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Ah, one of my fave topics.
The Music Of Africa, By Way Of Latin America By Felix Contreras

Joe Cuba did it with two words: “Bang Bang!” Or maybe he did it with the song’s chorus, which sings the praises of down-home soul food: “corn bread, hog mawl and chiterlin’s.”

Whatever it was, the combination of Afro-Cuban groove and R&B backbeat moved way beyond Joe Cuba’s home turf of El Barrio in Harlem to the rest of the country — and even back to the Caribbean.

It was called boogaloo, and it was an organic, cross-cultural musical reflection on how Afro-Latinos in this country have one foot in both cultures.

In the most simple definition of the term, Afro-Latinos are Dominican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Panamanian, Colombian, Venezuelan; descendants of people who are from anywhere that had Spanish slave owners and African slaves.

For starters, let’s travel down to New Orleans, which many in the 19th century considered the northern-most port of the Caribbean. Can you imagine the rich musical exchanges in those port-side bars among freed slaves, Caribbean sailors and other musical adventurers?

Trumpeter Irvin Mayfield and percussionist Bill Summers did. In fact, in 1998, they formed a band called Los Hombres Calientes to play jazz that reflected possibly the first blast of Afro-Latino culture in this country: a mix of African rhythms, Caribbean instrumentation and New Orleans funk.

For starters, let’s travel down to New Orleans, which many in the 19th century considered the northern-most port of the Caribbean. Can you imagine the rich musical exchanges in those port-side bars among freed slaves, Caribbean sailors and other musical adventurers?

Trumpeter Irvin Mayfield and percussionist Bill Summers did. In fact, in 1998, they formed a band called Los Hombres Calientes to play jazz that reflected possibly the first blast of Afro-Latino culture in this country: a mix of African rhythms, Caribbean instrumentation and New Orleans funk.

The latest expression of Afro-Latino culture is the best-selling song on iTunes this week.

It’s a reggaeton tune called “Virtual Diva,” and it’s by a young Afro-Latino who calls himself Don Omar.

Reggaeton was actually born among Afro-Latinos in Panama, made its way to the streets of San Juan and finally found arguably its most creative expression here in the U.S.

Even if you don’t understand the lyrics, you can hear the influence of hip-hop and rap, which have become the lingua franca of Afro-Latinos, African-Americans and just about anyone under the age of 25 in the rest of the world.

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