A few months ago a friend emailed me pointing out the name of the popular latin artist Nigga. After doing some poking around on the net I discovered that Nigga is Panamanian and got his name because someone said he sings like a Jamaican. Probably in a move not un-similar to the Nas album name decision, his name was changed to DJ Flex, for the U.S. market, in fear of offending the United Stateseans (and not Jamaicans?!)
I've been hearing a lot of DJ Flex on the radio, with his hit "Te Quiero" and his collaboration with Los Kumbia Allstars "Por Ti Baby" (which is a quite ravey-sounding Cumbia that I'll post later.) Plus, whenever I hear "Panama!" or someone sing "Panama Music" my ears perk up, so I've been watching for this dude.
Panama music is on the rise in the US mainstream. Mach & Daddy, El Roockie, Factoria, Eddy Lover, DJ Flex, and Macano all have hits on my local radio that compete with the Puerto Rican mainstays. They're names aren't so familiar to the English market yet, like Daddy Yankee but people are speculating that they will be soon.
International Superstars Mach & Daddy
My love for Panamanian music is in its fusions, a result of the country's mixed cultural identity and history. The style that crooners such as Eddy Lover, DJ Flex, and Macano do is refered to as Reggae Romantic Style a la perhaps what is known in the UK and Jamaican circles as Lover's Rock. Mach & Daddy and La Factoria have blasted into the international market with high energy Reggae-Soca hybrids, and folks like Aldo Ranks and el Principal are probably not far behind. Plus, you can't forget the hardcore dancehall from the likes of Kafu Banton, or Japanese, or the classic early Spanish Reggae from the likes of El General.
Check out this great round up (with sound clips!) of current Plena in Panama from Larnies Bowen who is a fulbright scholar from the U.S., sent in collaboration with MTV to do some studying on the Afro-Antillean community in Panama and the wonderful music called Reggae!
More on this coming soon...