22 June 2015

Panama #1: Traditional elements

A brand new blog post, a brand new country. Well, the country is not technically brand new since it has been independent from 1903, but it is new for this blog. And it is Panama. A while back I decided I wanted to blog about some Central American country's music since I had not yet done that. One of the problems I face often with this blog is choosing which country to blog about; Once I had decided I wanted Central American country, I of course had to pick which one of the seven countries I would blog about. I decided to just start getting to know each country's music in an order and see what happens.

Wikipedia: Panama

And by order I mean geographical order. I could have also started from Belize, the northern most country of Central America, but ended up choosing the southern most one, aka Panama. It was a good decision, since I have kept coming across great music from this country! I already have multiple blog posts planned for Panama and I have also moved on to the next country: Costa Rica. The post about Costa Rican music is coming out next month. I do not know if I keep going through Central America in the order (I have already found few great songs from other countries too, like Guatemala in example), so that remains to be seen. But Panama was definitely a great place to start the journey to Central American music.

It was actually quite hard to pick which ones to blog about now, but I tried to pick three artists (two soloists, one band) that represented different styles to give a wider look into the Panamanian music. (Well, what do you know; I always thought it was Panamian or Panaman.)

First up is Flex, also known as Nigga. Born as Félix Danilo Gómez, there is quite interesting story behind his two stage names. He took the stage name Nigga because he was once told that he "sang like a black guy from Jamaica". When Flex entered the US markets, he needed to change his stage name (since the US people and the word nigga do not go well together, as we all know) and that is when he became Flex too. In the Latin America he still uses the stage name Nigga though. But since in most of the information on him in English he is called Flex, I am more use to calling him that, so in this blog I will call him Flex. That is what he is called on his website anyway.

Flex was born 1980 in the capital city of Panama, Panama City. He became active in music in 1996 and his first studio album was released in 2007. So far he has released four studio albums and one compilation album. He has received success in most parts of the Latin America and the US, and he is one of the best known Panamanian artists. Flex is a reggaeton artist.

The first song from Flex was Te Amo Tanto. This song was released as a single from his second studio album in 2009. The title means 'I Love You So Much', which obviously makes it a love song. Well, it is not always obviously but since this song sounds actually romantic, I dare to say it is a love song. I find this song very harmonica, yet catchy and fresh. The other song is called No Puedo Dejar De Amarte. It was released in 2013, though I fail to find any information on which album it can be found on. The title means 'I Can Not Stop Loving You'. This song too sounds very fresh and also calm.

Actually, Flex's music's style reminds me a lot of Oceanic island music. The Caribbean and the Oceanic islands actually have lots of similarities in their music, but they are still not all the same. I can hear lots of Jamaican and other Caribbean styles in Flex's music (reggaeton is heavily influenced by Jamaican dancehall after all), but more of Oceanic tunes. Which I find interesting and I actually had to make sure I was really listening to a Panamanian singer and not Melanesian or something. This is just an observation I made and obviously my personal opinion. But I really love this sound and it feels soothing and exotic; reminds me of palm trees and beaches. Very lovely.

Te Amo Tanto can be found from Flex's album La Evolución Romantic Style, which was released in 2009. I have unfortunately no info on No Puedo Dejar De Amarte.

This is the second artist of this post: Latin Fresh. Real name Roberto de los Rios Reyes, Latin Fresh was born in 1975. He started his career in 1995 and made multiple hit songs, that made him famous in the Central America and also South America. Latin Fresh too is a reggaeton artist, and this is the genre that I would use to describe the Panamanian music since so many of the most famous Panamanian artists sing it. Reggaeton originates from Puerto Rico and takes influence from other Latin American and Caribbean music genres like dancehall, soca and also hip hop.

Due to the lack of information on Latin Fresh in English I do not know why he picked this stage name, but it would definitely be interesting to know. He has worked together with many famous artists, amongst them 50 Cent, Flex and some Latin American artists I am planning on featuring in this blog, eventually. Besides being a singer, Latin Fresh also produces and composes music, and with over 20 years of experience behind him Latin Fresh is many of the major names when it comes to Panamanian music. Currently he works as an independent artist in his own label.

About the songs now. The first song was Vueltita. I was actually going to feature a totally different song from Latin Fresh, but then at the last minute (last minute as before I finished planning on this blog post couple weeks ago) I listened to this song and really loved it. And of course there was no other choice than to feature this and so I ditched the other song (though I really like it too). I think Vueltita was released in 2011 or 2012, though I am not totally sure. The title means 'Little Walk', which makes it a bit harder to guess what the lyrics are about, but since there is a girl shaking her bits in the music video, I assume it relates to that. To me it sounds like a fun, perhaps a bit naughty, club song. It is very catchy and fun sounding, and it hooked my immediately.

The other song is called Ella Se Arrebata. This song is one of Latin Fresh's early hits that made him famous in Panama and abroad. It was released back in 1995, I believe, and honestly I would have not guessed this is so old song. The title translate into 'She Snatches'. I do not know what she snatches, but it sounds (and looks) like a tad bit dirty song. It sounds fun anyways. I actually have a bit love-hate-relationship going on with this song: I first listened to this song, liked it and added it to my Panama playlist. Then sometime later when I listened to it again, I absolutely hated it and could not understand why I liked it in the first place. Few songs later I gave it another listen and now I liked it again. Either I am very fickle minded (could highly possibly be) or there is something in this song that takes a bit getting use to, in order to like it. But currently I like it a lot.

Unfortunately I could not find proper discography or other information on him that would state on which albums these two songs are in, so I can not provide that information here. But will happily add it, if anyone can tell me!

Last up is something a bit different: Samy y Sandra Sandoval. Y is Spanish for and, and so the title features two names: Samy Sandoval and Sandra Sandoval. And you might be able to guess that this is a sibling duo. The brother Samy was born in 1968 and the sister Sandra in 1970. They come from a province called Herrera. They started performing from young age and gained success on talent shows and later as touring performers. They are highly popular in Panama, having had bunch of hits in their career, and they have also performed elsewhere in the Latin America, United States and also Europe.

According to Wikipedia they perform típico and cumbia music. Unfortunately I can not find anything more on típico than that it is traditional Panamanian music. Cumbia on the other hand I have already mentioned in my most recent blog post (if you do not count this one obviously) about Colombian music. Cumbia is a music genre from Colombia. It is very popular in the Latin America and has taken different forms in different countries. Cumbia is traditional music style and many traditional instruments can be heard on cumbia music, different kinds of drums in particular.

The song I selected from Samy and Sandra is called Lindo Querer. The title means 'Beautiful Desire' or something along those words. It was released in 2013. You can strongly hear the traditional sound in this song, and particularly the drums and the accordion sound out strongly (I usually dislike accordion, but here for once it sounds nice). The song is lots of fun and brings a carnival into my mind. It is very colourful and happy song. I must admit that I tend to favour more modern music styles, but this is one of the traditional music styles that I really enjoy.

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