Latin Music USA


Hour 4: Divas & Superstars

Focuses on the Latin Pop explosion of the turn of the century and the success of artists like Ricky Martin, Gloria Estefan and Shakira in the English-language market. As studios concentrate on star-driven Pop, Latino youth gravitate toward urban fusions -- Spanish Rap and Reggaeton, as well as Rock en Espanol.

AIRED: October 18, 2009 | 0:54:21

SMITS: February 24, 1999--

the 41st Grammy Awards.

A young Puerto Rican pop star was scheduled to perform

his latest hit.

LEILA COBO: This was a big deal, because to this day,

they'd hate to have Latin acts perform in Spanish

at their Grammys.

They think that ratings drop

the minute you put another language in.

SMITS: Ricky Martin sang the opening lines in English.

♪ The cup of life, this is the one ♪

♪ Now is the time, don't ever stop... ♪

I just had a feeling all over.

It was goosebumps that something special was happening.

♪ Tienes que perear por una estrella ♪

♪ Consigue con honor la copa del amor ♪

♪ Para sobrevivir y luchar por ella ♪

♪ Do you really want it? ♪ Yeah! ♪

♪ Do you really want it? ♪ Yeah! ♪

♪ Here we go!

♪ Allez, allez, allez! ♪

COBO: That was such a kick-ass song.

I mean, what other song sounded like that then?

Nothing sounded like that.

I was there that night,

and the place went insane.

♪ Do you really want it? ♪ Yeah! ♪

♪ Do you really want it? ♪ Yeah! ♪

♪ Do you really want it? ♪ Yeah! ♪

♪ Yeah! Yeah! ♪

♪ Here we go...

Every star in those first five or ten rows,

I mean, they were fixated on him.

It was just fascinating.

(cheers and applause)

SMITS: Over the coming years,

a handful of artists and producers would take Latin music

into the heart of American culture.

But even as the Latin wave took hold, a new fusion of rhythms--

gritty, provocative, defiant--

began to emerge in cities across America.

♪ Mami el negro esta rabioso

♪ El quiere tu azucar y tu no se lo das... ♪

("Oye Como Va" playing)

♪ Oye como va mi ritmo ♪

♪ Bueno pa gozar, mulata ♪

(song continues)

(song continues)

(song ends, applause)

Funding for Latin Music USA

♪ I know you can't control yourself any longer ♪

♪ Feel the rhythm of the music getting stronger ♪

♪ Don't you fight it till you've tried it ♪

♪ Do the conga beat.

SMITS: The Latin music explosion was ignited

15 years before Ricky Martin's triumph by one song-- "Conga."

The creation of a Cuban-American band, the Miami Sound Machine,

"Conga" was a winning fusion that would define Latin pop

for decades to come.

♪ Come on, shake your body, baby, do the conga ♪

♪ I know you can't control yourself any longer ♪

♪ Feel the rhythm of the music getting stronger ♪

♪ Don't you fight it till you've tried it ♪

♪ Do the conga beat.

It never lost the base.

It had the timbales, the piano.

It did accomplish all these things in one song

that we were about-- that Latinos were striving for--

that American sound, but that had the Latino culture

underneath it.

SMITS: The man behind "Conga," Emilio Estefan,

arrived in Miami in the 1960s at the height of the Cuban exodus.

It was a time that we all had a lot of hopes, a lot of dreams,

but it was difficult because, you know...

especially for me it was very difficult,

because I came without my dad and my mom.

♪ Hora de rosa, amanecer... ♪

SMITS: Emilio found refuge in Miami's growing Cuban enclave--

300,000 strong in 1968.

He got a job in the mailroom of the Bacardi Corporation.

To make ends meet, he bought an accordion

and began playing at restaurants for tips.

EMILIO ESTEFAN: We needed the money so bad, but it was not about money.

It was the only thing that kept me alive,

being separated from my family.

I knew that was the only time I was happy,

when I used to play music.

♪ De mi para ti...

WILLY CHIRINO: One of the things we brought from Cuba, we brought music.

It helped us survive the early years,

and it helped us to keep us focused as to who we were.

SMITS: Emilio put together his own band, the Miami Latin Boys.

They played American covers, Brazilian bossa novas,

but mostly Cuban classics.

EMILIO ESTEFAN: I grew up with the congas and, you know,

the old syncopation about pianos and everything,

and I always wanted to keep that.

But I say, you know, "If we can do this in two languages,

"it will be a lot better,

"because I think that's who we are,

that's the Miami sound."

SMITS: Emilio had been looking for a girl who could sing in English

as well as Spanish when he met Gloria Fajardo.

GLORIA ESTEFAN: We ran into each other in a wedding.

We had met shortly before at a friend's house,

and he heard me sing on my guitar

from the folk masses and things, and he says, "I remember you.

Why don't you sit in with the band?"

So I sat in, sang a couple of songs.

♪ Feelings...

EMILIO ESTEFAN: I love her voice.

It has this warmth when she sings that is fantastic.

SMITS: He asked Gloria to join his band,

and before long, asked her to marry him.

With Gloria in the lead,

the Miami Latin Boys needed a new name.

We weren't boys anymore, and he thought,

"Okay, she's going to stay;"

we'd been there long enough for that, so we changed.

They gave us the "Sound Machine,"

the small local company that signed us.

We wanted to be just "Miami."

Hola villa Del Mar...

Miami Sound Machine...

SMITS: They played a fusion of American popular music--

rock and roll, funk and disco--

but always with Cuban rhythms at its heart.

(singing "Dingui-Li-Bangue")

SMITS: For five years, they toured constantly

throughout Latin America for CBS Records,

selling out venues to promoting their albums.

♪ Otra vez... ♪

SMITS: But Emilio could see beyond the grueling road trips

to success in the much bigger English-language market.

♪ Paging Dr. Beat... emergency! ♪

SMITS: And in 1984, he took a chance.

I went to the label all excited.

I said, "We have an English song that has all the beats."

They said they will never play this on radio.

♪ Doctor, I've got this feelin' deep inside of me... ♪

SMITS: "Dr. Beat" was put on the B-side

of a Sound Machine Spanish-language single,

but Emilio hand-delivered it to every DJ he knew

in clubs from Miami to New York.

♪ Won't you help me, Dr. Beat?

♪ Doctor, Doctor, Doctor Beat

♪ Can you help me, Doctor Beat? ♪


I liked that song. It was cute.

♪ Doctor, Doctor, Doctor Beat

SMITS: "Dr. Beat" jumped to number one in Miami.

Weeks later, it topped the charts in Europe.

EMILIO ESTEFAN: We went to Holland.

People went crazy in Holland.

They was dancing, jumping up and down.

The people wanted more.

I told Gloria, "Let's do a Cuban conga."

She said, "They will never understand this."

"They will!"

We played the Cuban conga-- people went crazy.

(conga music playing)

And that night, Gloria came out with the idea, said,

"Listen, we should record a conga with English lyrics."

SMITS: "Conga" was a true cultural hybrid--

a fusion ahead of its time.

♪ Everbody gather round now

SMITS: The beat-- resoundingly Cuban;

the lyrics-- an invitation for all to join in.

♪ Don't you worry if you can't dance ♪

♪ Let the music move your feet. ♪

SMITS: "Too Cuban for Americans and too American for Cubans,"

executives predicted.

"Good," replied Gloria, "because that's who we are."

EMILIO ESTEFAN: I was so excited with the piano

and the horns, and I mean, I went to Sony and Sony told me,

"This will never happen. You're totally crazy."

I was at CBS when Gloria was there and Emilio.

That's where we met for the first time,

and I remember going to the radio stations

and taking the "Conga" single

and they looked at me like, "What are you... what is this?"

SMITS: Emilio produced the video on a shoestring

with no help from the record label.

EMILIO ESTEFAN: My mom, my dad, my uncle, my aunt--

everybody's in the video.

My niece is in the video.

SMITS: "Conga" was a monster hit,

appearing on Billboard's Dance, R&B, and Hot 100 charts

all at the same time.

CHIRINO: There was this documentary on TV about Budapest,

and all of a sudden they had a shot of a disco in Budapest,

and what song was playing?


♪ Come on, shake your body, baby, do the conga. ♪

CHIRINO: This is unbelievable!

This is what we have done and what our music has achieved.

This is tremendous.

♪ O-eh-oh-eh

(cheers and applause)

♪ Oh-eh-oh-oh-ah

AUDIENCE: ♪ Oh-eh-oh-oh-ah

♪ O-eh-oh-eh

AUDIENCE: ♪ Oh-eh-oh-oh-eh

SMITS: For the music industry, it was an awakening.

Latin record sales had mostly been tabulated

in the tens of thousands,

but the Miami Sound Machine was selling albums in the millions.

♪ Rhythm is gonna get you

♪ Rhythm is gonna get you

♪ Rhythm is gonna get you

♪ Rhythm is gonna get you

BEHAR: Freddie Fender, Sam Sham and the Pharaohs--

they all had successful crossover ventures,

but Emilio and Gloria hit it out of the ballpark.

It was one hit after the next.

SMITS: Their success caught the attention of the new president

of Sony Music Entertainment, Thomas D. Mottola,

an influential record executive

with a reputation as a risk taker.

THOMAS D. MOTTOLA: In looking at Gloria and Emilio,

I saw an opportunity to take this great Miami sound

that they had come up with

and take it and make it into popular music

throughout the world.

♪ Get on your feet...

SMITS: The Estefans would anchor Mottola's Latin music venture.

Gloria would be his first star--

soon to be known as "the Queen of Latin Pop."

GEORGE: She made Hispanics hip.

She took them out of the barrio,

and Americans said, "Wow, you know what?

"They're all not just a bunch of people holding people up

"in elevators in the projects and breaking into cars.

They're pretty intelligent and it's great music."

So she gave it credibility.

She spoke in both languages.

She sung in both languages.

She's a very accessible woman.

She's very personable.

♪ I don't believe she knows you like I do ♪

♪ Your temperamental moody side... ♪

GEORGE: It gave the American record labels the impetus to say,

"Hey, you know what? There's a big business here,

and we're going to try to find other Gloria Estefans,"

and it put Latin music on the map in a big way.

SMITS: Miami broke open the Latin music market,

while New York, home to almost two million Latinos,

became for producers a hot house of talent.

LA INDIA: There was always music.

You start walking down the block

and you hear pop music at its best-- the '80s.

And then there was, like, salsa, and then you had jazz,

and then you had hip-hop.

SMITS: Enticed by the rich musical soundscape,

producer Sergio George aimed to revive salsa--

languishing since its heyday in the 1970s--

remaking it for a new generation raised on rock and roll,

R&B, and hip-hop.

GEORGE: There's no longer a hardcore salsero

out there in a big way-- not like before--

so I do have to try to get people who aren't salsa fans

by toning it down a little bit lyrically, musically,

where they can understand it.

♪ I can't get no sleep

♪ Your touch is making me weak

SMITS: Sergio George set his sights on a girl from the South Bronx--

Linda Caballero, known as "La India."

♪ You're the one I'm thinking of... ♪

LA INDIA: What was really popular at the time was freestyle music.

But I wasn't really happy

because I felt like I really needed the other side.

I really needed to cross over to my people.

SMITS: India gave up a promising career as a pop singer

to embrace her Puerto Rican roots.

Her first hit, "Dicen que Soy"-- "They Say I Am"--

was an early example of George's pop-inflected salsa.

SMITS: George went on to build on their success,

pairing La India in a duet

with another young Puerto Rican artist, Marc Anthony.

Go back, go back.

SMITS: Born in East Harlem in 1968, Marc Anthony spent his youth

around New York's housing projects.

Like India, he found success in freestyle

and then switched to salsa.

(singing in Spanish)

His first Spanish album, "Otra Nota"-- "On a Different Note"--

had been produced by Sergio George.

GEORGE: The Marc Anthony sound was a combination

of the hard-edge New York sound with the romantic stuff,

but with a more of a pop/R&B edge that these young artists

like La India and Marc had from the streets.

You're the man, buddy.

GEORGE: Le t's take it one more time.


We're going to take it again.

GEORGE: There was a sense of competition

where they wanted to outdo each other,

and it was a fun competition.

It wasn't like an animosity,

it was like "Put the track, I want to show her,"

"I want show him," that kind of thing.

♪ Desde una montaña alta, alta como las estrellas... ♪

You don't like that?

♪ Para soñar a tu lado que nuestro amor es eterno. ♪

That's as good as it gets.

SMITS: "Vivir Lo Nuestro"-- "To Live Our Love"--

united two of Latin music's most promising new voices.

I was more famous than him at the time.

Marc was skinny like a pasta and I was chunky like a meatball,

so we were like a spaghetti and meatball,

you know, looking at each other.

We're like "Yeah, all right, baby, let's sing."

♪ Como palomas libres, tan libres como el viento ♪

♪ Y vivir, vivir lo nuestro

♪ Y amarnos hasta quedar sin aliento soñar... ♪

GEORGE: The vocal interpretation that they brought to the table

nobody really had heard up to that point--

those kinds of riffs,

that kind of energy and power going through a track.

♪ Sin nadie que se oponga

♪ En que tu y yo nos amemos ♪

It's really amazing how much, you know,

a song could do for you.

"Vivir Lo Nuestro" just completely took us

to a different level,

and from there on we never had to look back.

♪ La, la, la, la, la, la ♪

SMITS: Marc Anthony and La India spearheaded a salsa revival

that brought Latinos and non-Latinos to dance floors

across America.

La India became a legend to Latinos everywhere.

LA INDIA: I was just hanging around with the big guys,

and whenever someone would say something about me,

I would either get too sensitive and cry

or I would knock them out

and come out in the news-- newspaper-- the next day.

I was considered very controversial.

MOTTOLA: India is one of the most fascinating voices

that I ever heard,

but I think those rhythms, those sounds,

are more narrow than the pop rhythms of Latin music.

Certainly, doing those rhythms with English,

you know, really wouldn't work.

(singing "Nadie Como Ella")

SMITS: Marc Anthony's career took off.

Honored with a Grammy for his album Contra la Corriente--

"Against the Tide"--

he would become the biggest- selling salsa performer

of all time.

COBO: He is just a fabulous singer.

He also happens to be incredibly charismatic on stage;

a very sexy guy, even though he's not great looking,

but very sexy, very charismatic.

♪ Wop, wop, wop, wop, wop

♪ Come with me...

SMITS: He was starring in Paul Simon's Broadway musical "The Capeman"

in 1998 when he came to the attention of Tommy Mottola.

♪ Dom, dom, dom, doo, well-a, well-a... ♪

MOTTOLA: I just was completely infatuated

with his whole sound, aura, and his golden voice.

SMITS: Tommy Mottola saw in Marc Anthony mass appeal

beyond the world of salsa and signed him to his label.

♪ I still can't believe you're leaving me... ♪

SMITS: They began working on an English language album,

but another artist was a few steps ahead.

(cheers and applause)

In May 1999,

at the release of Ricky Martin's first English language album,

crowds were so thick that the star had to be brought in

by helicopter.

I'm presenting my album today for the first time.

It's a very important date.

I've been working for two-and-a-half years

for this day, and I'm just really excited.

Let's see what happens.

We want Ricky! We want Ricky!

MOTTOLA: Ricky had everything.

Ricky had the looks, the sex appeal, the voice;

he was an absolute seasoned performer.

♪ Here we go, al lez, allez, allez ♪

CROWD: ♪ Here we go, al lez, allez, allez! ♪

COBO: He was incredibly charismatic.

He was a great dancer, I have to say.

He was very good-looking.

GEORGE: He had the right frame of mind, experience, the work ethic

to take it to the next level--

to take the punches and keep going.

SMITS: A middle-class boy from San Juan, Puerto Rico,

Ricky Martin was already famous by the time he was 14,

singing in Menudo, a teenage Latin boy band.

♪ The power of love can make your dreams come true... ♪

ROBI DRACO ROSA: Every day, you had to school in the morning,

then you had to rehearse in the afternoon.

It was intense.

Just thousands of people everywhere--

you know, girls hiding in bathrooms.

We had to control the floors.

It was absolutely nuts.

SMITS: Transitioning out of his teen idol years,

Ricky went to Mexico,

where he recorded two solo Spanish language albums.

He then tried his hand at acting,

landing a role in the soap opera Ge neral Hospital,

then on to Broadway, where he played Marius,

the romantic lead in Les Misérables.

♪ Un, dos, tres, un pasito pa'lante, Maria ♪

SMITS: Ultimately, he would make his mark in music.

One song, "María," exploded Ricky Martin worldwide in 1995.

On the heels of "María" came the offer of a lifetime.

RICKY MARTIN: Sony Music Columbia

proposed the idea to record an English album.

"Heh, of course! We've got to do it."

He wanted to make the crossover in a big way,

and the company was running on all 12 cylinders at the time

with me at the top, pushing the button and making everyone--

making an entire army--

move forward on the Ricky Martin front.

MARTIN: I'm working with amazing producers.

I work with Desmond Child.

I work with Emilio Estefan, Rob Rosa.

It's like... it's like a dream team.

DESMOND CHILD: When I met Ricky Martin,

I didn't think of him as a Latin-pop-tropical,

you know, hip-shaking dude.

I thought of him as a rock star.

SMITS: A Miami boy of Cuban descent,

Desmond Child had made a career in rock and roll,

writing songs for Bon Jovi, Kiss, Aerosmith.

CHILD: Ricky Martin had the Latin thing covered;

they really didn't need me for that.

They needed me to help funnel that

to the American and the European market.

SMITS: With Robi Rosa, Desmond Child would help write and produce

the song that transformed Ricky Martin into a superstar.

♪ She's into superstition

♪ Black cats and voodoo dolls

She's into superstition... ♪ black cats and voodoo dolls.

It's... it's just like a swing song.

Tony Bennett could... could do that song.

♪ She's into new sensations

♪ New kicks in the candelight... ♪

"La Vida Loca" is hybrid.

It's like Spanglish.

You know, Brazilian in terms of rhythm,

and with, you know, of course, the Latin horns.

In Latin music at the time,

they would use a lot of reverb in the voice,

and if you listen to the records I made with Ricky,

the vocal is dry.

♪ Woke up in New York City

CHILD: They don't have any effects on them.

♪ She took my heart and she took my money ♪

CHILD: They're right there in your face.

♪ Upside, inside out

♪ She's livin' la vida loca

CHILD: There was another element, too-- Elvis in Vegas.

All black, in a kind of small setting

that gave people an archetypal sense

that he was that thing that they had always loved.

Come on!

♪ Upside, inside out

♪ She's livin' la vida loca

SMITS: "Unabashedly pop," wrote a Time magazine critic,

"but saved by its Latin soul."

ROSA: I remember when we presented the song,

Tommy Mottola was not really into "La Vida Loca."

He said that it wasn't... the song wasn't a hit.

SMITS: "Livin' La Vida Loca" debuted at number one

on the Billboard chart and stayed there for ten weeks.

We couldn't even keep up with the orders,

and I think we sold somewhere in the vicinity

of 20 or 25 million worldwide.

COBO: This is a historic moment.

This is a real crossover, and almost immediately

they began talking about other Latin acts

that were going to come out with English language albums,

and you could see maybe not a movement, but certainly a wave.

SMITS: Mottola released other artists in quick succession.

"On the Six," by Jennifer López, hit the stores on June 1--

only three weeks after the release

of the album Ricky Martin.

A tribute to her roots in the Bronx,

"On the Six" included cameos

by Puerto Rican rappers Big Pun and Fat Joe.

♪ Advance on the spot, we can dance till we drop ♪

♪ Let my hands slip a knot...

♪ Joe, you the don

♪ Jenny, you the bomb

♪ Any man disrespect, good as gone ♪

♪ When I opened up my eyes today ♪

♪ Felt the sun shining on my face ♪

I wanted to go back to my neighborhood in the Bronx,

get on the train that I used to get on, and just...

and just relive that.

♪ I feel like there's no limit to what I can see ♪

♪ Got rid of fears that were holding me ♪

(record scratch)

LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA: She was a Flygirl on In Living Color.

She was one of the hot girls who danced to hip-hop

in the transitions between comedy skits.

♪ Boricua, that's you, mamacita ♪

♪ Puerto Rican diva, from la isla bonita ♪

MIRANDA: To do a song with Big Pun and Fat Joe

cemented what was already there

in terms of her accessibility to urban Latinos.

MOTTOLA: The thing about Jennifer is the whole package,

and the fact that she was Latino

was a way to take a New York girl, basically,

and present her to the public and say,

"Here is a shining example of a Latina."

MIRANDA: She's sort of our 21st-century Marilyn Monroe.

She is beyond actress, she is beyond singer--

she is this icon.

She is literally the cultural shorthand for Puerto Rican,

for the world-- literally, for the globe.

SMITS: Next on the list was Marc Anthony.

His English-language album, in the works for more than a year,

was released in September 1999.

MOTTOLA: Marc Anthony became another great success,

capitalizing on both popular music in English

and using his Latin base to do many songs in Spanish

and really marketed to both audiences in a big way.



Wave that beautiful flag, folks.

I'm just happy to be here.

Check it out, baby.

♪ They say around the way you've asked for me ♪

♪ There's even talk about you wanting me ♪

♪ I must admit that's what I want to hear ♪

♪ But that's just talk until you take me there ♪

♪ Oh, if it's true, don't leave me all alone out here ♪

♪ Wondering if you're ever gonna take me there... ♪

SMITS: The album was promoted at a sold-out concert

in Madison Square Garden.

The audience was largely Latino,

but the HBO broadcast reached 25 million households--

most of them English speaking.

Hello, HBO!


MOTTOLA: Certainly, the Latin demographic was getting huge,

and I think, musically, the country was ready

for something new and fresh and exciting--

starting from Gloria

and the whole Miami Sound Machine influence,

right to Ricky, and then when Marc Anthony came out,

and then Jennifer Lopez.

All of that culminating at once

created what Time magazine then billed as the "Latin explosion."

You know, you hear day in, day out,

about this "Latin music explosion" and stuff like that,

when the music that the world is being exposed to at this time--

be it through Ricky Martin, Jennifer Lopez

or Enrique Iglesias, or myself--

is not truly representative of Latin music.

Does it annoy you?

Does it make you happy?

Does it in some ways put you in a place

where you're kind of lumped together

with a lot of other artists?

I'd rather not be...

Lumped together? all.

I don't think anybody, any one of us...

because it's almost like we're invading or something

or like we don't belong, or like we're not from here

and we're coming from somewhere else.

I was born and raised in New York City.

MIRANDA: You know, I think Latinos,

we are so hungry to see ourselves represented

in mainstream culture

that to see us suddenly bombarded with it

was a really overwhelming experience.

SMITS: Lin-Manuel Miranda began writing a musical

about growing up Latino in New York's Washington Heights.

Latin music was something I'd always listened to at home,

and I listened to popular music at school with my friends,

and they'd never met.

I listened to Jerry Rivera, I listened to Marc Anthony,

I listened to Gilberto Santa Rosa,

but I could never share that with my white friends,

and suddenly my white friends are walking around,

going "Bailamos!" and it was a heady time.

SMITS: At the epicenter of the explosion

was the United States' most Latin city:

Miami, a thriving hub at a crossroads

between North and South America, Europe and Los Angeles.

It seemed like the possibilities were endless,

and that seeped into the music and into the whole feel.

Miami had been this kind of really sleepy town,

and then suddenly there was a boom of music

coming out of here.

There were several very big producers

doing a lot of big projects.

(salsa music playing)

SMITS: Emilio Estefan had opened his own studios,

Crescent Moon, in 1994.

He had not only managed Gloria Estefan's career,

but had also played a key role in launching other major artists

into the English-language market--

always relying on the power of rhythm.

Rhythms move people,

so you go to Colombia, they have great rhythms.

♪ Oye mi cuerpo pide salsa... ♪

EMILIO ESTEFAN: You go to Mexico, they have great rhythms;

you go to Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic...

that syncopation we have and, you know,

the flare that we have when we do percussion--

nobody can do it like we do.

♪ There now, a little closer

All the Latin pop songs that became great crossover hits

were songs you could dance to,

and this "danceability" transcends language,

and it transcends where the music is from.

Those songs all had a beat that you could move to.

SMITS: Shakira Mebarak, a Colombian of Lebanese descent,

brought a unique combination of rhythms

from her native Barranquilla.

You know, I grew up in a Caribbean city, you know,

so I am used to merenguüe, salsa, vallenato, cumbia,

but, I don't know why, I just love rock and roll.

SMITS: With her whimsical poetry and folk-style sounds,

Shakira had become well known in Latin America

as an alternative rocker.

She arrived at Estefan's studio in 1998

in search of a wider audience.

EMILIO ESTEFAN: I saw in Shakira talent-- a baby full of talent.

This girl can move, she can sing, she can write.

SMITS: Emilio looked for a distinctive sound for Shakira

and found it in her Lebanese roots.

EMILIO ESTEFAN: To be a good producer,

you really have to find a sound

that establishes their personality,

where they come from.

For example, Shakira,

the first song I did for her, it was Middle Eastern.

SMITS: "Ojos Asi"-- "Eyes Like These"-- became Shakira's signature song.

COBO: She had a mix of sounds that hadn't been heard before.

She was very dynamic.

She broke a mold,

and I think for something to be huge it has to break a mold.

MOTTOLA: When you think about putting a whole machine behind an artist

to say "this artist has global potential,"

you really have to think about, at the end of the day,

can they make popular music and can they then be out there

to support that popular music bilingually?

♪ Suerte que es tener labios sinceros ♪

♪ Para besarte con mas ganas

♪ Suerte que mis pechos sean pequeños ♪

♪ Y no los confundas con montanas... ♪

SMITS: Before Shakira, every crossover artist had been

bicultural and bilingual,

but the young Colombian star spoke no English,

and as a singer-songwriter, she struggled.

EMILIO ESTEFAN: We worked hard--

to 5:00, 6:00 in the morning--

trying to translate songs and trying to do things

because we believed in her.

♪ Whenever, wherever, we're meant to be together ♪

♪ I'll be there and you'll be near ♪

♪ And that's the deal, my dear... ♪

SMITS: Co-written by Gloria Estefan,

"Whenever, Wherever" was for Shakira

what "Livin' La Vida Loca" had been for Ricky Martin.

The album, Laundry Service,was an international sensation.

SHAKIRA: Gu ten Abend, Frankfurt.

Buenas noches, Mexico.

Bonsoir, Paris.

¿Cómo estás, Colombia?

WYCLEF JEAN: Here we go!

Uno, dos, tres, quatro.

Put your hands in the air.

Put your hands in the air.

Put your hands in the air.

Hey, Shakira, Shakira.

SHAKIRA: ♪ Oh, baby, when you talk like that ♪

♪ You make your woman go mad

♪ So be wise and keep on

♪ Reading the signs of my body

♪ I'm on tonight

♪ You know my hips don't lie

♪ And I'm starting to feel you, boy... ♪

SMITS: But even as Shakira filled arenas across the world,

the Latin music wave was beginning to recede.

It got to a point that somebody in a label

took it upon themselves to make a decision that said,

"We need to have a pretty person sing a song produced by whoever

because people want to buy."

People want to buy good music.

They want to buy good artists that have something to offer.

It became very pop; very plastic, perhaps.

Perhaps it did.

But I think that's the cycle with all kinds of music.

Music goes in cycles, and people love it, and then they hate it,

and then they love it again, and then they hate it;

it's inevitable.

The boom is the gift and the curse, okay?

For one, you get so big that the people that put you there

feel like they're not in touch with you no more.

For two, to outdo what you just did, that becomes a problem.

♪ She bangs, she bangs

♪ Oh, baby, when she moves, she moves... ♪

ROSA: When it became so, you know, uncontrollably large,

it was overwhelming...

And by the time we made it over to "She Bangs,"

something in the gut said, "It's time to go"; I left.

And I think it was good for Rick, too,

because he was able to break things and regroup, you know,

and reinvent himself.

(singing "Tu Recuerdo")

SMITS: Ricky Martin returned to his Puerto Rican roots,

finding international success once again

with his Black and White Tour.

(crowd cheering)

SMITS: Underground--

in the barrios and housing projects of Puerto Rico--

a new music was taking shape.

(Reggaetón song echoes)

It was born in the ghetto; it was born in the 'hood.

SMITS: It was called reggaetón,

and it had its roots in the rhythms of Jamaican reggae--

and one rhythm in particular: the "dembow."

♪ Dembow, dembow, dembow, dembow ♪

WAYNE MARSHALL: The dembow is a very deeply Caribbean rhythm.

It's this kind of boom chk-boom-chk, boom chk-boom-chk.

(singing "Muevelo")

SMITS: The dembow was first fused with Spanish rap in Panama,

where it was called Spanish reggae,

and soon spread across the Caribbean.

At that time it was just Spanish hip-hop,

Spanish rap in the barrios, like that.

Then, all of a sudden, we heard the people from Panama

doing reggae in Spanish,

so we started to incorporate our flavor into that sound...

and we created our own genre, reggaetón.

♪ Hey, yo, do you know who this is? ♪

SMITS: Ramón Ayala, a.k.a. Daddy Yankee,

rapped about the violence and drug culture

of Puerto Rico's poorest neighborhoods

to the rhythm of the dembow beat.

(singing "Zona de Gangsters")

SMITS: The explicit lyrics and sexually provocative reggaetón dance--

the "perreo"-- drew criticism

from an influential Puerto Rican senator, Velda González.

"Oh, my Lord. You tell her."

SMITS: Senator González launched a campaign

against the violence and sexual content of reggaetón.

DADDY YANKEE: The same scenario that hip-hop had during the '80s--

people thought that we were promoting the violence.

It was not like that.

We was just being real.

We was just being el espejo del pueblo.

We was just rapping about the real stuff.

SMITS: Reggaetón remained mostly confined

to the island of Puerto Rico until rapper Tego Calderón

arrived on the scene.

♪ Aqui llega Cosa Buena ♪

♪ El Negro Calde sin problema... ♪

SMITS: Tego Calderón created new fusions for reggaetón,

adding traditional Caribbean rhythms

to the Jamaican dembow beat.

MARSHALL: You start to hear bomba and plena,

two Afro-Puerto Rican folk forms cropping up in his music.

You hear some salsa, you hear some bachata.

You know, I think that that caught a lot of listeners' ears.

SMITS: In Tego's voice, reggaetón broke through

from the clubs in Puerto Rico to the stages of Manhattan,

spreading to Miami, Chicago, L.A.

MARSHALL: The thing about reggaetón is that it was able to express

on the one hand Latinidad-- the "Latinness"--

and, on the other hand, modernity.

You could be "bling-blinged" out.

You could look like all of your peers

in this more general sort of hip-hop world.

You didn't have to feel like you were somehow selling out

your own cultural roots.

SMITS: Tego became a hero to young Latinos,

but it was Daddy Yankee who took reggaetón into the clubs

and onto the dance floors of America's mainstream

with his hit song "Gasolina."

♪ A ella le gusta la gasolina

♪ Dame mas gasolina

DADDY YANKEE: It's simple--

a simple hook and it's about energy.

♪ A ella le gusta la gasolina

MARSHALL: "Gasolina" was huge.

For many months, you couldn't go anywhere without hearing it.

♪ A ella le gusta la gasolina

People has told me that,

"I don't know what you're saying, Yankee, but it's great.

"You know, my girlfriend and my mother,

they can't stop dancing."

Now I am in the middle of the reggaetón...

and you know something?

During the last campaign,

the people asked me to dance reggaetón, because I told them,

"You can dance reggaetón nicely!"

♪ Le gusta la gasolina

SMITS: Not even Velda González, reggaetón's sharpest critic,

could resist the rising tide of Latin music's new rhythm.

DADDY YANKEE: All the generations have one music

that identifies that generation,

and right now our generation has been identified with reggaetón.

SMITS: As Latin music moved into the new century,

new fusions emerged,

as diverse as the culture of today's urban Latinos.


I used Wilfredo Vargas' "El Africano,"

which we all grew up on, which is:

♪ Mami, el negro esta rabioso, el quiere tu azúcar ♪

I put that on a house beat; techno beat.

One of the biggest records in the country.

♪ ...rabioso, el quiere tu azucar y tu no se lo das ♪

All the ladies report to the dance floor.

♪ Esa morena esta sabrosa y cuando tu la tocas... ♪

The world is shrinking, so people are far more open

to all kinds of sounds, and you see the fusion everywhere.

PITBULL: ♪ ...y tu no se lo das

COBO: You see a lot of traditional Caribbean beats

married to urban and hip-hop beats.

You see traditional sounds like Mexican trumpets

married to pop

or married to a kind of more progressive alternative music.

Nobody will raise an eyebrow at any mix of rhythms.

SMITS: Born and raised in Miami,

Pitbull represents what he calls "305"-- Miami's area code--

a cultural mix from every corner

of Latin America and the Caribbean.

PITBULL: Statistically, we're growing in such numbers--

and it's not like we are just Latinos.

First generation, second generation, third generation--

a lot of them don't even speak Spanish no more,

but they're proud to be from where their parents are from,

the country that they represent.

These third-, fourth-generation Latins

are really embracing the fact that they're Latin,

are very eager to learn more about their culture,

and I also think the mainstream,

more than ever, is open to things Latin.

It's not seen as something as foreign as it used to be.

♪ Lights up on Washington Heights ♪

♪ Up at the dawning I wipe down my awning ♪

♪ Hey, y'all, good morning

♪ In the heights...

SMITS: Lin-Manuel Miranda's In the Heights,

conceived during the Latin music explosion,

opened to packed audiences on Broadway

and was honored with the Tony award for Best Musical for 2008.

The lead character, born in the U.S.,

is torn between his allegiance to his neighborhood

and his parents' homeland.

♪ Let me get an amaretto sour for this ghetto flower ♪

♪ How are you so pretty? ♪

♪ You complete me; you had me at hello ♪

♪ You know you need me, Julie, marry; baby let's go quickly ♪

♪ Oh, I get get it; you the stong and silent type ♪

♪ Well, I'm the Caribbean island type... ♪

It's his whole, you know, being sort of reflects that,

that dual identity that I think so many of us have.

♪ But I digress; say something so I don't stress ♪

♪ No hablo ingles

My parents were both born in Puerto Rico,

but I'm a New Yorker.

I was born in Roosevelt Hospital and I...

I love spending my summers in Puerto Rico,

but I get itchy to get back.

SMITS: Performed on a global stage, the music of Juanes,

one of Latin music's brightest stars,

expresses the same duality.

JUANES: I sing in Spanish

because for me, singing in Spanish represents my essence,

but I play my guitar in English.

SMITS: In his native Medellín, Colombia,

Juanes had played heavy metal,

inspired by the music of Metallica, Iron Maiden,

Led Zeppelin.

He arrived in Los Angeles in 1998.

JUANES: So I realized that I never was going to be like the other guys,

you know, the bands that I used to listen to, so I just say,

"Okay, I don't want to feel ashamed of being a Colombian.

"I just want to be proud of that,

"and I want to bring all the elements from my essence

and just mix it with the elements of rock music."

SMITS: This fusion, known as "rock en español,"

has brought rock music right into the heart of Latin culture.

JUANES: Most of the people think about Latin music

just as one kind of music,

and then when you understand Latin music is so rich

and so diverse and you can find from metal, punk, reggaetón,

to pop, salsa, vallenato;

and it's like an ocean, you know, of different elements.

We're 32 countries.

We are, you know, centuries and centuries of music.

♪ Fresh off the boat in America... ♪

MIRANDA: One of the things we really strived for

with Heights is to make sure that everyone is singing

in a distinct musical voice.

♪ Remembering what we went through... ♪

MIRANDA: You've got Abuela Claudia,

who came here from Cuba in the '40s.

Her song is a mambo number--

like dead-up, old school mambo number.

♪ you'd say...

MIRANDA: You hear salsa; you hear bomba y plena.

We really tried to honor all those different influences.

♪ Packing up and picking up

♪ And ever since the rents went up it's gotten mad expensive. ♪

Usnavi grew up in Washington Heights,

so he speaks in hip-hop language,

which is really my generation's language,

but it's heavily influenced by these Latin rhythms.

♪ Yeah, I'm a streetlight chilling in the heat ♪

♪ I illuminate the stories of the people in the street ♪

♪ Some have happy endings; some are bittersweet. ♪

SMITS: As he searched for a central theme for In the Heights,

Lin-Manuel drew on Broadway's long tradition.

MIRANDA: A template we looked at a lot wasFiddler on the Roof,

and one of the things they did in Fiddler on the Roof

constantly was to say, "What is the show about?"

What is it about? It's about tradition.

It took us a long time to find what that word was for us,

and that word became home.

♪ I found my island, I've been on it this whole time ♪

♪ I'm home.

"Home" for all Latinos in the United States, I think--

particularly for first- generation Latinos like myself--

"home" is a loaded word.

♪ I'm home!

MIRANDA: "Where do I belong?

"Do I belong here?

Am I supposed to go back there?"

We have traditions from all over the world,

and how do we reconcile them here?

What do we take with us?

What do we pass on to our children?

♪ I'm home ♪

♪ We reach 100 in the shade ♪

♪ But with patience and faith we remain ♪

♪ I'm afraid I'm home ♪

♪ You hear that music in the air? ♪

♪ Take the train to the top of the world, and I'm there ♪

♪ I'm home! ♪

(final word and note held)

(music ends)

Don't go away-- stay tuned fo r more Latin Music USA. Go to

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watch videos, and listen tosongs featured in this episode.

To order the home video version of Latin Music USA,


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Wyld Ryce
WQED Sessions
WLIW21 Specials
We Sing
United in Song: Celebrating the Resilience of America
Under a Minute
Tree of Life: A Concert for Peace and Unity
Tis the Night with Ben Folds & Friends
The Set List
The Lowertown Line
The Jazz Ambassadors
The Experience with Dedry Jones
Sunshine Blues
State of the Arts