The African influence in Latin music is everywhere and it’s undeniable. From cumbia, to mambo, from samba to candombe, from rumba to even tango and son jarocho, pretty much all dance music rhythms that originated in Latin America had some level of blackness in them. Everybody knows of old school Afro-Latin icons like Celia Cruz, Joe Arroyo, Rubén Rada, Susana Baca or Compay Segundo, who helped shape the soulful side of our musical roots. But here at Remezcla we wanted to compile this black-n-proud list focusing more on the new generation, the current wave of Afro-Latin artists who in many cases are more influenced by hip-hop, reggae, dancehall, funk and other modern styles that originated in the English-speaking end of the African diaspora, but still they add to that some of their Latin identity and flavor.
This list is not meant to be taken as a definitive catalog or the ultimate top ten modern Afro-Latin songs or anything like that, such task would be impossible to achieve in such a limited format. It’s simply a collection of examples that we found to represent the current trends and somehow incorporate the topic of black identity and heritage in the lyrics. Now say it loud!
10. “Negro Guerrero”
by Yó M.C. Youalli G
Believe it or not. Mexico comes in all shapes and colors. In the North, you’ll find many pale Mexicans including in rural towns and regions, otherwise known as güeros de rancho. Then, of course you have a large amount of indigenous population located in the south, the coast, and the Caribbean side of the country. What many don’t know is that there’re large quantities of African people too, yeah call them Blaxicans or more appropriately Afro-Mexicans. It’s la tercera raíz, so get familiar.
Youalli G, an Afro-Mexican, is an M.C. from the coastal state of Guerrero (which awesomely translates to warrior), and in this rap song “Negro Guerrero,” he rhymes about the multi-racialness of his hometown and the pride he has about being black. -IR
09. “Africa Landó”
Novalima has exposed the rich culture of Afro-Peruvian music to the world like nobody else before, reaching out of the hermetic “world music” niche. Most of their songs’ lyrics however are more about the lifestyle of old time country folk than explicitly about Blackness as an identity.
This one, however, tells the story of an African slave brought to South America by the Spaniards during the Colony and all the suffering she had to go through in her life. As sad as those stories always are, they always end with people dancing to the rhythm of the drums, and well, hundreds of years later we still dance to them. -JD
Orishas, the Cuban hip hop quartet who took it’s name after a deity represented in Yoruba culture, proudly encompasses the rich and dynamic diversities of their country.
“Represent,” which perhaps the most popular track of them all but a well fit about their roots, highlights everything from its Afro music like rumba, son, guaguancó, to the spiritual practices and notable figures such as Changó, Obatala, and others that are predominantly practiced among its Afrocuban community. Cuba, hey tu música… -IR
07. “Sr. Tempo Bom”
by Thaide & DJ Hum
There’re thousands of song about Black pride in Brazil, the second country with the largest Black population in the world, after Nigeria. This one might seem like an odd choice to most, but it’s my personal favorite.
Thaide is like the ultimate patriarch of São Paulo’s hip-hop and here he raps an ode to his roots as a kid, the seventies pre-hip-hop scene of funk and soul, known in Brazil simply as “Black Music” (in English, but with and invisible y pronounced at the end of black, like “blacky”).
In his verses he name-drops all the pioneers of that golden age of Afro-Brazilian soul: Jorge Ben, Tim Maia, Toni Tornado, etc, all this over a sample of a Motown classic. -JD
06. “De Donde Vengo Yo”
Quibido, the city capital of Chocó is a beautiful coastal place where it rains like.All.The.Time. And because of it, the town blooms with rich minerals and vegetation to the max. Unfortunately, like the case of many developing areas, the fruitfulness of the area doesn’t get invested within its own community.
“De Donde Vengo Yo” is the track that won over the hearts of everyone including the elites of the music industry, actually giving them a Grammy for it, and very well deserved (but funny how this whole Grammy thing works). The video highlights the town, which is also about 85% black, and there you see ChocQuibTown singing with much pride and reemphasize that things ain’t easy, much auto-discrimination occurs in their hood, but they’re still happy. -IR
05. “Humor Negro”
There’s a tacit agreement in comedy that says that only Black people can get away with telling racist jokes about Black stereotypes and be funny. Spain’s rap pioneer Frank-T takes that to the extreme on this sort of stand-up rap where he basically lists each and every one of those jokes.
But he’s not trying to be funny really, he’s claiming them back before anybody else can use them against him and his community. He’s not trying to debunk those stereotypes either, he’s like “yeah, I know them all, tell me something else now.” -JD
by Tego Calderón
This song takes you way back when reggaetonero master Tego Calderón made his debut with El Abayarde, and what became known as his alias. Loíza is a small town and municipality where Tego is from which is predominantly black, and where the Black slaves resided centuries back during its colonization.
The song itself is a critique at the lack of awareness and education there’s been in the town, stating that many of its people traded their slave chains for handcuffs. But the track itself is empowering rhyming, “poco a poco, negrito ponte mañoso, vive orgulloso, del to’ poderoso como nosotros.” -IR
by El Chojín
I’ve encountered many Latinos out there who are dead scare of calling somebody “negro” and they use silly euphemisms, or they lower their voice when saying it in public, thus inevitably charging the word with even more of a negative stigma.
El Chojín says it loud and clear: “Negro, use the word without fear, visualize it, look at me and call me Negro.” There’s absolutely nothing implicitly negative in the word itself and it’s time for negros to use it with pride and all others to use it with respect. Simple as that. -JD
02. “Da Pa Lo Do”
by Rita Indiana
We’ve stated that Rita Indiana is on the ‘racial razor edge’ and we’re definitely missing her since she went on sabbatical from performing and moved on to the scholarly world. One thing that’s for certain is that this Dominican alt merengue queen doesn’t shy around with weak contexts of any sort.
“Da Pa Lo Do” tackles the centuries old contention between the Dominican Republic and Haiti, saying that the island of Hispaniola is big and fruitful enough to “dar para los dos.” It plays well with many of the situations and difficulties that in Latino America and the black population face. Whether it’s her metaphor as la Virgen, or her possible black face, Rita Indiana gives us new alternate meanings and possibilities regarding color, race and borders. -IR
01. “Acá Estamos”
by Various Artists
[Argentina & Beyond]
Argentina might seem like the last place you expect a song about Black pride to come out from. It’s true that it’s the most predominantly white and Eurocentric country in Latin America and that the surviving descendants of the African slaves brought by the Spanish colony probably account for less than 1% of the population, but the few that are there are quite vocal. This multiple-artist international collaboration against racism was put together by a Argentine non-profit that represents the African diaspora in the white-washed pampas.
Reggae toaster Fidel Nadal is by far the most internationally famous Afro-Argentinian and he opens the track and leads with the chorus. He’s later joined by a bunch of MC’s from all over the place, including Juan Sativo from Chile’s Tiro De Gracia, El Chojín from Spain, Leeva (that’s Dante Spinetta‘s little brother) obviously from Argentina, and from the United States Public Enemy‘s Chuck D and Cypress Hill/Ritmo Machine‘s Eric Bobo in percussion. -JD