Building On the Legacy of Panamanian Romantic Style, Boza Is One to Watch

Photo by Basilio Silva.

Reggaeton is hotter than ever. And for the first time in 30 years, Panamanians are staking a major comeback with icons like Sech selling out El Choli in Puerto Rico, El Chombo setting the record straight regarding reggaeton and dancehall en español’s histories, and Los Rakas getting their due shine at the Latin Grammy Awards. The isthmus is known for its role in being the first to grow and foster so-called “urbano,” creating the Spanish-language iterations of genres like reggae, dancehall, and reggaeton

Today, the new wave of artists is making their mark on the Latine music scene without forgetting their roots, which includes Panamanian romantic style. As sad girl and boy music takes over the mainstream themes in the market, it’s important to remember the very first wave of fusing amorous anthems stapled in reggae to the upbeat and sexier than ever genre influencing generations of perreo in opportune party-corners worldwide. It is truly a historical moment, as Panama’s legacy is stronger than ever — an overdue and legendary height that Boza is now building upon. 

Humberto Ceballos, popularly known as Boza, has been crafting his individuality and artistic innovation while making serial attempts at joining the legacy of Panama’s romantic style. At merely 24 years old, the reggaeton sensation is cementing his mark in el movimiento with his poetic and soft-spoken lyrical approach. In a conversation with Remezcla over Zoom, the hitmaker details, “I always strive to have a connection with the fans so that they identify themselves with my music.” 

Boza’s creative process requires him to create in a way that naturally translates what he is feeling in the moment. “It’s what I like to prioritize,” he says about making trends not just out of his current feelings but strategically in a manner that parallels the many emotions of the world. When asked how he hopes to make an impact on the musical landscape — considering all of the politically intense events going on in the world — the star responds optimistically. “Feel-good music is important, but also music that allows you to escape with intention can be powerful,” Boza says, recognizing the impact of his carefully written lyrical sagas.

Boza set the bar high for himself with 2020’s “Hecha Pa’ Mi,” buzzing particularly on the airwaves of Panama, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Miami, and beyond. The romantic achieved the éclat of this sonic caliber in his latest project, Bucle. The 13-song album amounted to a compilation of solo tracks that fused afrobeat, dancehall, and reggaeton into a neo-reggaeton fusion of popular music or popetón. The freshman artist scored impressive features with reggaeton savants on the rise like Lunay, Lenny​ Tavarez, Juhn El Allstar, and Beele on his “Ella (Remix).”

To be able to influence culture is a privilege — one that Boza is still finding his groove in. Bucle is somewhat of a start in that direction, with songs like “San Andres,” “Haciendo El Amor,” and “Parrafo” challenging what lately seems like a standardized pop formula in el movmiento. Boza adequately pushes the envelope by successfully and strategically structuring the flows, sounds, and length of songs in the ways he did, which is impressive for three songs that are entirely different genres. On the contrary, numbers like “Tick Tock” and “Por Ti” were temperate in their lyrical quality and their trivial instrumentality overshadows any opportunity for nuance.

Adding your grain of sand to the beach that is a forever evolving, popular, and competitive reggaeton market today is difficult for many reasons. The list of requirements artists must meet to exemplify even the most basic levels of professionalism grows daily, leaving artists to balance artistry and industry in ways unforeseen. Considering Boza’s aptitude, it would be great to see him expand even further in his particular niche. With the world finally ready to consume the Panamanian musical sauce in the way that only Panamanians can provide, Boza can set a precedent in el movimiento. His technique is undeniable, his voice is sexy, and his hustle is grand; he is well on his way to a space of contemporary eminence.

“In Panama, there are a ton of Jamaicans. A lot of people don’t understand our culture fully. Some will not understand the weight of saying ‘baybee’ versus ‘baby.’ It hits differently.”

Nonetheless, Boza’s artistic process exists at a very rare intersection. As the demand for nostalgia for “los tiempos de antes” or “the way reggaeton was before” increases, the Panama native has the advantage of incorporating his essence: authentic rap flows and West-Indian fused banter. “In Panama, there are a ton of Jamaicans. A lot of people don’t understand our culture fully,” he says with a laugh. “Some will not understand the weight of saying ‘baybee’ versus ‘baby.’ It hits differently.”

From songs dominating the charts internationally to learning to not concern himself with queer matters to assuring his best representation of Panama as a proud novice ambassador of the culture, Boza is quickly solidifying himself as one to watch. Any artist who attempts to be an agent of change should actively recognize all that comes with evolution. And Boza does so with a keen sense of self.