Tuesday, May 15, 2018

From Billboard and  Bad Bunny/Hear This Music

As a Boriqua and as a lover of music, it's been an exciting two weeks for me! My strongest connection to my culture has been through music. I grew up on salsa, particularly the Fania All Stars. As a child of the 90s I also had the songs of La India, Marc Anthony, Victor Manuel and others in my ears. My middle school years are filled with memories of riding in the back of my sister's Toyota Corolla as she played Ivy Queen, Wisin y Yandel, Daddy Yankee, Don Omar and others. With a new generation of stars to serve as the soundtrack of our young lives with the likes of Cardi B, Ozuna, Karol G, Bad Bunny and others, I told myself this was a moment for my youth that I needed to partake in. That's when these two opportunities 

First, I took on the opportunity to volunteer for Billboard's Latin Music Conference. This year's conference took place at the Venetian in Las Vegas, which is honestly a place I didn't have much interest in going on my own, but I live my life welcoming where the wind would blows me and it's been quite an adventure. Artists like Ozuna, Maluma, Karol G, Becky G, Bad Bunny, Pitbull and more spoke on panels, emerging talents showcased their chops with performances in between panels, and industry c-suite executives shared their business intel with the crowd. There was even a dedicated panel to women in Latin music featuring artists and execs.

As they say, "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas," but I'll share a highlight of the week. My favorite evening was spent at Drai's nightclub for a performance by latin trap artist of the moment El Conejo Malo, Bad Bunny! I was surprised (because I had no prior idea of this venue) to see the convenient set up Drai's had to accommodate concerts. Drai's is a beach club, but it made sense they had an elevated stage with the ceilings lit up with LED lights and videos. They have a T.I. residency this year, and bring in other artists throughout the year. The screens played images and colors that matched the songs Bad Bunny was performing, i.e. green for "Krippy Kush," images of Michael Jordan flashing for "Me Acostumbre," etc. It was the first concert in a long time that I had spent the night singing along to every word. 
It was such a fun night to see Bad Bunny in Vegas, I knew I needed to finally take my first trip (even if it was a very short one) to my motherland of Borinken, to see the island and catch Bad Bunny's Trap Kingz concert. And what a night it was! First of all, he performed three hours straight. This concert, his first in PR after the original had to be rescheduled because of Hurricane Maria, was a monumental homecoming for Bad Bunny. All that they we're using to advertise the evening with was, "You know he's not coming alone." And he did not. Bad Bunny at first brought out rappers of his own generation and genre: Bryant Myers, De La Ghetto, Ñengo Flow, Ozuna, etc. and as the night continued rappers continued to grace the stage getting more and more surprising as the evening went along including the likes of Arcangel, Wisin y Yandel, J Balvin, Nicky Jam, Daddy Yankee, Prince Royce, and many others.... Bad Bunny performed the vast majority of his catalog of hits, leaving only a few unperformed. I personally lost it hearing, "Solita" live. At one point, I doubted if this was live, but his tiredness became visible in his still very well delivered performance. 

Of course, as a woman in music being at the Trap Kingz concert with Natti Natasha being the only woman musician being on stage during the evening is no surprise, but still disappointing. Latin Music, which is no news to anyone, remains LARGELY for the boys and for non-black Latinos. Even at the 20th anniversary of los Premios Billboards, not a single woman won an award that evening, and the only two nominated were J.Lo and Shakira. Under capitalist framework, Bad Bunny's concert attendance was largely women, which exemplifies that it is women who make up a substantial amount of those paying for musical experiences (digital, live and otherwise) yet they remain highly under represented as artists, producers, creators, etc. 

Can we get a latino musical movement with people of color, women? If not we're just doing the same as gringos and replicating white supremacy.

Musically yours,

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