Some of you might hate reggaetón; I don’t. But however you may feel about it, there’s no denying that it’s an authentic expression of a 21st century Puerto Rican and Caribbean Latino culture, in which American rap, Jamaican dancehall and all sorts of other influences have been mixed into the proverbial musical sancocho. For Puerto Ricans it held the mirror up to a new, urban, multicultural reality, with all the swagger and guille of a new generation hell bent on making itself heard. But don’t be mistaken, this is nothing new.
A new doc by New York-bred filmmaker Mathew Ramirez Warren titled We Like it Like That, takes a look back at the original urban Puerto Rican sound: bugalú. Coming off the heels of the mambo generation in the early 60s, boogaloo was like a Nuyorican punk rock, where snot-nosed kids from the rough-and-tumble New York barrios banged away haphazardly on their instruments and created a sound that reflected their melting pot reality. It was Latin, it was African-American, it was mambo con soul, and their parents hated it.
Now, in the wake of renewed interest in the genre — with more and more self-professed boogaloo conjuntos popping up around New York and beyond — Ramirez Warren sat down with some of the most illustrious musicians of that great, but often forgotten generation, including Richie Ray, Jimmie Sabater and Afro-Filipino bad boy, Joe Bataan.
While all we have to whet our palette in the lead up to the doc’s world premiere at this year’s SXSW is a trailer, we get a pretty good idea of the story Ramirez Warren has set out to tell: bugalú was the controversial voice of a new generation, despised by its mambo forebears and stamped out by the record companies, but not after a few glorious, chart-topping years that even saw Tito Puente begrudgingly banging out a 1-2 backbeat.
From the looks of the clip, we can likely expect yet another interview/archival footage PBS-style doc. Admittedly, it’s too early to tell, but one hopes the filmmaker was just as bold with his film as the the boogaloo generation was with their music.