Photo by Amanda Lopez
One of my favorite experiences digging popular music from around the world is when I come across a local version of a style I'd been discovering from a distance. The music, being from a place that I and the creator both call home, suddenly makes the foreign and unfamiliar seem like something that "belongs" to me as well.
I visited Panama last year just before Carnaval, a perfect time to absorb the latest hits vying for plays and attention in the upcoming festivities. A few months after I returned from my trip, entranced by the diverse Latin-Caribbean sounds of Panamanian music, I attended San Francisco's local Carnaval festival. There I came across the duo Los Rakas performing a bi-lingual mix of Northern California Hyphy Hip Hop meets Central American Isthmus Reggae en Español. It was the perfect stimulant for my state of mind at the time.
Since then I've been lucky to catch the Panama born cousins perform their high energy show on several occasions including last week when they made an appearance at the high school I work at in San Francisco for a Youth Speaks spoken word event. Their music and appearances are not only helping to redefine the local definition of Latin music, but are exposing many people to the existence of an Afro-Latino community that's not always visible in the Bay Area. Their fresh take on local Hip Hop are what make them in my opinion one of the top groups on the West Coast. For a taste, check out a song from their newest mix CD Panabay Twist 2: La Tanda del Bus:No Dicen Na-Los Rakas
You can also hear a remix of that song by Austrian superstar producer Stereotyp over here. Stream the full album on their website, and buy it for $5 (or whatever else you're willing to pay.) You can also listen to and purchase their previous mix CD as well as unreleased tracks from the last two years.