News and Views by and about Black Latinos                         
Aisha Al-Muslim

Panamanian Reggae Vs. Puerto Rican Reggaeton

Posted on on January 31, 2009

Listen to the audio version of this story:

Reggaeton is a music phenomenon that has left its impact across the Spanish-speaking world. But right now there’s a tug of war going on between artists from Puerto Rico, who dominate reggaeton, and those from Panama—who feel they actually invented it.


Hundreds in the Panamanian community came out on a recent Saturday night to the Base Nightclub in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn to support their own Spanish reggae artists like King Blak, who has been recording since age 10.


Spanish Reggae sounds similar to Jamaican reggae or dancehall, except that it's mostly performed in Spanish. The genre was developed by Jamaican laborers who moved to Panama to help build the Panama Canal. They brought reggae with them from Jamaica.


Says King Blak, “We can’t say that we created reggae music because it was there already. Reggae music is reggae even if you sing it in Spanish, or English, or Chinese, or whatever language your speaking, but we was the first country to sing reggae in Spanish. 

Panamanian musicians like El General and Renato made Spanish reggae popular all over the world in the 1980’s. It’s different from reggaeton, a genre created in Puerto Rico that has more hip-hop beats. But in the United States, Puerto Rican artists dominate the airwaves.


According to King Blak, “Nobody is listening to the Panamanian music because they are not playing the Panamanian music in the radio like they play the Puerto Rican music. He adds that Puerto Rican performers have an easier time promoting their music here because they don’t have to deal with the hassle of applying for a visa. He credits Mexicans for opening the door for Panamanian artists such as DJ Flex, who is best known for his single, “Te Quiero,” Spanish for “I love you.”


Both the song and the album by the same name were number one on the Billboard’s Hot Latin Tracks and Top Latin Albums charts in the U.S. The single also won a Latin Grammy award for Best Urban Song. King Blak hopes that this means there will be more Panamanian songs on the radio from now on.



 Aisha Al-Muslim, a native of Panama City, is a graduate student at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism and a reporter for the New York City News Service. She can be reached at


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