Play Live Radio
Next Up:

21 Days of Musica Latina: Panama

Rubén Blades
Courtesy of the artist
Rubén Blades

Editor's Note: To commemorate Hispanic Heritage Month this year, World Cafe is going on a musical tour of Latin America. Every weekday from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, we'll spotlight the music of a different Latin American country with a curated playlist of essential tracks, fresh voices and wild cards.

The origin of one of Latin America's greatest musical exports is still contested to this day, but Panama has a strong claim as the birthplace of reggaeton.

Some experts say the musical style began as a meeting of cultures in Panama City. Throught the '70s and '80s, immigrants from the West Indies brought reggae and dancehall rhythms to the country, and Panamanian artists like El General and Renato added a bombastic swagger to the music that drew in audiences across Latin America. This mix also includes the likes of La Atrevida, aka Rude Girl, who helped pioneer the reggaeton sound but is seldom credited.

Then, there's one of Panama's most beloved multi-hyphenate stars, Rubén Blades. The salsa and Latin jazz musician is also an actor, lawyer and politician. He's won 11 Grammy Awards and 12 Latin Grammy Awards for his work, which has infused salsa with a sense of social consciousness.

The playlist also includes plenty of tropical funk and folk rhythms from bands like Entre Nos, MecániK InformaL and Los Rabanes.

Enjoy, and make sure you come back tomorrow to find out where World Cafe's headed next.

Copyright 2023 XPN

Miguel Perez
Miguel Perez is a radio producer for NPR's World Cafe, based out of WXPN in Philadelphia. Before that, he covered arts, music and culture for KERA in Dallas. He reported on everything from the rise of NFTs in the music industry to the enduring significance of gay and lesbian bars to the LGBTQ community in North Texas.