Colombia Made Reggaeton Mainstream Again
There’s no denying that Colombian artists have really hit it out of the park this past year. As soon as you hear one of those upbeat Reggaeton rhythms you know it’s probably J Balvin with a new banger (as he has been dominating the music charts for the past twelve months) or Maluma with a new upcoming song. Both natives from Medellin, Colombia, as well as others, are here to shape the genre, and they aren’t going anywhere.
Billboard, one of the most recognized music charts, has invited four producers that have worked with many Colombian artists in the past — Castro, 41 (Carlos Vives, Maluma); Andres Saavedra, 33 (Raquel Sofia, Avionica, Atelagalli); Alejandro “Mosty” Ramirez, 23; and Alejandro “Sky” Patino, 23 (both collaborators with J Balvin) — to share their personal perspective on the new Colombian sound that is shaping Latin music all around the world.
Why is Colombian music hot today?
CASTRO: Reggaeton has added new momentum to the success we all knew, like Vives, Juanes, Shakira. Now, there’s a huge urban movement coming from Medellin and from Colombia’s Pacific Coast, and it has generated a lot of interest from young artists who want to do different music with different sounds.
SAAVEDRA: I’m intrigued by how the new urban movement coming out of Colombia is defining new pop. It’s really blurring the line between pop and urban. Puerto-Rican Reggaeton was a little stuck, and what’s coming out of Colombia is defining a new trend.
SKY: Colombian music always has been admired and respected, but this urban movement has put the finishing touches on the big picture.
How do you define this sound?
CASTRO: The Reggaeton coming from Medellin is different from what was happening in Puerto Rico because it’s a little ballad-y and danceable. It kind of joins the two worlds into one accessible sound. This has been part of its huge success. You also have artists like Maluma, who has urban elements with more of a “mountain” influence, and Chocquibtown, which has a very urban sound mixed with salsa.
SAAVEDRA: J Balvin’s “Ginza” could be a Justin Bieber track.
MOSTY: Our Reggaeton is less of a street genre. Violence in Colombia is not something we’re proud of, so we like to concentrate on the positive. We wanted to take things to another level. At a technical level, Reggaeton hasn’t always been of great quality. And from there, we wanted to compete in another way but with a softer sound that didn’t overpower the vocals.
Where do you think the energy and drive come from for this continuing, evolving sound?
SKY: (To Saavedra.) That’s true. And the urban artists here in Colombia, they see what’s happening with Balvin and Nicky Jam, and everyone’s motivated — not only in urban music, but also Reggaeton. There was a time when that music wasn’t on the charts. Urban music was leaning toward Merengue and Tropical. And now Reggaeton has come back. It has returned to its essence, but with a Colombian touch.
SAAVEDRA: To understand the magnitude of what J has done, it’s as if Panama, which has never been a soccer power, suddenly beat Argentina and Brazil for the World Cup. It’s very, very big. Pop is the genre that took longest to open the door to urban music. And now, the new pop is… urban.
Do you see new trends right now?
SKY: “Ginza” [Balvin’s new single] is different from Reggaeton. It’s another format for the music — faster. Americans will identify more. They’re used to more uptempo songs, and Reggaeton tends to be slower.
MOSTY: We’re also trying to really take things to another level. When it comes to sound, Reggaeton hasn’t always had the best track record. From where we are, we wanted to compete in a different way without sounding too harsh, like Puerto-Rican Reggaeton, which really explodes.
CASTRO: Reggaeton has become “cool” for everyone. It doesn’t have that stigma anymore.
SKY: It’s now a little like salsa choke [a mix of salsa, rap and Pacific Coast beats]. It’s something that’s starting to develop. We’ll see where it’s at a year from now.
What do you think, do you agree that Colombian artists have really brought Reggaeton back into mainstream?
Let us know your thoughts.