So the problem is…
Que Xopa gente linda,
As promised here is the essay on the infamous “Homenaje” trend of Tego Calderon’s El Abayarde by Brray and Tony Sombra, I hope you like it please let me know your thoughts. xoxo.
So, Reggaeton is as we all know it is a fusion genre that consists of Dancehall(Dembow), a series/combination of synths, bomba y plena influence from Puerto Rico and etc depending on the song.
As time has went on, Reggaeton has been critiqued and one of the biggest critiques include that this music is “repetitive” I would never argue that it is because of the millions of decisions that are being decided in the studio to create the hits that we know. I wouldn’t argue for some of the beats on YouTube because following that logic some people think a sample + a kick snare and bass combo = un palo when a song as complex as Tego’s Pa Que Retozen actually features salsa, jazz, hiphop, bomba and dembow. One day soon I’ll break it down for you if you’d like.
With that said, my entire point is Reggaeton demands innovation to hit. We don’t love Rakata and Mayor Que Yo, and Guasa Guasa just because of who’s singing it’s how they differentiate that makes it exciting for us Reggaeton lovers.
Ahora, part of this innovation in the late 2010s is trying to tokenize what differentiates one palo from the other all while appeasing to “Reggaeton Seco” that bubblegum type of Reggaeton thats in style now for example, Te Bote by Darell Casper & Nio(or its remix) or Lokera by Rauw. And while there are some really good bubblegum type of tracks, they as a whole are not my favorite because le falta mucha sazon(there’s a lot of Swagg missing), and more importantly it just doesn’t sit well with me that artists like J Balvin has told me to my face that he deliberately wanted to remove the African instruments/patterns to make something more “modern” its like bro… lol why are you proud to be deliberately whitewashing? Its the colonization for meeee
Arriving to these three covers: I am all for homenajes, I actually really like when these new age artists throw in a one liner from an older song-I need the nostalgic feeling to distract me from all of the popeton/bubble gum going on. And I actually love the idea of homenaje via covers–but this cover in particular? I fucking hate this idea. Señoras y Señoras–I’m going to go as far as to say this is a different type of cultural appropriation, I would call this white face.
El Abayarde is iconic for many reasons sonically, I explained a few of those reasons above. But visually? Let’s talk about what’s going on here.
1. The graphic style of the cover is in Guerrilla poster format.
2. Tego’s afro is the focal point of the entire visual piece.
In combination with the political anthem like lyrics in the song, the entire project is a statement a testament to his black experience and what he wants everyone to take away from the songs feature. In short, the entire piece is a political entity. So a white latin artist copying the style in the exact way, posing the exact way,
Is laughable because
1. the words featured in the song don’t speak to anything that goes against white supremacy.
2. the artists are white.
Now, I’m not saying homenajes can’t be done. I’m saying the politics and the weight of the politics that El Abayarde bestows on the genre is unparalleled. The industry was literally putting Daddy Yankee against him to come up on top and Tego multiple times had come out and said “fuck all that extra shit, I’m for the people.” As a historian, as a professional in the Latin music scene, as an academic, as a fan. The deeper I get into these different spaces the more I understand the weight of what he’s done with this particular project because of the different ways that White supremacy exists in these spaces forcing Black Latinos to choose their survival over their dignity and that’s what Tego did here.
So, my thing is, if you’re going to touch anything of Tego’s you need to bring that, all of what I said in the aforementioned paragraph or you’re just simply touching something that you have no understanding of, at all, for clout and that’s disrespectful not just to the work embodied in that project but to the existence of every Black Latino in this space. I will go as far as to say El Abayarde is sacred, and because it’s sacred it should be protected.
Of the two, Tony Sombra’s “homenaje” bothered me more. I actually interviewed him and asked him about this its on my IG. Brray I haven’t been able to ask. Tony’s bothers me more because of how…pale and deliberately disconnected he is to the politics and lived realities of Black Latinos. In the interview he even went as far as to sexualize me: “I like morenas like you.” … I mean if lost was a person. He strikes me as nice but I will call a spade a spade. Brray, it’s funny most of the comments on IG people geared towards giving him a pass and I won’t lie, I will say that I.. have something in the back of my mind that wants to, but I won’t. I love Brray’s artistsry, his work, his innovation, but I will still say hands off of this cover art. Well executed or not, if you’re not going to highlight Black plight in a meaningful, respectful, non tokenizing way.. I really don’t care about the rest: considering the violence towards Black Latinos in Reggaeton.
These are my thoughts mi gente, please let me know your thoughts and as always thanks for sticking with me. More content coming asap, Up next: Exclusive access to my last Harvard Lecture.
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