Let Se-or Coconut show you the world

"Coconut FM' tunes in newbies to South American style

Keri Carlson

It’s Jamaican dancehall at Trinidad Soca speeds underneath hip-hop from the United States. It is reggaeton and it will soon, if it hasn’t already, take over your dance floor.

With reggaeton hyped as the next big thing ” already a staple in the boroughs of New York and even featured in Minneapolis dance clubs ” “Coconut FM: Legendary Latin Club Tunes” comes along at the right time.

And perhaps Se-or Coconut is the perfect person to present emerging Latin dance and club styles to the United States.

German artist Se-or Coconut, who now lives in Chile, is known for taking Latin rhythms and turning them electronic. He notoriously covered Kraftwerk’s pioneering electronica with traditional Latin American instruments.

Se-or Coconut’s latest release is not his own work, but his collection of underground club hits from South and Central America and the Caribbean.

In the liner notes, the music is described as postcolonial “referring to the wide mix of styles and the use of technology and electronics. The term “world music” has never been a concrete idea, encompassing music from the Middle East to Japan to Mexico. But the term has usually referred to traditional styles that originate in a country or region.

Regionalism is still a part of Se-or Coconut’s mix. The music is based on Latin rhythms and melodies. One style, labeled simply as “funk,” specifically comes from the ghettos of Rio de Janeiro.

But in all the styles featured on “Coconut FM,” which include cumbia, reggaeton, funk and their spin-offs, there are too many influences and genre crossings to count. For instance, Selena used cumbia, originally from Colombia, with tejano in the mid-1990s. Now the style moves to Argentina and is played on old Casio keyboards dubbed onto cassettes backed with hip-hop beats.

With all this culture crossing going on, why shouldn’t a DJ from Germany put this out?

Although Sean Paul is one of the biggest stars on radio and MTV, and reggaeton is a term used frequently these days, it can still be hard to find Latin dance and hip-hop, especially the non-English stuff. The Latin explosion of the late 1990s couldn’t take off until Ricky Martin made an English-language record.

The mainstream media have the idea that we in the United States won’t listen to non-English music, unless it is relegated to specific markets like the Spanish radio station. And maybe they’re right, maybe the only reggaeton that will break is the music rapped in English from Jamaican artists.

But for those curious enough to hear Latin club tracks that won’t ever make it on commercial radio, and those who don’t care if the rappers speak in English, Spanish or Portuguese, “Coconut FM” is a good introduction.