Sazon Booya Lead Moombahton’s 2012 Breakthrough
Sazon Booya

Joshua Vega (middle) and Stephen Vasquez (right) of Sazon Booya. Photo by Jason Ano.

“I think [2012] is definitely going to be the year of moombahton … between the first track we ever dropped in February of last year and now, forget it,” says Joshua Vega, leaning back in his chair. To his right, Stephen Vasquez, the other half of moombahton duo Sazon Booya chimes in with wide eyes, “We had to beg people to play!” A lot can happen in a year, and today their schedule is booked until the end of the summer, including a coveted opening spot for Skrillex’s February 1st New York show at Pacha.

“110 beats-per-minute is sexy … it’s dance music that people actually want to dance too.”

This opening spot fulfills a dream the pair have had for a while: Vega and Vasquez had sought feedback from Sonny Moore, aka Skrillex, before he even released his Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites EP, and before they called themselves Sazon Booya. “We saw the progression of his career go through the fucking roof,” Vega says. “To present him our stuff and get all this advice and criticism behind the scenes for so long, and to get to the point where now we are in a position where we can open for him, it’s like a dream.”

The cozy relationship between Skrillex and Sazon Booya reflects a larger kinship between dubstep and moombahton, two EDM sub-genres that evolved at the fringes of dance music, but are growing frighteningly fast and tout serious crossover appeal (the combination of the two is in fact known as moombahcore). Moombahton is largely defined by its 108 beat-per-minute tempo, and otherwise draws influence from reggaeton, house, hip-hop, and pretty much any other dance genre you can throw in. It’s a broad definition, but largely the reason the movement has appealed to people who aren’t necessarily attracted to EDM’s more uptempo or sonically intensive offerings. “110 beats-per-minute is sexy … it’s dance music that people actually want to dance too, it’s not like, ‘Let me pump my fist in the air,’” Vega explains. “Especially if somebody does a remix of a hip-hop or dance son at that tempo, people can relate to it.”

Sazon Booya, in particular draw their sound from a combination of progressive house and old school Latin samples. After meeting at the premiere of Vasquez’s documentary The Electro Wars, the two decided to collaborate on a sound nobody was doing, trading ideas for months before figuring out they were destined to make moombahtion with their breakout track “Lluvia,” uploaded by Dave Nada to his Soundcloud. “We never intended for it to be moombahton …’Lluvia’ was actually an electro track first, and then it was a French house track, and then we slowly slowed it down to 112 [bpm],” recalls Vega. “Within an hour it had 100 downloads, and we were like, ‘Fuck it, we need to do this.’” Layered over rhythmic dembow drums, Sazon Booya combined Spanish vocals, piano and trumpet samples with a progressive Dutch house synth, effectively creating a go-to template for their subsequent releases.

Since then, it’s been moombahton all the way. Between that fateful Soundcloud upload in February until now, they have released two proper EPs, Moonlight and La Bomba, with an endless smattering of singles, remixes, edits and compilation features in-between. “La Bomba” is currently their most popular track on Beatport, EDM’s digital retailer of choice, and largely mimics the progressive-house-meets-reggaeton formula of “Lluvia.” “Moonlight” and “Get That Beat” from the Moonlight EP are a slight departure, with headier vibes and a stronger trance influence. Remixes of Adele’s “Set Fire to the Rain” and Drake’s “Marvin’s Room” prove Sazon, and indeed the genre itself, have some serious pop sensibility, important if either hope to see a dubstep-like explosion.

Vega and Vasquez have already entertained the idea of producing radio-friendly music for other artists, describing it as “Ke$ha on steroids, but moombahton.” Besides working on material for Sazon Booya, Vega is also the CEO and founder of Rot10 music, host to one of the strongest moombahton rosters in the world. “I would say [Rot10’s] past five releases have charted within the top 10 on Beatport’s top 100 electronic tracks … now we are up there with Skrillex, Avicii, Dave Guetta,” Vega says. “In 2009 I played it … [it] literally stopped the crowd … now everybody is like, ‘I know what moombahton is,’ and boom.”

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