Aspen Whitewater+Ecuador+Reggaeton=1 rad vacation!

Reaping the rewards of a jungle portage. The ‘gang’ dropping into Land of the Giants

A crew from Aspen Whitewater Rafting was in Ecuador last week to test their mettle against the mighty rivers of the Amazon Basin. What did they find? Huge rapids, exciting jungle downpours, monkeys, flaming shots in the bar, and a thorough immersion in the realm of Reggaeton!

We had 2 kayakers and 7 rafters, and stuck with a very strict “rafting/kayaking boot camp schedule.” No rest for the weary on this trip–they told us they wanted to see as many of the rivers as possible and as much of the culture as possible so we worked around the clock to show them a good time.

There was so much listening to and talking about Raggaeton this week that I thought it would be a fitting blog topic. So, enjoy a little history of Reggaeton interspersed with some nice Ecua-photos.

And, because this group took SOOO many photos (over 3,000 altogether I believe it was), and because some of the photos are really great, I will do a more thorough trip report in a few days.

We had 2 DJ’s in the group and there was much debate about the origins of Reggaeton and how it’s more like “house music” and less like Raggae, so what’s up with the name?

Jenny making new friends

Well boys and girls, here’s what I found out:

Raggaeton is defined as a form of dance music popularized by Latin American youth during the early 1990s. It is a blend of the Jamaican influences of Raggae and “dancehall” with Latin influences of “bomba” and “plena” with a little bit of North American “hip hop” thrown in. This is where the beat comes from and then there is typically rap lyrics to accompany this beat (most commonly they are rapping in Spanish).

Just a little background on some of the words that I didn’t know prior to this research…
Bomba was created on Puerto Rico’s sugar plantations by African slaves–it is the most purely African music genre in Puerto Rico and dates back to the 1680s. Drums are the feature instrument of the Bomba beat. Plena is an important type of folk music in Puerto Rico. It is traditionally a narrative type of song commenting on the lives of the Puerto Ricans. Like Bomba, it has it’s roots in African music and dance and was popularized by slaves working on sugar plantations.

The girls stoked to NOT be camping out on the Lower Mis, and even more Stoked to find that there was a rum store right at the take out!

There is fierce debate among Latin Raggaeton affecionados about whether the music originated in Panama or Puerto Rico. It seems at this time that Panama is winning the argument as the Jamaican influence has been strong in Panama since the early 20th Century because Jamaican laborers were used during construction of the Panama Canal. In addition to this, the first “official” Latin American Raggae recordings were made in Panama in the early 1970s. After these recording in the 1970’s the Jamaican-influenced Panamanian raggae got diluted with more dance/hip hop music and eventually morphed into what we think of as Raggaeton today. So, although Raggaeton doesn’t sound much at all like Raggae today, there apparently was a strong Jamaican/Raggae influence in it’s beginnings.

Darcy, Katherine, and Shannan rocking El Torro Rapid on the Rio Quijos

Raggaeton expert, Hip Hop Republican says that, “Artists such as El General, Chicho Man, Nando Boom, Renato, and Black Apache are considered the first raggamuffin deejays from Panama.” I’m not sure what a “raggamuffin deejay” is, but maybe this will make sense to someone out there…?

Then, in the early 1990s, the Jamaican artist Shabba Ranks developed the beat “Dem Bow,” which became the background beat for the Raggaeton we know and love today.

While Panama and Jamaica are mostly credited for developing the sound of modern Raggaeton, the actual term “Raggaeton” was reportedly coined in Puerto Rico to name the mixing of the various genres into the dance beat it had become (this, plus the fact that both the Plena and Bomba roots come from Puerto Rico make me think the scale should be tipped a little bit more in P.R.’s favor and the proud creator of Raggaeton, but what do I know).

Some Raggaeton lovers boozing on Small World’s porch

Well, that’s probably more than you ever wanted to know about Raggaeton, so why don’t you kick back and enjoy some of this sweet music now (parental advisory warning–as in all “true” raggaeton videos, there are scantily clad women in this video):

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