The Localist

Reggae – music to my Latin American ears


Reading local literature has been a great way for me to understand another country, but it takes valuable time, especially in a society where working a 10 hour day is making a comeback.

Most days I come back from work wanting to spend time with my fiancé over dinner and go to bed. I’ve barely got the time or the energy to even read a few pages.

Music is a perfect alternative. The lyrics, the rhythms, and the history of these lyrics and rhythms – that’s where you’ll find the most intimate details about a country’s obsessions and passions. The origins of the music holds hands with the history of the country, and the best thing is that you can listen to music while you go about your daily life, whether you’re working, doing the dishes, cleaning the house, or going for a walk with your headphones.

Mexico is no exception to this rule, and the history of every generation is told through its music. From indigenous musical rituals all over the country depicting the “white devils” and their murderous ways, to a Corrido from northern Mexico telling the story of the revolution and Pancho Villa (one of Mexico’s most prominent revolutionary generals) having his way with the Gringos. And then there’s the philharmonic orchestras, and of course the mariachis, who reveal through music the story of a Mexico desperately fighting for a place in the western world, but not forgetting its roots and the brave men and women who continue to fight for justice and equality.

All of these genres have reflected the sentiments of a generation, and have contributed to building and documenting Mexico’s identity.

So what about contemporary Mexico? My generation?

We’ve grown up in a different world, in a shrinking global village where we are exposed to different and new things that seem to be washing away our traditions and replacing them with trends from the west like hip hop, rock and electronic music. And although this is not necessarily a bad thing, I get the feeling that my generation has lost a bit of its sense of perspective.

However, in my experience traveling the world and meeting not just other Mexicans, but people from all over Latin America, I have found that one genre seems to bring unity to the people from Latin America, and that is reggae. Latin Americans love reggae.

Wherever you are in the world, if you go to a Latin party you’ll probably end up listening and dancing to Latin American reggae bands like “Los Fabulosos Cadillacs” from Argentina, or my personal favourite “Cultura Profetica” from Puerto Rico. Their songs of dissent and protest portray the feistiness of the Latin American people and the smooth rhythms and beats of the music are synonymous with the peoples’ warmth and sense of humanity.

So if you are planning to travel to any Latin American country, my advice would be to seek out some Latin American reggae and have a listen before you go. You’ll find oceans and oceans of artists from different countries that will give you a glimpse into the contemporary Latin American soul and its history. And on top of that, you’ll be so relaxed for months before your holiday even begins.





Image. Photo by Sally Langford.

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