Various Artists

La Conquista

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The reggaeton phenomenon of the 2000s was not the first time that Latin artists combined a reggae influence (specifically, the influence of dancehall reggae) with Spanish lyrics; back in the '70s, Panama saw a wave of reggae en español. Although that old-school Panamanian reggae included some toasting at times, it didn't sound very much like today's Don Omar, Tego Calderón, Ivy Queen, or Daddy Yankee recordings -- it was much softer, and the Panamanians who toasted back then were closer to classic dubwise (as in U-Roy, Big Youth, and King Tubby) than the more abrasive, in-your-face dancehall style that came later. Nonetheless, Panama was a crucial and historic player in the Latino/reggae connection -- it was the first Spanish-speaking country to embrace reggae in a huge way -- and it's nice to see Panama contributing to reggaeton on La Conquista. Assembled by Panama Music in Panama in 2006 and distributed by Universal Music Latino in the United States, this compilation takes a look at the Panamanian reggaeton scene. The artists on La Conquista -- who include Aldo Ranks, Mach & Daddy, Eddy Lover, JR Ranks, and la Factoria -- don't sound very much like the Panamanian reggae artists from back in the day. Their hard-edged blend of hip-hop, dancehall, and Latin music is much more forceful and abrasive. And at the same time, La Conquista is not a carbon copy of Puerto Rican reggaeton. Panamanians have a different accent, and South American influences are more likely to assert themselves on this CD; there is a definite cumbia influence, for example, on Aldo Ranks' "Las Pompas" and la Factoria's "La Pagaras." That is a reflection of geography; Panama is still Central America, but South America is nearby. For listeners who are interested in hearing a non-Puerto Rican take on reggaeton, La Conquista is well worth checking out.

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