Mon, Aug 21, 2006 - Page 13 News List

Fresh acts help reggaeton reach new audiences


Mach & Daddy are Panama-based brothers who blended bachata, soca, dance hall, vallenato and other Caribbean rhythms into reggaeton on their 2005 debut Desde Abajo.

Even for hard-core reggaeton followers, Mach & Daddy must seem like a breath of fresh air in a genre known for its hard-core, hip-hop flavored rhythms.

"What makes us stand apart is our tropical seal, which is different than the Puerto Rican reggaeton where they blend in more R&B and hip-hop," Martin "Daddy" Machore said in distinctively Panamanian Spanish. "In contrast, our reggae is from Panama, (and) has a definite Caribbean flavor and happier rhythms because we're from the coast. So we have that in our blood."

Just being from Panama would be enough to set Mach & Daddy apart from the reggaeton pack, which by and large is from Puerto Rico. There are contrasts, and even a competitive spirit, between the two.

While Panama is grudgingly recognized as reggaeton's place of origin, Puerto Rico is the undisputed commercial capital of the genre.

In the late 1980s, Panamanian singer El General planted the seeds of what later would become known as reggaeton. In El General's day, it was called cumbia salsa, reggae cumbia and a few other terms that never stuck.

What did stick were the irresistible rhythms that got fans on the dance floor. The music survived underground for almost two decades before Daddy Yankee and Tego Calderon exploded on the scene in early 2004.

Mach & Daddy's first single, La Botella, established their signature sound. It's a fun dance tune fueled by brisk percussion, carnavalesque keyboards and the brothers' smooth vocal harmonies.

"La Botella is about a boy who has been betrayed. He's singing about being in pain and wants to drown his sorrows at the bottom of a bottle," Machore said. "We picked the theme because it is so common with people. To us, we felt it would be easier for people to sing along to."

But, Machore said, they tried to lighten the song.

"So the focus would not be on the dark lyrics, we added soca and other party rhythms to liven it up," he said.

Mach & Daddy may seem like a new name, but like many other "new" acts, the brothers have been hustling for years. Pedro "Mach" Machore said he had been singing long before the duo came together in 1997. His brother was already playing piano in their father's band.

"But then the moment came when I said, `Why not form a duo, you and me?'" Pedro Machore said. "And since then we've been working, writing songs and doing a thousand things to try to get the music of Panama out there, real far."

In the expanding universe of reggaeton, new blood is needed to keep the movement fresh. New rhythms and new fusions are what any style of music needs to survive.

Only two years old, reggaeton has begun suffering from the same growing pains that affect other music styles.

When reggaeton hit its first peak in 2005, there were many complaints of stale radio playlists and repetitive sound-a-like tunes. But having too few artists and only a dozen or so hits is simply one of the challenges facing any growing genre.

Yet things are looking up.

Glance at the Latin rhythm album charts in Billboard magazine and one can spot almost a half-dozen new duos and artists who were not there months ago, names such as Rakim & Ken-y, Wisin & Yandel, Voltio, Angel & Khriz.

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