Far from clichés and other stereotypes, the documentary “Reggaeton Theory” traces the origins, social struggles and feminism inherent in reggaeton. Immersed in this genre of music that has become a real culture.
An intoxicating rhythm, sensual fluctuations and a festive atmosphere. This is the image you no doubt have of reggaeton, one of the most listened to music genres in the world, which has been experiencing scintillating growth for several years. That reputation alone, however, is reductive.
A documentary film produced by five passionate Romands wants to do justice to this music and reggaeton culture. Filmed in France and Switzerland, and written by José Tipphauer, Victor Santos Rodriguez and Stefan Renna, “Reggaeton Théorie” gives a voice to key players in the genre to deconstruct the prejudices that surround it.
A music that carries struggles
Coming from reggae and shaped by the musical rhythm of dembow, reggaeton was born in Panama in the 1980s before settling in the ghettos of Puerto Rico. Its growing popularity in Latin America quickly exposed the social reality of Afro-descended, disadvantaged and often despised communities.
“It’s music that comes from working-class neighborhoods, that was created by Afro-descended populations. However, Latin America is not immune to anti-Black racism and classism. The intersection of these two discriminations explains why the music was quickly categorized as The Music of the Wild, explains José Tipphauer, aka Geos, one of the documentary’s producers and a contributor to RTS. Political campaigns in Puerto Rico at the time tried to blame reggaeton for to blame for the many crimes that took place in the rooms where the music was produced, but it was obviously not reggaeton that produced these crimes, but music, like rap, which is stigmatized very quickly.
>> To watch: the documentary “Reggaeton Theory: What if we take reggaeton seriously?”
A dazzling development
Despite this original stigma, reggaeton has enjoyed resounding success for a decade. Among the most streamed artists in the world in recent years we find Puerto Rican Bad Bunny and Colombian J Balvin. The big international stars are also trying to join the genre; They team up with reggaetoneros and try their hand at Spanish singing.
“Reggaeton Théorie” also returns to the militant and committed component of the music genre. In 2019, for example, reggaeton played a role in the resignation of Ricardo Rossello, the governor of Puerto Rico. Artists Bad Bunny and Residente, among others, took part in the mobilization against homophobic and sexist statements made by the governor of the Caribbean island.
The perreo, sometimes seen as a dance that translates a dominance relationship between men and women, is now used as a space for body reappropriation and women’s emancipation.
From misogyny to feminism
A high place of masculinity and virile performance, reggaeton was built on imaginary codes and heavily sexist lyrics – an aspect that the documentary does not evade. But “Reggaeton Théorie” also shows how reggaetoneras are increasingly taking over this space and turning established norms upside down. The reggaeton industry is changing. And while sexuality and sensuality remain important in the industry, they are now being claimed by women like reggaetoneras Ms Nina, Anita Kirppis and La Zowi, who appear in the documentary.
“Reggaeton also enlivens egalitarian and militant productions,” analyzes co-producer Victor Santos Rodriguez. perreo, sometimes seen as a dance translating a strong dominance relationship between men and women, is used as a space for body reappropriation and emancipation. There are quite a number of people today who are considering that perreo as an eminently subversive and feminist act.”
Reggaeton in western Switzerland
Proof of the success of reggaeton, the music genre is also spreading to western Switzerland. “This neo-feminist, underground or alternative wave that Anita Kirppis belongs to brings reggaeton into spaces that were completely hermetic to him,” states José Tipphauer. This is the case of La Gravière in Geneva. Mrs. Nina, at the Pride in Geneva. A few years ago it would have been unthinkable to switch from reggaeton to Pride.”
The documentary “Reggaeton Théorie” was directed by Julien Girardin and Ishika Ladd and produced by José “Geos” Tipphauer, Victor Santos Rodriguez and Stefan Renna.
He is freely available on YouTube. After the summer, a public screening is planned at a cultural center in Geneva.
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