Panameños love their music almost as much as they love fireworks. Right now my neighbors across the street have their SUV parked on what should be their lawn with the back hatch open. From inside the vehicle booms the base of a Latin techno beat. They are all sitting outside in the breezy night air enjoying the cacophony of it and sharing the sound with the rest of us on the calle.
Almost everybody that lives in the burg has a large set of speakers. We were on a walk one day and were assaulted by a wall of noise. Looking down the street we saw a pink house and in the driveway there was a set of speakers that were as high as the roof. A gentleman was dancing in front of them and singing along to the tunes. Keep in mind that this was the middle of the afternoon. Life is never boring here! We were just glad that he lived several blocks away from us.
If my neighbor’s music wasn’t booming so loud now I would be able to hear the jukebox at the cantina on the corner. The owner and patrons usually play a variety of traditional and modern tunes in español on the jukebox. They are kind enough to keep the music at a non-intrusive level and usually shut it down at 11:00 pm. Sometimes we will sit on the front porch and listen and I now have my favorites on the playlist. The music starts most mornings at 9:00 am and when the cantina is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays the silence that emanates from it is almost deafening. We’ve gotten used to the pleasant noise of it.
Living in Panama you learn quickly that the music is going to be everywhere. The people walk down the street with cell phones that can play music out loud via external speakers. Sometimes they will use earphones but sometimes they won’t. There is a young woman that has started walking down our calle weekday mornings at 6:00 who does not use earphones. She is obviously on her way to work and wants to make sure the rest of us are up and about. The first morning she walked by I lay in bed wondering where the noise was coming from. Now I just wait for her music to drift through the open window and I know it’s about time to get up.
Panameños are ethnically diverse and multicultural. Salsa, samba, tipico folkloric, tamborito, pindin, regae, pop and rock in español and English as well as many other types of music are popular. In the Azuero in all the fiestas that we’ve experienced Tipico folkloric music has had a central role. Tipico has a guiro (a metal block that looks like a cheese grater), drums and an accordion and a singer or cantalante that leads the group. The songs that are sung are traditional folk tunes and often times we’ll hear someone working or walking down the street singing one of these tunes. I don’t think that it’s possible that anyone thinks that they can’t sing out loud and sing proud. Yes, even the ones who can’t carry a tune in a bucket.