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Reggae en Español (in English, Spanish Reggae) is reggae and dancehall music recorded in the Spanish language by artists of Latin American origin. It originated in the mid-1970s in Panama. Reggae en Español goes by several names: In Panama it is called La Plena.
Currently, Reggae en Español contains three main subgenres: reggae 110, reggae bultrón, and romantic flow. In addition, and although technically they would not fall into the category of Reggae en Español even though it derived from Jamaican dancehall rhythms, Reggae en Español also includes two music fusions: reggae soca and dancehall.
Reggae as a musical genre has its origins in Jamaica, and it became popular throughout the 1970s in the black-immigrant communities of the other British West Indies, North America, and Great Britain. Jamaican reggae was embraced in the Spanish-speaking world first in Panama by the descendants of black workers that immigrated to the Isthmus during the construction of the Panama Railroad (mid-19th century), the railways for the banana companies (late 19th century), and the Panama Canal (early 20th century). Prior to the period of construction of the Panama Canal (1904-1915), most of the Afro-Caribbean communities in Panama were of Jamaican descent, but with the construction of the canal these communities grew in diversity with immigrants from other parts of the Caribbean such as Jamaica, Barbados, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Trinidad, Dominica, French and British Guyana and other Caribbean Islands.
In 1977, a Guyanese immigrant who went by the nickname "Guyana", along with a local DJ known as "Wassabanga" introduced for first time the reggae rhythms in Panama with lyrics in Spanish. Wassabanga's music along with later interpreters such as Rastanini and Calito Soul, were perhaps the first remarkable cases of Reggae en Español, at a time when many Panamanians were already developing a musical and spiritual bond with the Mecca of reggae music (Kingston, Jamaica), a bond catalyzed mainly by the call to arms issued by the music of Bob Marley.
In 1984, Hernando Brin produced the first record in the world of Reggae in Spanish on vinyl, called Treadmit, composed by Calvin Calderon (Omega), Hactor Wakler, Erick Green (Gringo) and Hernando Brin (Super Nandi). The record was produced by record label Prodim in Panama, and it included the first song by Rastanini called "Padre Por Favor Educa a los Niños" (Father Please Educate the Children).
In the early-mid-1980s, Panamanians like Renato, El General, Nando Boom, El Maleante, and Chicho Man started to take Jamaican dancehall songs and beats, singing over them with Spanish lyrics, most of the time preserving the melodies and the rhythms. They also sped up riddims, and added Hispanic and Latino elements to them. This style was called Reggae en Español or "Spanish Reggae". The music continued to grow throughout the 1980s, with many stars developing in Panama.
Between the 1980s and 1990s, the Panamanian artist Chicho Man emerged as one of the greater exponents of Panamanian reggae. In his short five-year career as an artist, he introduced the "romantic" element in Spanish Reggae, and produced only one LP which included songs like "La Noche Que Te Conocí", "Lady in Red", "Llega Navidad", "Muévela", "No Quiero Ir a Isla Coiba" and "Un Nuevo Estilo". His songs were recorded in a warehouse, where a Panamanian producer called Calito LPD produced reggae instrumental tracks and recorded them in cassette. After serving a term in US prison he announced his withdrawal from the reggae scene to become a Christian preacher.
In the 1990s, the genre had grown in Panama. In 1996, came artists such as Aldo Ranks, El Renegado, Jam & Suppose who sang the hit "Camión Lleno de Gun". Jr. Ranks and Tony Bull already had good records with late singer Danger Man and they formed the musical group called The Killamanjaros. By the other side in the year 1991, the singer Apache Ness with Papa Chan, Kafu Banton, Calito Soul, Wassa Banga, and Original Dan decided to join forces and create the foundation "One Love One Blood" singing about urban street experiences under the rhythm called reggae bultrón.
Later in Panama, the romanticism had been mixed with the reggae and the reggae romántico ("romantic reggae"), now better known as romantic flow, was born. Those who keep alive the reggae with romantic lyrics are the following: Flex (aka Nigga), El Roockie, El Aspirante, Kathy Phillips, Eddy Lover, Tommy Real, Makano, Catherine, as well as groups like: Raíces y Cultura and La Factoría who became famous by the Panamanian producer Irving DiBlasio.
In 1996, considered the golden age of Panamanian reggae, appeared the productions Los Cuentos de la Cripta and La Mafia by the producer El Chombo, with songs like: "Las Chicas Quieren Chorizo" (The Girls Want Chorizo) by Wassabanga, "El Cubo de Leche" sung by Jam & Suppose and "Estaban Celebrando" by Aldo Ranks.