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Boiler Room X Ballantine’sTrue Music: Madrid's Reggaeton Explosion

by Catarina Ramalho

Regardless of tempo, language or geolocation, True Music and musical movements they support are ever-evolving.

Launched in 2014, Boiler Room x Ballantine’s True Music project has collaborated with more than 220 artists, visiting 28 cities, scattered across four continents. It has produced globally broadcast energetic live events, instilled cross-genre collaboration, and held five industry Forums where international artists and music industry professionals exchanged ideas with the local music community.

The stories collected during the campaign are distributed using Boiler Room’s digital platform – that has since elevated these underground music scenes to a worldwide audience of more than 115 million viewers.

“Latin countries love music from Russia. Russian people really like African music. There’s no logical pattern, which only reinforces our thought – music transcends language.” – Tom Elton, Head of Music at Ballantine’s comments on how their global audience consumes their local activations.

This years campaign has a reinvigorated purpose. “We wanted to evolve the partnership to have an impact on the communities as meaningful as possible.” – Steven Appleyard, Boiler Room’s Chief Business Development Officer, speaks on the partnership’s organic progression.

Promising to Take A Stand For True Music, is a longstanding commitment to pushing True Music scenes forward. On each leg of the True Music Tour, Boiler Room and Ballantine’s will bring together diverse contributing voices to develop a long-term support program in collaboration with those behind the scenes. The process will be covered through a series of mini-documentaries, broadcast via Boiler Room.

Having travelled to Moscow, and Krakow, the third stop in this year’s campaign was the Spanish capital. Hard hitting North-American rapper, Rico Nasty shared the stage with homegrown pioneer’s Chica Gang, Kaydy Cane, Steve Lean and Friends, Clara! and King Doudou whose energetic sets allowed visitors to experience the best that the Spanish underground scene has to offer.

Hosted in Madrid, this year’s True Music Forum, provided a session where the social origins and complex cultural composition of these emerging musical scenes were explored. The conversations held allowed to have a broader understanding of varying perspectives on issues surrounding cultural shock and sensibilization, appreciation and appropriation. Centre stage, however, was given to ever-expanding Perreo scene; one of the most experimental and liberal contemporary Reggaeton’s sub-genres.

Emerging from obscure corners of the Latin American underground to this year’s Coachella edition, on this side of the Atlantic, Madrid is where the movement has found its new home. Known by pounding kicks, percussion and its sexually implicit lyrics, Perreo is also a style of dance and party music associated with Reggaeton that emerged in the late 1980s in Puerto Rico.

Its digital-21st century revamp was born and developed by D.I.Y. experimentation, drawing melodic elements from dancehall, hip-hop and trap, and it can, even, it’s the most experimental incarnation, have autotuned vocals. Organically developing and gaining a tremendous following in South America, over the past couple years, the Reggaeton sub-genre has naturally diffused through social media networks to all corners of the Hispanic diaspora. It’s defiance, however, is more significant than just music itself.

“It’s more than just the sound. It’s something more meaningful. It’s about safe spaces, inclusive spaces; I fell that we are doing this is the right time, where music scenes and people are sensitive to that.” – Steven Appleyard comments on Madrid’s underground scene

Hushing a new age that is genuinely inclusive of Latinidad and its diverse, complex communities; The Perreo movement is helmed mainly by women who are using their multiple talents and platforms to assert their place within the industry. Much as what has been lived through with the emergence of other sub-genres to a global stage,  perreo’s lyrical content and trademark style of dancing have been criticized as overtly erotic, considered degrading by more conservative standards. By proudly reclaiming ‘perreo’ dancing as part of their sexual emancipation from patriarchal values, it’s pioneers are challenging the stigma that surrounds the longstanding cultures they represent;   increasing the female’s visibility in a mostly male-dominated genre, and also providing making safe space for others regardless of genre or sexual orientation.


South Africa will be the final stop for the project. More info to be announced soon, via Boiler Room.

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