“Scene to Watch: Borderless Sounds” ft. Folk-Urbano

“Scene to Watch: Borderless Sounds” ft. Folk-Urbano

As the global community where 20 million creators from 190 countries share their sounds with the world every day, SoundCloud connects artists, bridges genres and pushes traditional music boundaries to create change. “Borderless Sounds” celebrates the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly by spotlighting five global music scenes that show how sounds can come together to create new genres and drive music culture forward, across timezones and borders. Check back every day this week for a new Scene to Watch.

Scene to Watch: Folk-Urbano

Guest post by Isabela Raygoza*

Urbano – a genre comprising Spanish-language hip-hop, Latin trap and reggaeton – has been making a major impact on contemporary pop worldwide, and more recently, giving rise to alternative styles and new approaches rooted in folkloric sounds. Urbano fusions with cumbia, rumba, flamenco, and bachata indicate a more eclectic future in pop. The blending of Old and New World styles isn’t new, but what is unprecedented is the high profile it currently enjoys: through magazine cover stories, top-tier festival slots, and a formidable internet presence. Just take one of the biggest breakout acts of the late ‘10s: Rosalía. In her 2018 album, El Mar Querer, the Spanish provocateur honors medieval storytelling, which she deploys via her flamenco-styled rasp and street-wise swagger. Then there’s trap-swing wordsmith Nathy Peluso from Argentina. Her idiosyncratic approach to urbano comes adorned with beautiful bolero fretwork and soul aplenty, as evinced in last year’s slinky rap number “La Sandunguera.” And lest anyone forget L.A.-via-Mexico producer Chaboi, who dabbles with digital reggaeton configurations steeped in Caribbean folk like merengue and bachata, like on his 2019 dance-floor number “Chica Latina.”

Widely considered the epitome of urbano purity today, reggaeton is perhaps one of the most successful of fusion stories. Conceived in the rural underground, its origins reflect the disparate national and cultural exchanges that have taken place within the evolution of Latin pop.

Rewind to the ‘60s and ‘70s, when Jamaican labor was used to build the Panama canal. Along with their migrational work, Jamaicans brought reggae and dancehall. Panamanians birthed reggae en español, which eventually evolved into the early sounds of reggaeton in the ‘80s and ‘90s thanks to El General and Nando Boom. And meanwhile, back in Jamaica, Shabba Ranks coined his rootsy skeletal rhythm “dembow” (as announced in his 1990 song, “Dem Bow”) that would come to influence reggaeton’s next steps.

In the early ‘90s, this would-be genre traveled to Puerto Rico via bootleg tapes and evolved further when experimental DJs like The Noise and DJ Playero reconfigured it for the clubs. New York hip-hop added a crucial ingredient. Immigrant Puerto Ricans like Ivy Queen began to rap over this new concoction that came to be called “underground dancehall rap-reggae,” and in 1995, DJ Nelson coined the term reggaeton via his 1995 Reggaeton, Vol. 1 mixtape.

As reggaeton cemented during the ‘00s, Puerto Rico’s Calle 13 managed to flip the style further with pedagogic rap bars, electro-rock conflections, and occasional tribal melodies. Bomba Estéreo internationalized electro-punk cumbia with an affinity for Colombian roots and hip-hop. More recently, urbano-cumbia DJ El Dusty from Southern Texas furthered these developments via exploratory turntablism and block party genre fusions. 

Whether it’s Macaco’s b-boy dance moves, beatboxing and bohemian flair that intermesh with Spanish rumba, or La Pleabada’s unlikely spin on trap corridos, these eclectic ambassadors from Ibero-America are pushing stylistic boundaries to fore. They are representing their culture, honoring the traditions of their compatriots, and globalizing the sounds of their ancestors, with plenty of urban cool. 

Stream our playlist Globalization of Folk-Urbano to get familiar with your future favorites, and then check back tomorrow for our next scene to watch as part of our “Borderless Sounds” series with the United Nations.

“Scene to Watch” is the newest extension of SoundCloud’s To Watch programming that gives you a heads-up on who and what should be on your radar. Because from artists to DJs to scenes: what’s next in music is first on SoundCloud.

*Isabela Raygoza is a rock and Latin music journalist from the borderlands of San Diego and Tijuana. Her work has appeared in publications such as Rolling Stone, Billboard, and Noisey. She is currently an associate producer and curator at SoundCloud in New York City.

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