Although nearly everyone is at least somewhat familiar with latin music- be it salsa, mambo, or bolero- the genre of boogaloo is generally forgotten. The genre combined mambo, Motown, jazz, doo wop, and other popular genres to create a groovy, fun, and infinitely danceable new genre that ruled the New York music scene for a brief period in the late 1960s. “We Like It Like That,” a new feature length documentary by Mathew Ramirez Warren, explores the rise of the genre, its quick and mysterious ending, and its modern day resurgence.
“We Like It Like That” starts in the Bronx and other regions of New York City in the 1960s, focusing on the latinos that came to America and tried to make a new life for themselves. Since music and dance is such a large part of Latino culture, teenagers fought to create their own style of music. Facing discrimination that prevented Latinos from creating their own music and speaking their own language, the young musicians created Boogaloo, a new genre that pulled from nearly every popular music genre. Boogaloo is often slower and groovier than Mambo, with a sound that is more jazz than funk.
The bulk of the film explores some of the most popular bands from the brief period in the 1960s. However, the film moves so quickly that the audience doesn’t really get a full picture of the bands and their careers. Instead, the documentary primarily focuses on the three big hits that made the genre’s name. Although the band’s histories and origins are interesting, they often get lost in the film’s hectic pace.
The documentary also focuses on the sudden fall of Boogaloo, and its quick replacement by Salsa music, the blanket-term for nearly all Latin music. The film does a good job exploring the many adversities the genre faced. Boogaloo musicians were not respected by Mambo musicians, especially because club owners preferred to hire the poorly paid Boogaloo musicians from the Bronx rather than the professional touring veterans. Many musicians blame Boogaloo’s fall on the record labels who trapped artists in poorly written contracts and withheld royalties. In the documentary, some even theorized that the record labels “assassinated” Boogaloo by keeping songs off the charts to end the craze prematurely.
Although most of the documentary explores the brief phase when Boogaloo controlled the New York City airwaves, it ends by relating the music to modern day audiences. The documentary argues that Boogaloo paved the way for the emergence of major “latin fusion” artists, who made their love of Boogaloo known. The film ends with a packed concert in New York City, where the once-forgotten Boogaloo artists prove they can still thrill and move a crowd with their unique and fun dance music.
“We Like It Like That” explores the impact of Boogaloo on the 1960s music scene, modern latin music, and latin culture in general. The documentary insists that Boogaloo’s success came from embodying the spirit of Latino immigrants in America, since it adopted many motifs from popular music while keeping many latin influences and continuing to use the Spanish language. “We Like It Like That” explores the strong relationship between music and identity, making it a good watch for music fans of all kinds.