I’ve been personally looking forward to this post for the past couple of week. As I was making my Panama playlist on Spotify, I suddenly realized how great of a playlist this is. There were actually two bands I knew of that I didn’t realize were from Panama. So, let’s talk about how this all came to be.
Panama’s music is a representation of several different musical styles. Many genres that are popular in South America (especially Colombia), Central America, and the Caribbean are also popular here. Merge that with African, American, and some European influences, and you truly come up with mixing pot of great music. Many of these styles have corresponding dances that accompany them. Movement is often an integral part of music. Some of the more common genres played in Panama include cumbia, congo, saloma, mejorana, tamborito, salsa, tipico, calypso, and jazz.
Although it depends on the style, there are quite a few instruments you’ll hear in Panamanian music. Like in the broader sense of Latin music, percussion remains an integral part of the music. And they tend to make use of a variety of different kinds of percussive instruments like xylophones, marimbas, castanets, clappers, drums, etc. You’ll also hear accordions, guitars, pianos, violins, and other modern instruments. Vocal music, by both males and females, has long been a strong tradition.
Modern styles like reggae (or reggae en español), reggaeton, and rock (or rock en español) are especially popular in Panama. Although these styles were generally based on a number of regional musical styles, they merged with other local styles and created their own version of it. I listened to quite a few musicians on Spotify, so here’s my take on what I sampled:
There were basically a few genres that I listened to. But let’s start with rock. First of all, a few years ago, I discovered the band Los Rabanes (probably through some Spotify suggestion or something). I absolutely loved listening to their album Kamikaze. I played the hell out of that album. In a way, they kind of remind me of 311 or Sublime. It’s a fun album. Others I discovered include Cage9 (hard rock, and they sing in English. Love these guys), Los 33 (rock, kind of reminds me of some of the other rock en español bands I’ve come across), and Out-Reazon (pretty good punk rock, in the style of MXPX or Rise Against).
Now, I’m a fan of reggae and its variations, like dancehall. Panama has a number of reggae and reggaeton musicians who I really enjoyed. El General, Nando Boom, Latin Fresh (more of a hip-hop dancehall style), Kafu Banton (who I think sounds like Buju Banton at times – he even named himself after him), Aldo Ranks, and Flex are some that I especially liked.
Of course when I comes to more of a Latin pop style, I’ve known Factoria for a while; I just didn’t know they were from Panama. It's a little outdated now perhaps, but I still like the song "Todavia." Makano is another musician who I initially put in the pop category, but he kind of crosses over in the reggaeton category. His song “Te Amo” was super popular.
Up next: the food