Last year around this time we were asked to make predictions for the upcoming year. One of my predictions had to do with Spanish Reggae. The popularity of Spanish Reggae in 2007 led me to believe that 2008 would be its year. Sadly, to fans of the genre, more of the same happened. Good Spanish Reggae releases went under the radar with poor distribution and very little press. However, Spanish Reggae still boils in the underground. There were some solid releases by some groups and last summer witnessed one of the biggest Spanish Reggae and Ska festivals ever to hit Los Angeles, with groups coming all over Latin America to perform at it.
I spoke with Amoeba employee Eric Vidal, who works in Amoeba’s Reggae section, about what he thought about the current state of Spanish Reggae and where it’s heading.
So was this the year for Spanish Reggae?
EV: Yeah, more people are into it, not huge amounts of people, but more people than before.
What are the new people like?
EV: Definitely more Raza is into it, especially the younger conscious crowd. Older Spanish rock heads are into it, coming from artists like Manu Chao and Todos Tus Muertos, and Raza who are into hip-hop and obviously people who are into Jamaican Reggae.
Who were your favorite Spanish Reggae artists this year?
EV: Alika, for sure. The new Gondwana was pretty tight. I also like the CD from Riddim. Locally, bands like Quinto Sol, Pachamama and Umoverde held it together, mixing Reggae with like Cumbia and Salsa. It makes it easier for people who cannot identify with roots music unless it’s fused with music that Raza is familiar with.
So what is slowing the progression of Spanish Reggae?
EV: No distribution. Everybody knows the artists but no one can get the releases. Also, it’s hard for the bands to come to the U.S. to tour. On top of that, other than Raza, no one else is really into the music. It doesn’t have crossover appeal to people who don’t speak Spanish.
Any last words on the subject?
EV: Bands like Quinto Sol are making it possible for Spanish Reggae bands to perform in Los Angeles. They are great promoters as well as a great band. Word is that they might be releasing CD’s by some Spanish Reggae groups locally. They have recorded with Alika, so watch out for that soon, as well as their own album and a Pachamama CD as well.