Central America, a narrow, mountainous, and largely impoverished stretch of land spanning seven countries, is a surprising and under-exposed Latin American musical hot zone. The region’s tumultuous history has led to a fascinating mix of cultural influences – Spanish conquistadors, British pirates, and American banana companies have at one time or another vied for power. Add to this mix presence of large indigenous enclaves, Anglo-Caribbean migrants, the Afro-Arawak Garifuna people, and the many musical influences of the Caribbean, and you have the makings of a very interesting musical tapestry. Salsa and merengue, soca and calypso, reggae and reggaeton – it all comes together in Central America. In Part 1 of our program, we visit Panama, a little known musical treasure trove. Here on the ithmus, music from around the Americas mixed together in a unique stew: North American, Cuban, Colombian, and Jamaican influences combine to form a complex and unique musical culture. We’ll hear interviews from Spanish reggae star Kafu Banton, Afro-Spanish linguist John Lipski, traditional Afro-Latino princess Marcia Rodriguez, dancehall youngbloods Los Rakas, and many more.
Listen to The Panama Beat on Afropop.org