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Los Rakas: Music For the Barrio
2/2/11 - exclusive interview by Dante


The duo of Los Rakas hails from Panama, but calls the Bay Area of California their home.  DunDun and Rico blend Hip-Hop, Reggae and Dancehall music with Spanish and English lyrics to create a fresh new sound.  DunDun speaks with us in this exclusive interview about their hot new single and upcoming CD. Tell us where the name "Rakas" comes from.


Raka comes from the word Rakataka, it's a Panamanian word. We shortened it to Raka.  They used that word to refer to people from the hood, but in a negative way.  They would label everyone from the hood Rakataka, you feel me.  We took the word and decided to make it positive.  Like yeah, we from the community, from the barrio.  But a Raka can go to college, and be a business man, you know.  So that was the whole idea.


How would you define the Rakas sound?


It's organic.  Whatever we feel at the moment, it's real natural.  We don't really plan like, 'okay let's do a hip hop song today, let's do a reggae song.'  Just whatever comes out.


You live in the Bay Area in California, but you're repping Panama.




I've been listening to El General and Nando Boom since the early 90's.  Have those artists influenced your music?


Yeah, most definitely. We grew up with that music, you know.  That definitely influenced us.


The video for Abrazame has blown up in a big way.  Did you guys expect the major response that you're getting for it right now?


I don't know.  We knew it was a hot song.  Rico wrote that song when we were in New York, and he showed it to me.  And I was like, whoah, this is a great song. But we didn't really expect it to blow up the way it's blowing up right now, but it's a good feeling.


Have you gotten more concert bookings because of the song?


Definitely has helped us build.  We also got a team that is working hard behind the scenes, getting us into the shows and into the press.


Personal question, who is the beautiful morena that dances on the beach in the Abrazame video?  


Oh, she was the Brazilian queen, for Carnival here in San Francisco. 


So with the success of Abrazame, are you dropping an album soon?


We got the EP coming up.  The EP is called Chancletas y Camiseta Bordada.  Flip-flops, and camiseta bordada is a style of tank top we use in Panama.  I don't know how to say it in English.  Wife beater.  We're trying to take this Panamanian culture and really show it to people.  'Cause like Panamanian culture is unique.


Panama has a great deal of African and Jamaican influence, more than the rest of Central America. 


Yeah, the EP has a lot of African sounds.  Like the congas from Colon.  Colon is one of the cities where the African culture has been maintained.  So we sampled some of that, and put it on this EP.  It has a different sound, this EP, I can't wait for people to hear it.


Do you have any guest features that I would know about?


(laughs) Not yet, not yet.  This year, maybe we meet more artists.  But as of right now, not yet.


Who did the beats for the songs you've done so far?


Different producers.  Producers from Australia, Sierra Leone, over here in the Bay Area, Panama.  Like Hot Beats, Uproot Andy, Stereotype.


Uproot Andy did the Abrazame beat, right?


Yeah, he did that beat.


Where is he from?


He's from New York.  I think he's Canadian, but he's from New York.


So have you done any shows in Panama recently?


Nah, unfortunately I haven't.  This year, hopefully.  Rico has, with big Panamanian artists like DJ Flex.  Different artists like that.  He also did a big special in Carnival two years ago.


You left Panama when you were young, how has the country changed since then?


Rico said Panama is more violent, as far as little kids.  Before it was violent, but little kids had fun still.  Little kids were little kids, we played volleyball, we played football.  Now kids 14, 13 years old with guns and stuff.  More skyscrapers and stuff, Panama is being developed.


I know you guys still have music that's big in Panama.  I think you had a track about "Mi Barrio."


Yeah, that was the first single we ever had.  When Rico went to Panama, all the little kids had the video on their cell phones.  My moms said she would get on the bus, and hear it at the station.  That was the first song that really got us popular in Panama.


Why was it so popular?


I don't know, the people really felt it.  You're talking about the community. The good, the bad and the ugly about the community.  I guess the people related to it.


Anything else you want people to know about the EP?


We got  a single called Boracho coming out before the first single of the EP.  Then after that, we got Panty Wanty coming out.  We going to... como se dice... South By Southwest?  You know the conference over there in Texas?  We're doing that.  Then after that, we're going on tour with Colli Buddz.


How did you get connected with Colli Buddz?


We got the same booking agent.


Well that worked out.


(both laugh).


We gonna be in Texas, in Florida, in New Orleans, and then on the East Coast, New York and all that.  We going to New York before that, on the 15th we got a show with Mala Rodriguez.


Mala Rodriguez is the best Hip Hop artist out of Spain.  But she's with Machete Music, so how did you get to do a show with her?


Our publicist.  We got a small team, but they work hard.


Anything else you want to add for your fans?


Thank you for the support.  We got great music coming out, look out for free music on, we got a lot of free music.


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