Ba-dum ba bum bum—I like it like that! You know the song. Even Cardi B does—she sampled it on her recent song, “I Like It.” But the iconic hit “I Like It Like That,” written by Pete Rodriguez and Tony Pabon in 1967, is just one example of the music genre Latin boogaloo.
On October 15, Latin music enthusiasts gathered at NYIT Auditorium on Broadway for a screening and discussion of We Like It Like That: The Story of Latin Boogaloo. The event was organized and moderated by Associate Professor of English Jonathan Goldman, Ph.D., a musician and a lifelong New Yorker who wanted to pay tribute to a style of music that he has come to love. “Latin boogaloo is music of the New York streets, particularly the streets of Spanish Harlem circa 1965-1968,” he said. “It was the right time and place for a culture of crossover experimentation to bubble up.”
Latin boogaloo is a raucous fusion of African-American rhythm-and-blues with Caribbean rhythms, sung usually in English but also in Spanish (and often both). It is closely linked to the culture of Puerto Ricans in New York (known as Nuyoricans) and is sometimes called “Latin soul.” Grammy-nominated musician and panelist Bobby Sanabria, who grew up in the Bronx with Puerto Rican emigrant parents, said of boogaloo, “It’s totally a New York thing.”
Watch the trailer:
During the panel discussion, Latin music experts headlined by bandleader and singer Joe Bataan and Sanabria, both products of New York City’s barrios in the mid-twentieth century, looked back on the emergence of a music genre that swept the nation in the late 1960s and has had a major impact on the evolution of Latin music since then. The crossover continues to this day (see Cardi B, Bad Bunny, and J Balvin’s recent hit).
The panel also included Elena Martinez, folklorist at City Lore, co-director of the Bronx Music Heritage Center, and co-producer of the film, and Ned Sublette, ethnomusicologist and author of Cuba and Its Music: From the First Drums to the Mambo.
Pictured from left: Associate Professor Jonathan Goldman, Joe Bataan, Elena Martinez, Bobby Sanabria, and Ned Sublette.
Goldman’s love of Latin boogaloo began when he was a DJ. He was so enamored with it that he decided to start his own boogaloo band, Spanglish Fly. He combines his musical life with his career as an English professor in NYIT College of Arts and Sciences by teaching a class about Latinx cultures in New York. He also conducts research into boogaloo’s popular reception, including its decline, which occurred with the rise of salsa (itself a product of New York Latinx culture).
During the Q&A, an audience member echoed a sentiment heard from the panelists as they reflected over the past half-century of Nuyorican culture: “If it wasn’t for the music, I don’t know where I would be today. Thank you guys for keeping our music alive.”