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Make your own reggaeton beat

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Make your own reggaeton beat

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How is a music genre born? Reggaeton originated in traditional Caribbean music, but migration, innovative beats and technological advances over the past 30-plus years created an entirely new genre, with catchy, danceable sounds that now dominate global pop.

How reggaeton became the sound of global pop

An in-depth look at the complex story of a simple sound.

Read more →

Here’s an audible spin through reggaeton history, from Jamaican dancehall in the early ’90s to dembow, the rhythm that propels so many pop songs around the world — along with a chance to create your own beat. “Perreo,” the energetic and sensual dance associated with reggaeton, is optional.

This story is best experienced with sound on.
Dancehall

Dancehall originated in Jamaica in the late 1970s as an evolution of reggae, and it is considered the precursor of reggaeton. Steely & Clevie’s “Fish Market,” a dancehall song from 1989, was a foundational step toward the new genre.

Dancehall beat pattern

Make the beat

Click on the squares to replicate the dancehall beat.

Touch a rectangle to change the beat

Pounder

The rhythm from “Fish Market” was sampled in the song “Dem Bow” by Shabba Ranks and later adapted into a “reggae en español” version. That rhythm was used in the track “Pounder” by Bobo General & Sleepy Wonder, and soon pounder became the term for the beat itself.

Pounder beat pattern

Make the beat

Click on the squares to change the dancehall beat to a pounder beat.

Touch a rectangle to change the beat

Dembow

Dembow is the rhythm that defines almost every reggaeton song. In 1994, DJ Playero released a mixtape of Puerto Rican artists rapping over a modified pounder rhythm. The genre was initially popularized as “underground,” the name of the mixtape. Later, it would be called reggaeton.

Dembow beat pattern

Make the beat

Click to go from pounder to a dembow beat.

Touch a rectangle to change the beat

Puerto Rican Dembow

Dancehall, pounder and dembow already contained Latin music elements, but in Puerto Rico they fused with flavors of salsa, bomba and plena. Timbales, shallow drums that are fundamental to Caribbean music, gave the new genre an unmistakable Latin sound.

PR Dembow beat pattern

Make the beat

Click on the squares in the timbales row and Latinize your beat.

Touch a rectangle to change the beat

It goes ‘Despacito’

Daddy Yankee’s frenetic “Gasolina,” released in 2004, was the first global reggaeton hit. But in the aughts, reggaeton made a pop turn. It became slower, softer and more melodic. Lyrics became less about guns, drugs and sex and more about love and heartbreak. An almost perfect example? The 2017 megahit “Despacito,” by Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee and Justin Bieber. The title literally means “extra slowly,” and the upbeat vibe and lyrics blend into a catchy, steamy love ballad.

Make the beat

Pick a style and see how the speed changes the rhythm’s vibe.

100bpm(beats per minute)

80bpm

Touch a rectangle to change the beat

A global sound

Just as reggaeton sprang from innovations in certain genres, it is now influencing others. Recent releases in trap, flamenco, cutting-edge global pop and corridos use elements of reggaeton and dembow rhythms to get people dancing.

Have fun and share your beat

In this last step, anything goes! Add the instruments and rhythm patterns you want to hear, and maybe you’ll create a new genre.

Fill in a preset beat:

Or add your own tracks:

Touch a rectangle to change the beat

About this story

Text by Artur Galocha. Reporting by Bethonie Butler, Luis Velarde and Artur Galocha. Design, lettering and graphics by Artur Galocha. Design and development by Leslie Shapiro. Sound engineering and production by Sean Carter. Bonnie Berkowitz contributed to this report.

Editing by Manuel Canales and Steven Johnson. Copy editing by Mike Cirelli.

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