Patron Only Classical Music vs. Reggaeton

PatronsPatron Only Classical Music vs. Reggaeton

Patron Only Classical Music vs. Reggaeton

Hi Everyone,

I’m writing a newsletter for the LA Times called “Latinx Files” and the version being published is .. watered down for public consumption. I forget how Academic I write.. lol and I actually really like this version. I figured let me share exclusively with all of you.

It is set to publish tomorrow 12/16 via LA Times

Context: Dr Rhoads a British/Spanish Classical music enthusiast said in a video on Twitter (I’m sure you’ve seen my tweets) 

““Classical music has such a bad reputation for being boring, classist/elitist, ‘for pricks’ and I understand it very well. How sad, what an injustice because it’s the most lively music in the world. This music is like for everyone on earth. There’s a very logical reason as to why we still listen to it 200-300- later Bach Chopin, Beethoven. And now we’re going to listen to Bad Bunny after two centuries? Well no, fuck that. But for sure lets listen to Beethoven and there’s a good reason for us doing so. Im nit going to say, I dont want to say that in any way that Beethoven deserves more merit than Leiva or Rosalia, fuck no, of course there are songs by Serrat, and Sabiba as wel l as Charly Garcia of Argentina. And Roberto Iniesta for example for me there are these songs of his that as a soloist but of course in extreme hard and these are not only Hispanic speaking artists imagine like Rollingstone or The Beatles for sure there are songs that in for or five six decades we’re going to listen to and recognize how strong songs they are. I have goosebumps. Explain to me please Reggaeton and bad bunny, I can assure you, I am assuring you I’m not saying it’s shit but literally I don’t understand its popularity of this type of music. If there’s anyone who can explain to me this is why it is the best, why i’ll listen to you with all of my soul””

So I figured it’d be fun to do a compare and contrast. Lately, especially as I’m typing my book, I’ve been digging deeper into histories I’ve conjured up of other genres, its helped me tell the history of Reggaeton better. I’ve been going into rabbit holes of the history of Funk, Gospel, and Dancehall (there’s always more to learn).

I hope you enjoy what I’ve written. 

I appreciate y’all.



Inspired by a condescending comparison of Reggaeton to Classical music by a Beethoven enthusiast, let’s take a moment to actually expand on their shared qualities. A challenge, considering the considerable stigmas stacked against both genres. Classical music is the genre that has been long time associated and protected thanks to its admiration by the ruling classes while Perreo, the soul of Reggaeton, is often minimized to music that functions only to degrade women or even as just “noise” despite its legacy of resistance against white supremacy. To the extent that instruments go, at large, piano/keyboard and bass drum are the only two instruments that consistently overlap in these genres repertoires. Ironically, I believe their similarities fall in where the outlier instruments are involved, all revolving around  a common theme: drama. 

Although culturally they serve different purposes the live performance aspect that both genres demand, are produced habitually to apprise a collective reception by their individual audiences. Their musical makeup was inspired by very different societal pressures, Classical’s being to appease and inspire with the luxury of time while Reggaeton is a continuation of African ancestral music to inspire joy, resistance, and liberation to those who engaged with it in Panama, Puerto Rico and beyond. A music speaking to the celebration of survival of Black people, and of course that attitude would frustrate those who’ve never involved themselves with their survival.

Race and the global institution of racism inspired Black people to create music that would speak to their injustices, and inspire faith amongst them to spread the message that like everything else they’ve survived,  “this too shall pass.” Puissant, how the legacy of this music can reinvent itself like a phoenix rising from the ashes. And despite that, “There’s a very logical reason as to why we still listen to it 200-300 years later: Bach, Chopin, Beethoven” in today’s very brutal society there are attitudes like this. “Explain to me please Reggaeton and Bad Bunny, I can assure you, I am assuring you I’m not saying it’s shit but literally I don’t understand its popularity of this type of music.” Attitudes that stem from the disconnect of the comprehension of the plight of Black people, an experience afforded only to those with extreme privilege, white privilege.

The spectacles influenced by Classical music utilizes its crescendo or its loudest point reached in a gradually increasing sound, to encourage a range of emotion, and that is all that true Reggaeton does. The legacy of the ‘call and response’ mode frequent in the composition of classical music extends into music as contemporary as reggaeton. In retrospect, culturally what has actually changed is society’s demand for dignity, but especially in afro diasporic spaces. Contrary to popular belief, Reggaeton wasn’t created on a whim,, its composition is the continuation of a legacy to maintain and inspire a standing in societies that would otherwise prefer to see Black people disenfranchised or dead. From Negro spirituals in plantation fields, to Gospel in churches, Blues, Funk and R&B in lounges, Reggae unifying opposing political parties in Jamaica, to Dancehall to Reggaeton then Perreo, this music is as robust as sophisticated forms of instrumental music combined with mixed vocal styles or Classical music.

When boiling both genres down to sophistication, the tonal and serial displays in Reggaeton greatly outnumber that within the confines of classical music, in fact, Perreo’s composition depends on it–so does its absence of avant garde and atonality in its formation deduce it to music unworthy of praise? Absolutely not, instead Perreo’s intricate and largely African instrumentation accomplishes something unparalleled. 

The sexiest genre to ever exist occasionally utilizes the bass guitar, horns, timbales to compliment the bass drum creating the heartbeat of this sound in contrast to Classical music’s occasional incorporation of Clarinets, Oboes, Flutes to build complexity in their orchestration. In other words a distinct method to their individual madness. So Bad Bunny may be foreign to those who frequent Bach, Beethoven and others alike, and they may not understand that El Conejo Malo, like the hundreds of artists who preceded him, especially who are Black created secular music for the purpose of ‘rising’ and that profound sense of pride is all of the dignity and justification to exist on its own. It is likely that the profound power and prestige Reggaeton provides will inspire listeners to engage “200-300 years later” for music that gives joy to their people is worthy of commemoration.

See here is the thing, Spotify’s most streamed artist in the world, an internationally recognized culture shifter, 27 year old Benito Ocasio or Bad Bunny–his sound is particular and it may not be everyone’s cup of tea but his impact will be forever lasting, and this is why Rhodes is wrong. Just as Salsa music rocked the world with its tumbao and Rock rattled the cages of those who deemed it “too wild”, Reggaeton has liberated millions of minds and caderas with its perreo.

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