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This Latinx/e Heritage Month "Poder de la Cultura" playlist includes songs that tie into our work at the ACLU of Maryland and the rest are just classics and good vibes.
- La Rebelión – Joe Arroyo
La Rebelión is a salsa song, sung by Afro Colombian, Joe Arroyo. This rhythmical song is about an enslaved Black person in Colombia who starts a rebellion after a white man hits his wife. The song’s hook translates to “Don’t hit the Black woman.” The song was an international hit for its content, beautiful blending of explosive sounds, and provoking imagery.
- El Gran Varon – Willie Colón
The title translates to “the big man.” This song is about a proud father to a child named Simón. The father raises him “with a heavy hand” to be a typical idea of a masculine man. The father Don Andres visits Simón unannounced after he moves to New York and discovers them dressed as a woman. Don Andres abandons Simón for several years. He later regrets this and tries to reconnect but is heartbroken to find that Simón had died alone in a hospital of AIDS years ago. This heartfelt melody was a huge success despite it getting blackballed in many countries and radio stations. One of the first major records in any genre to talk directly about the AIDS epidemic and the stigma towards LGBTQ+ folks.
- Aguanile – Héctor Lavoe and Willie Colón
Aguanile means to cleanse yourself and your house (particularly from bad spirits) in Yoruba. It’s a common chant among people who practice Santeria, which originated in West Africa and was brought over and kept alive by Black people who were enslaved in Latin America. This powerful song is a testimony to the power of oral tradition.
- El Preso – Fruko y sus Tesos
This rich, resonant song translates to “the prisoner.” It’s sung from the perspective of a man serving a long prison term over a drug charge. One quote that tugs at the heart strings is “Damned forever in this horrible cell, where love doesn’t come nor does anyone’s voice, I spend my days and nights here, and I remain alive only in my mother’s memory.” This is a classic salsa song.
- Yo Quiero Bailar – Ivy Queen
This energetic Reggaetón classic is about respecting women’s boundaries. Ivy Queen raps about a woman controlling what goes on in the dance floor and beyond. One of major hits that put Reggaetón on the international map.
- Michael X – Myke Towers
This song was in response to police brutality, state violence, and George Floyd’s killing by one of the biggest Reggaetón artists today. This rich song is full of powerful lyrics and a steady beat.
- Amor de Madre – Aventura
This sentimental song is about a single mother who has to raise her son on her own after the father abandons them. She loves her son and does everything to make ends meet even if it means sex work. Sadly, her love for her son is not enough to keep him away from the strong negative influences in the streets. He grows up and winds up in prison for murder. His mother refuses to believe he could kill someone and ends up dying of heartbreak. The son is forced to live with deep regret for the rest of his life.
- Una Vaina Loca – Fuego
Fuego is Dominican-American, was born in DC, and grew up in Langley Park, MD. He’s had a couple big international hits. This one might be his most successful.
- Kazzabe Punta Mix – Kazzabe Band
Punta is a very popular genre that originated in Black Garifuna communities in Central America. They have mostly mixes on Spotify and Apple Music. They are huge in Honduras, Belize, the rest of Central America, and much of the Caribbean.
- Quimbara – Celia Cruz
No one is sure what “quimbara” means. Most people interpret the song as Celia Cruz bringing together her African and Cuban identities together to encourage people to have a good time. This is a great salsa song from the Queen. We highly recommend that people see her perform this live in Zaire (modern day Democratic Republic of Congo) in 1974 on Youtube. The entire Fania All-Stars concert in Zaire was one of the most important concerts in musical history (for any genre).
- Latinoamérica – Calle 13
This slow steady song tells the story of Latin America. The Puerto Rican duo, Calle 13, speak against the government and show their pride for who they are. While they critique the government, at the same time, they speak of the richness and beauty of the culture.
- La Jaula de Oro – Los Tigres del Norte
This song is from a band called Los Tigers del Norte. The melody speaks about life for immigrants in America and the American dream, calling it a golden cage. The song is from a father’s point of view whose children don’t see themselves as part of his culture even though him and his children have the same skin color.
- Píntame – Elvis Crespo
This upbeat song of romance is a classic. The singer speaks about painting a beautiful woman. This song is part of the merengue genre, which is rooted in Africa and was brought to life in the Dominican Republic.
- El baile del beeper – Oro Solido
Another great and festive merengue song is “El baile del beeper.” It is played at almost every Latinx/e party. This one is timeless.
- Pa' que retozen – Tego Calderon
This Reggaetón classic is fun and one that is often danced to at fiestas.
- Plástico – Willie Colón and Rubén Blades
This disco style song criticizes people who are fake and have false personalities and lifestyles. “Plástico” calls for Latin American/Pan-American unity and a rejection of American consumerism, materialism, racism, etc. It is a very strong diss towards superficial white American life and how it revolves around money and appearances. The song urges Latinx/es and Latin Americans to not give in and to never sell their humanity.
- Tu pun pun – El general
“Tu pun pun” is a Spanish cover for a Jamaican dancehall song, “Punnaney Tegereg” by Little Lenny. This fun song is one you must dance to when you hear it.
- A desalambrar – Víctor Jara
The meaning of this short, yet thought provoking song is freedom. To free yourself, “cut the wires”, and reclaim the land.
- Mariposa traicionera - Mana
This sentimental, heart tugging song speaks about infidelity. The singer feels betrayed. The name of the song means “treacherous butterfly.”
- La Romana – Bad Bunny y El Alfa
Popular Puerto Rican singer, Bad Bunny, featuring Dominican dembow artist, El Alfa, produced “La Romana.” This fun, upbeat song was a popular modern song in our culture.
- Si una vez – Selena
Selena is a Mexican American cherished singer who passed away, but has always been remembered. She sang “Si Una Vez” about regretting loving someone who didn’t deserve her love. It is a passionate song about the pain love can cause.
- Ella y yo – Aventura and Don Omar
This is a tragic melody about a man who is in love with his best friend’s wife who ends up not forgiving him. In the end, the best friend loses the love of his life and his friend at the same time.
- La gota fría – Carlos Vives
This song is a Colombian classic that has been covered by many musicians. This fast paced song is ultimately a battle between two musicians and has themes about weather.
- Guallando – Fulanito
“Guallando” is an upbeat, fast paced song that is impossible not to dance to. This merengue song is a very popular song at fiestas.
- Gasolina – Daddy Yankee
What more can I say about “Gasolina?” No Latinx/e playlist is complete without this hit song. This Reggaetón classic is hard hitting and catchy.
- Los Bandoleros – Don Omar y Tego Calderon
Puerto Rican Reggaetón artist, Don Omar, and Puerto Rican, Tego Calderon, produced “Los Bandoleros.” This was one of the first songs to make popular Latin Hip Hop. The song title means the bandits. He speaks about how others’ perceptions of him means nothing to him. He will continue being who he is, an artist, and doing what he loves, producing music.
- El Sombrero Azul – Salsa Clave
The title of this airy song means “The Blue Hat.” This is an anthem in El Salvador. It is a Cumbia song with an Indigenous tune. Cumbia has African roots with a mix of Indigenous and European musical instruments and dance.
- Gimme tha Power – Molotov
Molotov is a popular rock group that became influential political figures in Mexico. This steady song is an anthem for Mexican people. It criticizes the Mexican government for being corrupt.
- Mi Mayor Venganza – La India
This passionate salsa song is sung by Puerto Rican singer La India. “Mi Mayor Venganza” means my greatest revenge. The singer tells the woman who her man cheated on her with to keep him, which would be her greatest revenge.
- Mais Que Nada – Sergio Mendes
This Portuguese song title means “more than anything.” It was originally sung by Jorge Ben Jor in Brazil, then covered by Sergio Mendes. This cultural anthem of Brazil could be considered Afro-Brazilian jazz, which includes samba.
- Yo Voy – Zion y Lennox ft Daddy Yankee
This is a fun Latin R&B song that is often heard at fiestas. The song has a catchy tune and a steady beat.
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