Finally that recognition — and a glimpse of Panamanian musicians’ predicament
by Eric Jackson
Erika Ender is a journeywoman fixture on the Panamanian music scene. But is that characterization an annoying diminutive, given that she’s a master of her craft? The thing is, a Panamanian singer and songwriter will generally have to journey far from these shores to find work and recognition, a process that invariably affect her or his work through a process of exposure to and immersion in other musical scenes. Yes, she does these patriotic things mainly for Panamanian audiences, but in the Pan-Latin melting pot of Miami, or in Puerto Rico or Mexico City or wherever, Ender the singer is generally pigeonholed in a Latin pop genre, which in many circles detracts from the artistic recognition that she deserves.
Must we assign blame? Whose fault is the relatively tiny Panamanian market? Who separated the music industry into genres thought to be marketable? Who influence the general public so that most people like certain sorts of music and dislike others? But a part of the problem for Erika Ender and Panamanian colleagues across many dividing lines is that this country is not very good at systematically putting its culture out to the world. We don’t have our own network on cable and satellite TV, nor are we partners with other Latin American countries in such. Our international tourism promotion efforts do not systematically include the government putting Panamanian bands on the road in foreign lands. Our presentation to the rest of the world is mostly a private affair.
Now, however, comes some recognition for Erika Ender the composer. It’s for something she wrote that a Mexican norteña band, Los Tigres del Norte, have turned into a smash hit this year. Ataúd, an Ender composition, is nominated for Best Regional Mexican Song at the Latin Grammy awards to be held on November 17 in Las Vegas.
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