New Reggaeton Festival Provides Opportunities for Latin Artists in Montreal
From the first time Edi Cruz heard reggaeton, he knew the music was for him.
It was 20 years ago, and the drum-laden mix of reggae, dembow and dancehall in Spanish was pouring out onto the streets of Honduras from car radios and bars.
Back home in Montreal, Cruz, who until then sang in church choirs, made the leap to reggaeton to become the artist known today as Cruzito.
« Here in Montreal, we’ve never really had Hispanic culture, media or music within reach, » he says. « We [had to] buying our own CDs and doing our own research…reggaeton was kind of very independent.
The genre has grown in popularity around the world over the past decade, exploding into the mainstream as Latin artists increasingly engage with pop, electronic, R&B and hip-hop sounds. Today Puerto Rican reggaetonero Bad Bunny is the second most streamed artist on Spotify, after Drake.
And for the very first time, an all-reggaeton festival is coming to Montreal, bringing together Nicky Jam, Farruko and Cruzito on the Olympic Park Esplanade.
« It’s probably the fastest growing sound in music right now, » says Ali Shafaee, director of programming for Fuego Fuego Festival taking place on Saturday.
He says it was a challenge to convince some of the international artists to take part in the new festival, but ultimately Montreal’s selling point was its strong Hispanic community and its potential as a new market for reggaeton. .
Shafaee says the festival has a capacity of 15,000 – and they could very well sell out for this first edition.
Hope for local artists
Cruzito says it’s « about time » for Montreal to host a reggaeton event of this magnitude. He says local artists had begun to lose hope of a successful career in reggaeton that didn’t involve moving to Miami, New York or Los Angeles.
“Now we see that Montreal has a healthy system,” he says, adding that the festival will help local Latin artists to be proud of where they come from.
One of these artists is Melissa Orellana Mejia, known as Meliya, who lives in Laval and is only three years into her career. She heard about the festival when she was invited to perform there.
“I think this type of festival will really help us show what we have in Montreal,” she says. « We have so much talent here. »
Other Montreal artists presented in the Fuego Fuego lineup includes Landy Garcia, Greyz, DJ Blaze and DJ D-boy.
Meliya says part of Montreal’s potential comes from the diversity of cultures found there. She also hopes the festival will show women in the city that this is a market they can tap into, even though reggaeton remains a male-dominated industry.
Shafaee plans to expand the festival to a full weekend in 2023. He also hopes the festival will help grow the reggaeton scene beyond Montreal and across Canada.
Cruzito has already done some of that work by creating the Latino division of the Montreal record label he is currently signed with, Joy Ride Records, along with the label’s CEO, Carlos Munoz.
But he says there could still be more support from radio stations.
« We’re here, we’re local artists from Montreal, we make this kind of music that dominates the airwaves, » he says. « Can you give us some space? »