Reggaeton Queen DJ Clara! (photo: Sasha Vernaeve)

In Reggaeton, Design Matters

In her music, the reggaeton dj and musician Clara! combines styles from the past and the present. Her use of visual aesthetics from the 80's and 90's also reminds us that old school reggaeton has always had feminist roots.

Reggaeton is more popular than ever, and it is a vast source for contemporary, female artists. As both a dj and musician Clara! is an outstanding example. Her productions are influenced by female reggaeton from the 90's. The compilation «Reggaetoneras» from 2015 is a tribute to female Latin American voices, and it is not just reminiscent of the music itself.

Her compilation pays tribute to the genres` traditional visual representation. Being reminiscent of female reggaeton artists from that era, the artwork consists of a collage of little photos showing different faces with a smooth gradient around each photo. This is a direct reference to the trend of baby photo collages in the 80's, an aesthetic that is linked to the general Latin-American visual culture of representative family photos.

The author Beatriz Hernández Caraveo as a baby (photo: personal archive)
Cover of Clara’s mixtape «Reggaetoneras» (photo: artist, 2015)

In 2016, Clara! released a second compilation of old school reggaeton in collaboration with DJ Coquelin. The cover consists of the word «Reggaeton» in red over a white background; the font, similar to Brush Script, is typical for most of the 90's reggaeton productions. The pre-internet style represents a period in which access to technology was limited to only a few.

Music from the Streets

On the following mix albums «Reggaetoneras 2» and «Reggaetoneras 3» from 2016 and 2018, Clara! follows a similarly nostalgic approach. They were released on tape, evoking the way reggaeton was shared and distributed in the 90s. The cover’s design uses simple letters that looks as if they were written on a peeling wall in a ghetto. This reminds us of a delicate street aesthetic. Through this, the Brussels based musician exalts the original intention of reggaeton, which was music from the street for the streets.

The raw aesthetic of the 80s and 90s is a reminder that graphic design and music identity are closely connected. As Clara! builds a bridge between the visual aesthetic of old school reggaeton from the past with a sonic aesthetic of the present, she reminds us that this music can still be a source of female empowerment for today's younger generations.


Published on January 09, 2019

Last updated on January 17, 2020


Beatriz Hernández Caraveo is a music sociologist from Mexico City.

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