Source Photos (L-R): Rich Polk/Getty Images for The Latin Recording Academy; Medios y Media/Getty Images; Gladys Vega/Getty Images for Discover Puerto Rico; Mariano Regidor/Redferns; Rich Fury/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
Latin Music's Next Era: How New Festivals & Big Billings Have Helped Bring Reggaeton, New Corridos & More To The Masses
From Viva! LA to Baja Beach Fest and Vibra Urbana, Latin music festivals are experiencing an incredible boom. Dovetailing with the broad genre's increasing popularity, fests bridge "different subcultures and subgenres of music" in one place
As Latin music continues to make extraordinary inroads in the American mainstream — from breaking historic records on the global pop charts to setting new ones in streaming — the festival circuit has also seen a tremendous increase of Latin artists.
More Latin acts than ever performed at top-tier events like Coachella in 2022, a year that also debuted half a dozen exclusively Latin music festivals in the U.S. New events include reggaeton-heavy fests like Chicago's Sueños and Más Flow, and the classic-line-up Bésame Mucho in Los Angeles — all revealing an unprecedented moment for Latin music.
"It's a new era. There's never been this big of a crossover," says Aaron Ampudia, co-creator of Sueños and Mexico’s Baja Beach Fest (BBF). "There's never been a Latin artist like what Bad Bunny is right now, crushing all the records in [the] history of streaming, beating Drake and American artists. That's never happened for Latinos."
Entrepreneurs Ampudia and Chris Den Uijl founded Baja Beach Fest in 2018 in Rosarito’s storied beach venue Papas and Beer, just 20 miles south of San Diego. During that time, there were no sole reggaeton and Latin trap festivals in the region — the closest being 2018’s Latinx indie-heavy Tropicalia in Long Beach. The pair tapped an open market, attracting prospective attendees from both sides of the border all the way up to Los Angeles.
With now-icons Bad Bunny and "Pepas" singer Farruko as headliners, BBF was billed as the "West Coast’s largest Latin trap and reggaeton music festival." By betting on established and upcoming música urbana stars, BBF managed to become a competitive player on the global festival market, doubling in attendance from 15,000 to 30,000 in its first two years and expanding to two weekends, à la Coachella.
"We birthed Baja Beach Fest because we wanted to create an inclusive event for Latinos, specifically young Mexican Americans on the West Coast, and that turned into this movement. It was almost the perfect storm," Den Uijl says. "As the brand has grown, we are now bringing it to the United States. Since Chicago has a massive Latin culture population, we wanted Latinos to have something to celebrate." And their gambit has paid off.
On Memorial weekend, Sueños kicks off in partnership with C3 Presents, the production empire behind Lollapalooza. The festival's expanded genre roster now includes new corridos from Natanael Cano and Fuerza Regida, as well as reggaeton staples Ozuna, J Balvin and Sech. "Having Banda MS come out with Becky G last year [at BBF] was really big," says Den Uijl. "Aaron really pushed it [with the regional stuff] like, ‘Hey, this is something that our culture celebrates.’ It was the moment of the whole entire festival [last year]."
Promoted as "Chicago’s Official Reggaeton Fest," Más Flow debuts in July, focusing its attention on legacy acts, with headliners Don Omar, Zion & Lennox, Tego Calderón and Ivy Queen, among others.
Other música urbana fests in the U.S. that are making a huge splash include Vibra Urbana, which has positioned itself as "The Biggest Reggaeton Festival in the U.S." The festival grew from a backyard reverie in Orlando to an indoor Miami venue in 2020, and will be held in Orlando this June.
"[We started Vibra Urbana] out of love for the music and seeing an empty gap where we felt like we could provide for our city," says festival co-founder David Adan, a Miami-born Cuban American. "Miami is full of Latinos, full of the love for Latin music. Everywhere that you go out, you'll see clubs playing Spanish [language] music. Everyone's talking in Spanish. We needed to make something happen."
The Vibra Urbana team found their niche — and built a significant audience — by gathering some of the hottest new talent of el género. Jhay Cortez, J Quiles, Rauw Alejandro and Myke Towers, who were still in the early stages of their U.S. breakthrough, all performed at the festival’s inaugural year. Such support has contributed to artists' superstar trajectory: Rauw Alejandro graced the cover of Rolling Stone earlier this year, while Jhay Cortez's steady growth continues to uptick by a stream of viral hits.
"We try to put forth the best fan experience, and we put together the artists that we know and who connect with the fans," says Cuban-Lebanese music organizer Kirk Taboada, and partner at Vibra Urbana. The partners' most ambitious festival took place over two days this spring in Las Vegas, where two decades of reggaeton brilliance were on display — from emerging (Dalex, Cauty) to superstar (Anuel AA, Sech) and legendary acts (Don Omar).
"Hopefully in the next five years, we’ll expand it across the globe, to make an impact globally," Taboada adds. "But right now we want to make a huge impact here locally and on the West Coast."
More Latin Talent, More Latin Music Consumption
The 2020 Super Bowl halftime show with Jennifer Lopez and Shakira was a turning point for Latin music, opening more doors for the genre and Latin acts in the live music television space. Since, the presence of Spanish-language acts has increased tremendously on late night television alone, with Kali Uchis, Karol G, the Marías, Nicky Nicole, Natanael Cano, Carlos Vives, Rauw Alejandro, Thalia and Anitta, among others, appearing on the small screen.
The Latin music market has experienced double-digit growth over the past six years. According to the RIAA’s 2021 year-end report, U.S. Latin music revenue generated an all-time high of $886 million, growing by 36 percent year-over-year. Music Business Worldwide predicts that the recorded music market for Latin artists in the U.S. will generate more than $1 billion in 2022.
The exponential rise of Latin music consumption parallels Latin music festivals’ ascent, with música urbana taking the lead in both. This success opened up more pathways for diverse Latin genres to be (re)introduced to U.S. audiences, as well as the impressive growth of events like Viva! L.A. Music Festival, a compellingly varied fest rooted in Latin indie, inclusiveness and a DIY approach.
"I started with a little music festival in Pomona because I wanted to bring people to the city I grew up in," recalls 31-year-old founder René Contreras, who created the festival as Viva! Pomona a decade ago.
For the first annual Viva! L.A. Music Festival, which will take place at the Dodger Stadium this June, the Chicano entrepreneur partnered with Goldenvoice, the creators of Coachella and Stagecoach. Viva!’s 2022 iteration boasts one of the most eclectic line-ups of the Latin music festival circuit, appealing to a multi-generational audience: J Balvin, Los Tucanes de Tijuana, Carla Morrison, Omar Apollo, Kali Uchis, Willie Colón, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs and Devendra Banhart are among this year's performers.
"[It’s about] bridging different subcultures and subgenres of music, and bringing it all together in one place," says Contreras of the line-up diversity. "You could go to see Eslabon Armado and then you can go and watch Chicano Batman. We have the indie Latinx bands that are really big in L.A., and legends like Daddy Yankee, Ivy Queen, and Paquita la del Barrio, as well as corridos and corridos tumbados. I feel like people listen to all styles of music now. Music is such a big part of our culture and it's really exciting."
"I think it's important to research and try to understand a genre of music from its roots to the top," he adds holding a book called Remixing Reggaetón: The Cultural Politics of Race in Puerto Rico (2015) by Petra R. Rivera-Rideau via Zoom. "You could just book someone and call it a day. But I want to understand the music and its background. Also, going to shows and hanging out after with the artist or manager has helped me understand what it's like to live the creativeness that they're making."
"What Was Once Alternative Is Now Mainstream"
No stranger to alternative Latin music and culture is Nacional Records CEO Tomas Cookman, who also runs the Latin Alternative Music Conference (LAMC) in New York City. Cookman has been championing Latin music in the U.S. since the ‘90s (including briefly through his own festival, Supersónico), and has made a business of betting on indie and niche Latin styles.
In ‘90s, music festivals that held conferences were limited: South by Southwest, CMJ, and New Music Seminar. Hence the birth of LAMC, the first live music/conference space to spotlight a Latin underground that didn’t get shine via radioplay or TV airtime, but resonated loudly in the streets. It also coincided with the first internet boom which, decades later, enables marketing of non-mainstream music and events.
"If a song was a big hit record in London or New York, it probably took six or nine months to hit Mexico City, Bogota, or Buenos Aires [back then]. Nowadays, something comes out, and it's immediate everywhere," says Cookman. "Nowadays, [artists] record in their backyard if they want to. There's still money being spent on recording. But it's so much easier to have a quality of music that resonates on a global level."
The LAMC’s 20th anniversary coincided with the Latin GRAMMYs own, and in 2019 both organizations joined forces at SummerStage to present ChocQuibTown, Guaynaa, Macaco and Vicente García. "Luis Dousdebes from the Latin GRAMMYs came up with that quote," Cookman notes, referring to LAMC's new slogan "What was once alternative is now mainstream."
But the award for ultimate from-alternative-to-mainstream transition goes to Bad Bunny, Rosalía and C. Tangana, who were all featured in LAMC’s 2018 three-CD compilation — when those artists were still independent. "Now it’s a playlist," Cookman says, chuckling.
Although LAMC takes place in New York, Nacional Records’ headquarters is located in Southern California — the area with the U.S.' most concentrated Latin population — where Coachella also takes place and the Bésame Mucho festival.
From the founders of Tropicalia fest, Bésame Mucho arrives in December, with a roster that capitalizes on grupera, banda and rock en español’s glory days, as well as Spanish-language vintage pop. The lineup features legendary performers like Caifanes, El Tri, Los Tigres del Norte, Los Angeles Azules, Sin Bandera and La Oreja de Van Gogh.
"I feel like [nostalgic Latin acts] has been something that's been missing from the [current] festival space. Not just in Southern California, but throughout the U.S.," says Adrian Hernández, founder and creative director of Need Pastel, who designed art for Bésame — as well as the cover for Bad Bunny’s Un Verano Sin Ti. "I feel like L.A. is the best place for that kind of representation [...] It's almost like a family event, somewhere I could go to with my abuelos."
Siguiendo La Luna: Latin Music’s Next Stop
With the global embrace of Spanish-language and Latin songs, it’s safe to say that American dwellers are truly experiencing a more accepting and diverse moment in history — a new cultural epoch.
"There are lots of similarities to where Latin music is going, where urban music has been for the last 20 years, where it found its important and well-earned space in the market," Cookman says. "I think when people hear Rosalía, J Balvin, or Bad Bunny, they go, "Oh yeah, that could be Drake."
Just the fact that Coachella’s roster doubled in Latin acts since 2020 is a testament to the popularity of today’s Ibero American artists, where Brazil’s Anitta, Colombia’s Karol G, and Mexico’s Grupo Firme and Banda MS were among this year’s performers. "Hopefully, more and more Latino professionals within those companies will have a bigger say in what is important," Cookman adds.
"The growth is unstoppable," Adam chimes in. "I think everyone is noticing now. For reference, Bunny creates songs in a different language [Spanish], and now you have [Hispanophone artists] singing this language, and they have no idea what he’s saying. It’s as simple as that. It's bringing acknowledgement that this genre is here to stay, and ready to keep growing."
A Look At 2022 Nominees For Best Música Urbana Album At The 2023 GRAMMY Awards
The 2022 Best Música Urbana Album Nominees at the 2023 GRAMMYs come from some of the biggest names in Latin music, each of whom have fused a unique sensibility and a variety of influences into their records.
Perhaps because in its current incarnation música urbana tackles such a wide array of influences — from the expected bounce of reggaetón to ominous trap moods, frantic dembow and a cool dash of Latin pop — the genre has become a hub for freshness and creativity.
All five 2022 nominees for Best Música Urbana Album at the 65th GRAMMY Awards are international stars, but none of them allowed fame to lead into stagnation. On the contrary, their albums are defined by cutting edge innovation and challenging new sounds. Read on to learn more about offerings from Bad Bunny, Daddy Yankee, Farruko, Maluma and Rauw Alejandro.
View the complete list of nominees for the 2023 GRAMMY Awards here.
Rauw Alejandro — TRAP CAKE, VOL. 2
Released in 2019, the first volume of Trap Cake served as a laboratory where the Puerto Rican singer experimented with unusual textures. Vol. 2 marches on the same avant-garde principles, serving as a provocative bridge between Rauw’s genre-defining smash Vice Versa and his restless third album Saturno.
The production is slick and airy on this sumptuous mini-album seeped in a hazy cloud of melancholy nostalgia. The music box-like opening strains of "MUSEO" hint at the precious ambient sonics at hand, whereas the distorted electric guitar and aggressive downbeat of "GRACIAS POR TODO" opens up an intriguing window to the quirks of Rauw as potential rock’n’roller. Co-produced by Jamaican helmer Rvssian, the darkly hued "Caprichoso" features contributions by the singer’s romantic partner — the one and only Rosalía.
Bad Bunny — Un Verano Sin Ti
How do you celebrate the confirmation of your status as a young global pop star? In the case of Bad Bunny, he released the ultimate summer album — an imaginary mixtape, meant to be booming in the background as the poolside party rages on.
The Puerto Rican phenomenon focuses on his usual preoccupations — erotic foreplay, desire as transcendent lifeforce, the stinging aftertaste of romantic separation — but the beats and layers of atmospherics are more abstract and psychedelic than on previous releases. Even though Un Verano Sin Ti boasts stellar collaborations with the likes of Tainy, Rauw Alejandro and Chencho Corleone, the album finds some of its most compelling passages in the stylistic detours of "Ojitos Lindos" — with Colombia’s Bomba Estéreo — and the alternative tropi-rock of "Otro Atardecer," with the Marias.
Daddy Yankee — LEGENDADDY
2022 was the year when the "Gasolina" pioneer shocked the Latin music establishment by announcing his retirement at age 46. Fortunately, Daddy Yankee’s farewell came in the shape of a sprawling party record. LEGENDADDY feels like a passionate, and occasionally wistful, love letter to the limitless variety that has always defined Afro-Caribbean music.
Yankee’s rapid-fire delivery and reggaetón riddims are ever-present, of course, but the menu also includes some wacky dembow ("BOMBÓN," with Lil Jon and Dominican hitmaker El Alfa), and the truly wondrous fusion of salsa, reggaetón and spidery bachata lines on the kinetic "RUMBATÓN." On "AGUA," Yankee is joined by Rauw Alejandro and guitar god Nile Rodgers for a jam infused with post-disco zest. Yankee’s electrifying live performances will be missed, but this emotional swan song delivers an fitting epic finale to a remarkable career.
Farruko — La 167
A seasoned veteran of the urbano landscape, Farruko has always been progressive in his mission to expand stylistic boundaries. The title of his seventh studio album is a reference to the singer/songwriter’s childhood memories: the 167 highway in the Bayamón area of Puerto Rico where he grew up.
At the same time, the album also reflects Farruko’s extensive travels across Latin America. "Pepas," the collection’s bonafide hit, is an anthemic electro-guaracha that stays close to the genre’s roots in Colombia. "Baja Cali" mixes Latin rap with the young generation of corridos that defines the present of música mexicana, and the breezy "W.F.M." (featuring Jamaican vocalist Mavado) delves into sweet dancehall vibes. On "Jíbaro," Farruko cherishes his boricua origins alongside bolero revivalist Pedro Capó. A man of the world, he sounds the happiest when he returns home.
Maluma — The Love & Sex Tape
In 2021, Maluma surprised fans by releasing #7DJ (7 Días En Jamaica), a refreshing EP of reggae infused tracks. A silky mini-album made up of eight new songs, The Love & Sex Tape finds the Medellín native delving back into the sensuous reggaetón narratives that made him famous.
A duet with fellow Colombian Feid, "Mojando Asientos" is appropriately frisky, and the self-explanatory "Nos Comemos Vivos" gains in intensity thanks to the streetwise attitude of the ubiquitous Chencho Corleone. Maluma surrenders to hedonism with abandon, reaching the natural conclusion that life is, indeed, quite beautiful ("La Vida Es Bella.") A classy ending, "Happy Birthday" incorporates the soulful groove of Afrobeats, hinting that Maluma’s brilliant creative detours will surface again in subsequent works.
Photo: Barcroft Images/Barcroft Media/Getty Images
Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Martin To Headline 2018 Calibash Las Vegas
Maluma, Ozuna, Bad Bunny, and Farruko also slated to perform at the second annual Sin City concert on Jan. 27; L.A. concert slated for Jan. 20
Get ready for the second annual Calibash Las Vegas, one of the hottest concert events of the year celebrating Latin urban music.
The 2018 installment of the Sin City show will be headlined by Jennifer Lopez and Ricky Martin, with Maluma, Ozuna, Bad Bunny, and Farruko also slated to perform. It will be held at T-Mobile Arena on Jan. 27, just one week after the Los Angeles event.
"Undoubtedly, this is the best opportunity to enjoy with your loved ones this first-class show, in Las Vegas and as the official Latin party of the beginning of the year," said Lucas Piña, senior vice president of SBS Entertainment, according to Billboard.
The week prior, Los Angeles' 11th annual Calibash will be held at Staples Center on Jan. 20. The L.A. lineup will feature J Balvin, Lopez, Wisin Y Yandel, Bad Bunny, Ozuna, Becky G, Natti Natasha, and French Montana.
Tickets for both the Los Angeles and Las Vegas concerts are on sale now vis AXS.
Photo: Alexander Tamargo/WireImage.com
18th Latin GRAMMY Performers: Bad Bunny, Alejandro Sanz & More
First performers announced for The Biggest Night in Latin Music; actors Jaime Camil and Roselyn Sánchez to host 18th Latin GRAMMY Awards live from Las Vegas on Nov. 16
Current nominees J Balvin, Bad Bunny, Flor De Toloache, Luis Fonsi, Juanes, Mon Laferte, Natalia Lafourcade, Maluma, Residente, and Sofía Reyes are among the first artists announced to perform on the 18th Latin GRAMMY Awards.
Mexican actor/singer Jaime Camil and Puerto Rican singer/songwriter and actress Roselyn Sánchez will host The Biggest Night in Latin Music on the Univision Network Nov. 16 from 8–11 p.m. ET/PT (7 p.m. Central) at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
This year's top nominee is Residente with nine nominations. Also near the top of the field are Maluma with seven nominations, Shakira with six, and Kevin Jiménez ADG, Juanes and Mon Laferte with five each. "Despacito," by Luis Fonsi featuring Daddy Yankee, earned four nominations.
A limited number of tickets for the 18th Latin GRAMMY Awards are available for purchase through www.axs.com.
Source Photos: Jim McHugh © 1994, Gladys Vega/ Getty Images, Marco Ovando, Jean Paul Aussenard/Wireimage.com, Flo Ngala
Listen to GRAMMY.com's Hispanic Heritage Month 2022 Playlist: Featuring Latin Music Hits & Classics From Anitta, Selena, Bad Bunny, Shakira & More
In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, GRAMMY.com highlights the riveting, celebratory sounds of Latin music in a genre- and era-spanning playlist featuring iconic songs from Jennifer Lopez, Karol G, Maná, Marco Antonio Solís, and many more.
Latin music isn't a genre — it's a culture. And 80 years of thriving Ibero-American sounds spanning across the Americas, the Caribbean, Spain, and Portugal are evidence of its ever-growing prominence. That's reflected in our 61-track playlist celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month 2022.
Unbeknownst to nearly no one, Latin music, in both the Hispanophone and Lusophone styles, exploded onto the global mainstream in the last five years. When Luis Fonsi's and Daddy Yankee's GRAMMY-nominated global hit "Despacito" broke the internet, the sound crossed into international borders — and markets — like never before. Today, Bad Bunny is one of the biggest stars on the planet, with his glorious, record-breaking, chart-topping, and hit-making streak still going strong.
Yet formidable contributions Stateside have continued since the golden age of boleros: New York's Mexican/Puerto Rican trio Los Panchos pioneered the romantic, nylon-driven ballad style in the '40s. In 1958, 17-year-old Ritchie Valens turned a son jarocho song into a rockabilly classic ("La Bamba"); Carlos Santana has played a key role in the evolution of Latin rock since Woodstock in the late-'60s; New York Latin troupe Fania All-Stars globalized salsa and Caribbean-rooted rhythms in the late '60s. Lest anyone forget Tejano icon Selena and her techno cumbia or the so-called "Latin explosion," led by Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Martin, Shakira, and Marc Anthony, both in the '90s.
Although reggaeton and música urbana superstars like Bad Bunny, J Balvin and Karol G continue to reign almighty on the global Latin pop scene, there is a growing number of promising, diverse voices within the Latin music soundscape bubbling up today. Honduran-born SoundCloud creator Isabella Lovestory is spearheading a provocative neo-reggaeton style of her own; Colombia's Ela Minus is giving her defiant electronic sound an exciting darkwave edge; and Mexican viral rapper Santa Fe Klan is resurrecting cumbia sonidera within the rap en español circuit.