ROSARITO BEACH, Mexico — The shore of this Mexican coastal town is now synonymous with the palpable rhythm of reggaeton.
For the last two weekends, the sold-out Baja Beach Fest in Rosarito Beach brought together some of the biggest names in Latin music, creating its most expansive lineup since the festival began in 2018.
It also made history: The second weekend of the beachside event just 20 miles south of the U.S.-Mexico border culminated in a show-stopping performance by Daddy Yankee, the legendary Puerto Rican artist who put reggaeton on the world map.
“It’s the last festival he’ll ever play. I don’t think there’s any words to describe it,” said Aaron Ampudia, a co-founder of the event.
In March, Daddy Yankee, a six-time Latin Grammy winner, announced his plan to retire and end his three-decade-long reign as the “King of Reggaeton"; this was his last live festival event.
From the seductive melodies of the Colombian superstar Maluma to the soulful beats of the Panamanian hitmaker Sech, what started primarily as a reggaeton music festival has now grown to include artists across several Latin music genres, including banda, pop and dembow.
The festival was also headlined by the longtime Puerto Rican reggaeton duo Wisin & Yandel, who announced their plan earlier this year to go on one final tour together.
“It’s a true cultural celebration,” said Chris Den Uijl, another one of the co-founders of the event. “For us, it’s about curating the biggest names but also the hottest up-and-coming artists from all Latin countries around the world, not just specific to one country and not specific to one genre.”
Four years ago, the founders launched the festival after noticing a lack of multi-day music events dedicated to Latin music.
“The idea came from the fans that they wanted a Latin music weekend,” said Ampudia, who grew up in nearby Ensenada. “There wasn’t anything for them. We feel like it’s an underserved market for all Latinos.”
For the rising Puerto Rican artist Chris Andrew, the opportunity to perform at the same festival featuring his music idols was momentous as he makes a name for himself in the booming reggaeton genre.
“To be here sharing the same platform as them and to be at this level is a dream come true,” said the 22-year-old reggaeton newcomer. “They’ve opened a lot of doors for a lot of artists like me and other new artists. They’re always going to be pillars.”
Natti Natasha, Farruko and Lunay were among the major artists who took the stage as well.
Curating such a wide-ranging lineup was no easy feat, but the festival’s co-founders believed in the value of bringing together the favorite musical acts of a predominantly Latino audience.
Although Baja Beach Fest is known for its impressive reggaeton headliners, this year’s lineup included the 19-member regional Mexican group Banda MS, short for Banda Sinaloense MS de Sergio Lizárraga.
Oswaldo Silvas, one of the group’s lead singers, says performing at this year’s Baja Beach Fest served as “a huge step” in introducing more people to banda music.
“We feel proud to be Mexican, to be the only ones from our genre that are here,” said Silvas. “A lot of people haven’t heard banda live, and this is opening more doors for banda to reach other places.”
The Mazatlán-based group found an unexpected fan in American rapper Snoop Dogg, who posted a video to his Instagram page in 2016 with their song “Tengo Que Colgar” playing in the background. That post eventually led to their 2020 collaboration on a song called “Qué Maldición,” which debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard hot Latin songs chart.
As more Latin artists dominate the pop music scene, Ampudia says he’s proud of the overwhelmingly positive response from performers and fans alike who want to see more of their culture and music represented on the world stage.
“I have all my notes for 2023 already," Ampudia said.