clanky-sounding, African-style guitar.) I love salsa, cumbia, and electronica because of the diversity of speeds and rhythms they employ. Reggaeton makes me miss the polyrhythms of djembe orchestras and salsa's cross-pollination with jazz.
posted by gusandrews at 2:33 PM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Easy jokes aside, and assuming this story is accurate, governments banning certain types of art is obviously awful, and yet another reason why Cuba's regime is (in spite of the US's unhelpful blockade) impossible to romanticize for all but the most sophomoric of Che t-shirt wearers.
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:06 PM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


First they came for the reggaeton kids, but I was not a reggaeton kid, so I said nothing.

Then they came for the dubsteppers, but I was not a dubstepper, so I said nothing.
posted by koucha at 3:30 PM on December 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


They still have some of that 2-step/garage feel, even if it still is wubby now and then.

2-step as in slow-slow-quick-quick? Like, maybe through a cajun influence? I will have to listen more carefully....
posted by eviemath at 3:45 PM on December 8, 2012


So, turns out that I like reggaeton and listen to a lot of reggaeton-inspired music. I never knew!
posted by subdee at 4:42 PM on December 8, 2012


Sirens and airhorns in the beat, but high production values:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZswiRYzmyY
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ReyRdXsqlrE
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVKncaDUxeY
posted by subdee at 4:51 PM on December 8, 2012


Also this must have something to do with reggaeton, right?

Anyway, never underestimate the effects of prescription stimulant use on the music tastes of the Millennial generation.
posted by subdee at 5:50 PM on December 8, 2012


Forktine: But trust me: it's totally, 100 percent possible to say "your favorite band sucks" without resorting to racist dogwhistles or calling people morons. I think the Archie Bunker imitation was supposed to be funny, but it doesn't read that way to me.

You are absolutely correct about the casting of aspersions. The esteemed gentleman in the next lane knows what I meant, but euphemisms seemed to betray the whole point of Rock & Roll. It's all Rock & Roll. I am not the first person to notice that if Rock & Roll is done right, it's dangerous.

Behold, my eye: My parents' generation, by the time they achieved their dotage, remenisced about Glenn Miller, show tunes, big fucking bands, Gene Kelly and the like. Some stuff was transcendent, but most was evanescent, and evaporated when Hitler died. My own dotage approaches. I'll sit in my chair enjoying the morning sunlight, and drool onto my blanket while I conjure Foreigner, The Cream, Jefferson Airplane, Joplin, or subversive semi-folky jazz-like rantings of such as Van Ronk, Paxton, Dylan, and various flavors of such ilk. If I am lucky will have earphones and a device that will let them drive my eardrums to the center of my head. I won't care about how Elvis blew them away--or how Paul and Annett got their goddam beachblanket bingo shit together--all this to help drag that good stuff across the tracks to us white guys, because Hendrix lights my candle. Okay, Led Zep and Butterfield. You get the idea. We are the ones who made Archie Bunker snarl and sputter. No way am I going to be able to explain this to my kids, or theirs. They'll just have to let that epiphany creep up on them in their own good time.

Reggaeton doesn't speak to me (or for me), but it isn't supposed to. It doesn't scare me, either, but then I'm not the one that needs to be frightened by it.

Sometimes buzzwords are handy, but often they are hasty. Maybe I could have said Maroon, but I think the referent is a bit too dusty. I like dogwhistle, though. Maybe if I used more commas it would slow the eye down enough that the essay seems less rantish. Or Bunkerish. It's good to know, though, which ears get perked, and why. Any rhetorical tack is open to critique. It's not up to me to advise you about what grates on your sensibilities, or to humidify your sense of humor. Sometimes it's not about what my favorite band is. Sometimes it's about the well-camouflaged connection I have to that moron in the next lane.
posted by mule98J at 6:40 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


This thread seems to be running kinda anti-MetaFiltery to me. Your personal taste in music has exactly zero to do with this post. Your age has zero to do with this post. This post is about a genre of music being banned by an autocratic government. With notes of racism. Might I suggest that instead of continuing down the path this thread seems to be currently following, we step back and consider some MetaFilter musical favorite's music being banned from playing on the radio and in any public places by the FCC. And what a terribly negative thing that would be. And who would be victimized by such an action. That's usually what we do in here. Which is why I'm kind of surprised by this reaction.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 9:08 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


...consider some MetaFilter musical favorite's music being banned from playing on the radio and in any public places by the FCC.

If they wanna take away They Might Be Giants they're gonna have to pry it from cortex's cold, dead fingers.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:24 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I'm amazed this is getting any defense -- this law doesn't just mean that people can't blast it from their cars or what have you, it's just as illegal to play it among a bunch of people who are all interested in hearing it. No concerts, no dances in clubs or bars. All because the Cuban government has decided it gets to determine how "the innate sensuality of the Cuban woman" is allowed to be expressed. How is this feminist again?
posted by ostro at 12:39 AM on December 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


This post is about a genre of music being banned by an autocratic government. With notes of racism.

On a nitpicky point, it's probably more notes of classism?
posted by eviemath at 1:28 AM on December 9, 2012


They must really be scared of that genre of music.
posted by JHarris at 1:42 AM on December 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


"How is this feminist again?"

The Vice President of the National Union of Artists and Writers of Cuba, who is a woman, says the music is sexist, and so do others. Everyone else who doesn't like it says it's just lousy music. There doesn't seem to be a political component, unless reggaeton promotes capitalism and no one's mentioned that.
posted by ZootNym at 7:36 AM on December 9, 2012


ostro: -- this law doesn't just mean that people can't blast it from their cars or what have you, it's just as illegal to play it among a bunch of people who are all interested in hearing it.

This is pretty much my stance. The empowered become bothersome when they think their tastes are written in stone and delivered from providence. Their first mission is to turn sinners into lawbreakers. That's where things change from "get off my lawn" to "up against the wall."

Personal tastes (and how to manage them) are very much a core issue.
posted by mule98J at 9:13 AM on December 9, 2012


I can't speak for others, but the reasons why I'm rather jaded about this purported "ban" are the following:

a) There doesn't appear to be any real intention to ban reggaeton, but rather some "kidsgeroffmylawn" utterances by a few of the many apparatchiks that blight Cuba's cultural landscape. Such grandstanding is extremely common among them, because it's the only way to justify themselves and their privileges. It should not be taken at face value.

b) Bans don't work so well in Cuba. I mean, prostitution is supposedly banned in Cuba, something which would surprise anybody who observes firsthand the interactions between many young locals and a large percentage of European and Canadian tourists of both sexes.

c) Seriously, you just noticed that the Cuban government is an authoritarian regime which censors and spies on its citizens?! Ever heard of Heberto Padilla or the Quinquenio Gris?!
posted by Skeptic at 10:58 AM on December 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


a) "Plans to prohibit reggaeton will extend to limiting the broadcasting of reggaeton music in public spaces such as eateries, bars, state functions, offices and public transport, as well as use in radio and television programs via state media outlets. These sanctions will also extend to the individuals who either perform or promote reggaeton. Musicians could potentially lose their license to perform live music if they perform reggaeton in public places and risk being struck off official records, posing a threat to their future employment possibilities."

b) Bans might be easy to get around in Cuba, but you're still looking at executive punishment if you get caught playing the music the state doesn't like. Which is draconian and stupid.

c) This I really don't get. What is the relevance here? Even if there were someone in this thread who thought Cuba was a democratic paradise, only to learn the shocking truth right now, what does this change about this proposed ban? Why should those of us who are aware Cuba is a repressive regime care less?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:14 PM on December 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I also thought this thread turned into "what the hell is Reggaeton" and thus a teachable moment, and I was sort of enjoying that outside of acknowledging that yes, autocratic banning of music is simpleminded, futile, and bad for people generally.
posted by gusandrews at 6:07 PM on December 9, 2012


Well, I wouldn't have minded if it turned into a teachable moment about "how is this enforced?"

Like, this includes concerts and clubs, so do they need to submit set lists in advance, or are they just punished after the fact? How do you define criteria for which music is banned?

I'm the minority in this, I know, but I'm kind of fascinated by the logistics of trying to legislate weird abstract stuff like this. Do you hire a panel of music theorists that will listen to music and say, "this is clearly qualifies as dem bow riddim, which is verboten?" Do you just focus on the lyrics and say, "These are the seven words that you can't use?"
posted by RobotHero at 10:19 PM on December 9, 2012


That's one of the things that's wrong with it RobotHero, enforcement is very difficult and impossible to adjudicate precisely. When authorities do things like forbid entire genres of music, they necessarily have to take upon themselves a variety of other powers too, many of them subjective in their enforcement and open to corruption. That is the nature of totalitarian systems.
posted by JHarris at 10:38 PM on December 9, 2012


Here in Manitoba, there's a story about how the Manitoba Film Censor Board banned comedy in 1918. I looked into it, I can't find an explicit statement that they had a policy against comedy. They reviewed everything on a film-by-film basis. But there are newspaper stories from that time that something like 18 comedy films in a row were rejected and film exhibitors were going to give up on trying to import comedies.

Based on the bit above I quoted from Columbié he similarly claims no specific prohibition against reggaeton, but once you've got the ICM and "los catálogos artísticos" there's that temptation to use it in this fashion.
posted by RobotHero at 11:18 PM on December 9, 2012


Reggaeton has popular for over ten years now and is a well established genre, there is cross pollination of the rhythm into just about all other forms of Latin dance music and the lines are often pretty blurred. When I was in Cuba in 2004 there was a fair amount of reggaeton played in the clubs and before live gigs, it was predominantly popular with the teenagers. By 2005 I was hearing less and less of the Dem Bow Riddim variants on 'reggaeton' mixes and more straightforward hip hop.

As the Wikipedia link below points out, it is technically more difficult to engineer a reggaeton track than a hip hop track. I was certainly attracted by the virtuosic skills of the producers and engineers.

In Cuba the government officially recognises music forms, which allows musicians to receive a wage for being in a recognised group. Hip hop has been recognised for some years now:

Cuban hip hop thrives while it is contingent upon Fidel Castro's maxim "Within the revolution, everything," an idea that allows for critical debate as long as it is not seen as counter-revolutionary. Inevitably, as an art form based on individuals' expressions of everyday life, Cuban hip hop often finds itself at the cutting edge of this boundary. As with all industries in Cuba, music production is closely monitored by the government. However, due to publicity campaigns run by hip hop zealots such as Havana University Professor Pablo Herrera, Cuban hip hop has been accepted by the authorities as "an authentic expression of cubanidad" and as such has elicited funding from Cuba's Minister of Culture, Abel Prieto, for the annual rap festival. Every day is a social and political balancing act, however, and rap cubano faces increasing encroachment by reggaeton, a music with less political and arguably more misogynistic lyrics that is "easier" to dance too.

I would suggest that this 'ban' is just an official statement that reggaeton is on the whole not aligned with the tenets of the revolution and thus will not be promoted as a valid music form by the government. This is the kind of thing that happens when the government of Cuba and Cuba's rich cultural life interact. It is difficult for both of them, but it doesn't mean either is going to be negatively impacted in the long run.

Timba music is quite like the revolution, in that it absorbs all kinds of influences and styles to enrich itself. Many timba bands will use Dem Bow Riddim variants within their compositions. I don't think that this will result in any convictions for musical misdemeanor when they perform!
posted by asok at 3:58 AM on December 10, 2012


Marisa: The details of this "plan" are, to say the least, sketchy in those press reports. Considering the penchant to hyperbole among both journalists and Cuban apparatchiks, I wouldn't be surprised if this was all hot air, especially as the implementation would be challenging, to say the least.

I don't altogether dismiss it only because there are in Cuba already plenty of other unenforced, and indeed unenforceable, rules and bans. This is something fundamental for understanding Cuba's system: all those absurd rules and bans are never meant to be broadly enforced. Their main purpose, apart from providing fruitless occupation to a whole bunch of busybodies, seems to be that of ensuring that, if the authorities decide to act against anybody, there's always some rule or ban they can claim he's infringing.

The other thing to keep in mind about Cuba is that the authorities don't go so much for "hard" enforcement. They are acutely aware of the fact that actually charging somebody may easily backfire (Fidel's own biggest hour of glory, for instance, was in court, when he was charged for the assault on the Moncada Barracks). But who needs courts and jails when the authorities have full control of employment, education, and even housing?

So, even if a "reggaeton ban" is introduced, after all, most musicians will probably be left undisturbed, and still perform even in state-owned venues. Only if one of them has the bad idea of making himself unfavourably noticed by the statements, by for instance making some "ill-judged" political statement, will the gigs for his "forbidden" reggaeton suddenly dry up.

The problem isn't this particular "ban". They'd use some other spurious rule otherwise. The problem is Cuba's political system.
posted by Skeptic at 4:38 AM on December 10, 2012


Skeptic - 'all those absurd rules and bans are never meant to be broadly enforced. Their main purpose, apart from providing fruitless occupation to a whole bunch of busybodies, seems to be that of ensuring that, if the authorities decide to act against anybody, there's always some rule or ban they can claim he's infringing.'

Doesn't sound very different to many governments, cf. UK terror laws.
posted by asok at 5:37 AM on December 10, 2012


Doesn't sound very different to many governments, cf. UK terror laws.

The difference lies above all in:

a) The sheer number and ludicrousness of those rules.
b) The power of the state in enforcing them. As I said, when you completely depend on the state for everything from employment to housing, the number of levers it can use against you is higher.
posted by Skeptic at 5:52 AM on December 10, 2012


Hm.

No, I'm not going to excuse UK terror laws. They are wrong in exactly the same way as the Cuban reggaeton ban. Laws should not be malleable, able to let whoever is in power warp them into letting them do whatever they want. One shouldn't make excuses on behalf of either.
posted by JHarris at 6:26 AM on December 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


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